A Nonviolent Response to Joseph Kony

Armed with the power of social media, some young North American activists set out this week to take on one of the most violent rebels in the Great Lakes Region of Africa–Joseph Kony. They’ve called their campaign phonics download

com/” target=”_blank”>KONY 2012, and they’re determined to get rid of Kony and bring the children he’s abducted home by the end of this year.

I commend these folks for their insistence that the church stand against injustice. And, at the same time, I join those who ask: is nonviolence not an option?

Is it possible to respond to Kony with the power of Jesus’ nonviolent love?

Thanks to Jarrod Saul McKenna for this image

For me, this is not a speculative question. I know the answer is “yes” because I have met her. Her name is Angelina Atyam. (For a rich theological account of Atyam’s witness, see my friend Emmanuel Katongole’s new book, The Sacrifice of Africa.)

In northern Uganda, 139 children were abducted from their local school by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 1996. Among them was the 14-year old daughter of Angelina Atyam, a local midwife and nurse. Atyam knew she would never see her daughter again. Thousands of parents before her had bitterly resigned themselves to a brutal reality that could not be changed. She had every reason to be angry, but little room to hope that anything could change.

Still, Atyam could not remain silent. This was her daughter, after all, abducted and abused along with other young women whom she had helped welcome into the world. She knew she had to do something. Her sense of urgency was every bit as strong as that of the KONY 2012 Campaign. But her approach was different.

Atyam founded the Concerned Parents Association, seeking the release of the children while at the same time advocating a different approach to their captors. “Our message is unconditional forgiveness and reconciliation,” she said. “We have absolutely forgiven them. We can turn to a fresh page; we do it for the sake of the children who are alive.” She continued, “I have waited more than three years; some parents even longer. We are tired of war and our children need a better life. Of revenge I would say that we cannot throw petrol on a burning fire; otherwise we would be like them. We can say this because we have been at the center of the pain.”

Atyam was relentless in her love, speaking out against Kony on radio and in print. When he sent threats, she did not waver. Finally, he sent a message to say that he would release her daughter if she would stop her campaign against him. “They are all my children,” she said. “I will not stop until they are all released.”

Eventually, they were. But the power of Atyam’s story is not in the conclusion that “it worked.” It’s in a faith that knew love was possible, even when evil seemed overwhelming. When I met Atyam several years ago, I asked her how she knew to hold on. “I got down on my knees every night and said the Lord’s Prayer,” she told me. “‘…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…’ I knew I had to keep praying.”

Yes, we are more creative than cynical apathy or violent intervention. We are more creative because we’ve been invited to pray a prayer that’s not ours and live a life that has power beyond our capacity to imagine.

—-
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture. He is an author, speaker, and activist who currently resides in Raleigh, NC at the Rutba House. You can reach him at his website, www.jonathanwilsonhartgrove.com

This article originally appeared on Jonathan’s new blog, “The Everyday Awakening.”

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Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Jonathan Wilson-HartgroveJonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture and Common Prayer. He is an author, speaker, and activist who currently resides in Durham, NC at the Rutba House. You can reach him at his website, www.jonathanwilsonhartgrove.comView all posts by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove →

  • Hibiscus57

    But I thought Kony 2012 is intended to arrest Joseph Kony… isn’t that non-violent?

  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    This is exactly one of the main reasons I couldn’t jump onto the KONY 2012 bandwagon. Those who are involved in getting Kony are relying on retributive force, violence, and politics to achieve their agenda. Although they are calling for his arrest, they have also resigned to the possibility that Kony may be killed in action especially since several military forces are being utilized. As disciples of Christ, I don’t believe this is the course of action Jesus has called us to task. Instead, we are called to love our enemies in order to heap burning coals on them. And, Jesus’s kingdom is not the same as Caesar’s kingdom, calling upon military forces to achieve our agenda. I believe agendas can be achieved without force, without violence, and without Caesar. This is the way of Jesus… love. Violence used to achieve justice is not justice. It only perpetuates the cycle of violence… the way of Caesar which Jesus countered with His message of peace, love, and hope.

  • Doug

    http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/03/12/kony-kids-and-campaigns/
    Explains how the 30 minute video that has ‘gone viral’ on the net has a number of concerning inaccuracies.
    E.g. to quote from the above site -
    ‘Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist specialising in peace and conflict reporting, said this: “This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible”.

    And Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of Kairos, a community health organisation in Gulu, a town that was once the centre of the rebels’ activities, said this: “What that video says is totally wrong, and it can cause us more problems than help us. There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with.”

    One respected Australian journalist stated -
    “Additionally, the LRA (thankfully!) does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film (and by others) refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years.”Whilst I applaud those involved in trying to end the curse of child soldiers and the activities of these African despots as Christians we should show discernment with respect to accuracy and truthfulness about what the above site author has called ‘keyboard compassion”Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist specialising in peace and conflict reporting, said this: “This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible”.

    And Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of Kairos, a community health organisation in Gulu, a town that was once the centre of the rebels’ activities, said this: “What that video says is totally wrong, and it can cause us more problems than help us. There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with.”

    One respected Australian journalist stated -
    “Additionally, the LRA (thankfully!) does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film (and by others) refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years.”Whilst I applaud those involved in trying to end the curse of child soldiers and the activities of these African despots as Christians we should show discernment with respect to accuracy and truthfulness about what the above site author has called ‘keyboard compassion’

    • Doug

      Apologies for the cut and paste problem :-(

  • Keith Carr61

    While I believe that we should try and reason with those who would harm us or our families and pray for them that God would intervene, I still also believe that sometimes the threat of retrubution is “ALL” that will matter. If you do not believe that the threat of being incarcerated is a deterrent then we might as well just give up and let society degrade to their level. Just as it is a perpetrators “choice” to wield a gun at law enforcement so it is also the choice of these vagrants when approached by the military. I, for one, am not willing to lay down my weapons and allow an enemy to slay my family or my friends. It is insane to think that Jesus would want you to allow defenseless people to be slaughtered while waiting for them to realize that God loves them and there is a better way. My son is supposed to go to Uganda on a mission trip this summer and may stay for awhile as he thinks that God is calling him into this ministry. I am happy and sad at the same time however I encourage him to follow his heart if God is leading him in that direction. If he witnesses violence first hand I believe he will be back soon LOL.

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