BY KEITH MCFARLAND
Are you tired of hearing about Kony? I hope not. We’ve been living with him in our backyard for many years. I am truly thankful for the publicity that the video Kony2012 has generated regarding Kony and Northern Uganda. Many people are asking, What do I do with this? Can we really make a difference in this whole Kony issue and the suffering he has caused? What should our response be? It is my hope and desire that every person who has watched the video and been touched by God for Uganda can understand the BIGGER picture of what’s behind Kony, can grow in understanding the shortcomings of the video itself, and also understand how to be a better part of the healing of his atrocities here in Uganda. I’ll try to briefly hit on these three issues.
Let me begin by saying that I would LOVE to see Kony brought down and taken in to stand trial for his crimes. I would love to see those who have been “ruined” by him gain some sort of vindication in this world and I’d love to SEE justice prevail against Kony on this side of the veil. But I also know that our view of justice is not always God’s view. As Job reminds us, God does not govern the world according to our view of His justice, but according to His Wisdom. God has not forsaken His people nor made his people to suffer in vain. I know that this thing has not caught God off-guard, that He is in control and that Kony is working on a divine time-table and that his end WILL come. The Gospel will go forth and the healing of the nations will come. So how do these work together and what is God calling His people to do in response to the reality of this man’s abuses, injustices, and atrocities?
The video creates a response for many of us of “Wow, we really can do something to bring Kony down! All we need is to get involved and get the US military involved and we can do this. Then there will be NO MORE abduction and children can sleep easily at night. The bad guy will lose.” If only it were that simple. But for the goal of the video it is that simple, and that’s its appeal. Yet the issue is NOT that simple and is truly beyond the scope of this article.
While the West tends to simply view Kony as a terrorist who can be brought to justice through military power, the reality is that BEHIND Kony is deep Satanic bondage and power. Kony is in a line of witchcraft-using children-abusing “warlords” who love POWER- demonic power, material power, and power over people through fear. There is deep and serious spiritual bondage here, beyond the simplicity of a simple “Let’s go get him!” This Satanic ritual did not begin with Kony, but was passed on to him from his predecessor in the “use fear to control people” line of control.
The reality that we all need to face is that to bring Kony down will not change the foundations on which his regime was established and currently uses to maintain its “power,” that is apart from God Himself intervening. Another Kony will arise and terrorize wherever he can get away with it.
There is a group here made up completely of Ugandans called “Intercessors for Uganda”. They understand the various spiritual aspects to Kony and they have been engaging in serious prayer for many years that God would break down these spiritual strongholds and that the Kingdom of God would shine forth, both through his evil and atrocities and in their coming to an end. We often do not think about how God IS WORKING through all that Kony has sought for evil. In the words of Joseph in Genesis 50, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Granted, we will never understand the full picture until eternity, but in-country it is incredible to see how the Church has risen up and been challenged to love and live the Gospel, to reach out with tangible compassion and mercy on those in need. Amid many stories, one place in particular that was hard-hit by Kony witnessed an incredible Jesus-centered reconciliation movement between various tribes that had both believers and even some non-believers seeking forgiveness for past wars and wrongs committed against one another. There are other stories like this that point to God’s Glory being unveiled even through the atrocities that Kony has committed, yet in the light of the darkness that Kony has spread, it can be easy to miss the light of the Gospel shining forth in its midst.
2. The Shortcomings of the Video Itself
I was a bit surprised to NOT see or hear more about the reality of the peace in Northern Uganda over these past years (the video would give the impression that Kony is still troubling Uganda to people who are being exposed to this for the first time). One article I read put it like this, “Moreover, analysts agree that after concerted campaigns against the LRA, its numbers at this point have diminished, perhaps amounting to 250 to 300 fighters at most. Kony, shadowy and illusive, is a faded warlord on the run, with no allies or foreign friends…” Of course, this is debated, but Uganda is not the Kony hot-spot anymore. He seems to be lurking in DR Congo and Southern Sudan. But at the same time we do NOT want to see him return to Uganda either!
My biggest concern was when the video was speaking about the help being given to the children of Northern Uganda. This is where you move into what’s really happening on the ground. The focus was on one MAIN thing- SCHOOLS. One Ugandan woman in the video spoke and said, “The best you can offer a child is by letting them be independent and that is by providing education (bold mine).” In essence, this captures a pervasive and dangerous philosophy.
While most of us here in Uganda understand the need for GOOD schools and education that has the ability to touch and impact lives, education must be seen in the context of the needs that are much GREATER and DEEPER in the lives of hurting children. Is the BEST thing you can offer a child really INDEPENDENCE through EDUCATION? The answer must be NO. Education cannot replace family, and independence (a characteristic of the orphan heart) leads to self-reliance, isolation and ultimately death. We need to beware of the danger of meeting the external needs of orphans instead of their greater and deeper needs, creating cultural orphans who simply perpetuate the cycle.
We are convinced that the best thing you can offer a wounded child is loving, caring FAMILY. And of course the greatest thing you can offer is ultimate HEALING through the Gospel of Jesus, discovery of the perfect Father-God, and inclusion in the great, beautiful and diverse family of God- this is true and freeing DEPENDENCE, and is also the place where healing is lived out. This is what we need to be looking at for the long-term care and healing of the children of Northern Uganda.
Obviously, working with New Hope Uganda, I am very keen to what “Western baggage” and philosophies can do to children. I’m also aware of the danger of meeting external needs of orphans instead of their greater and deeper needs, creating cultural orphans who simply perpetuate the cycle. New Hope’s ministry in Kobwin is focused on healing children recovered from Kony, and though “small” in the light of the great need, we rejoice that right now there are around 20 children living in “families” who are gaining an education, but on a deeper level are experiencing true and genuine healing- and that is a beautiful thing.
3. How to be a Better Part of the Healing of Kony’s Atrocities Here in Uganda
While I’m all for the tangible ability for young people to get involved in bringing Kony down and helping (which the video makes possible), I also want to guard against an “America can save the day” mentality, which quickly reminds Ugandans of colonialism and the mentality that has been perpetuated here by many well-intentioned westerners that we have all the answers, even to questions you don’t have. We as westerners need to understand that Ugandans are doing MUCH to lead in the care for the children of the North, they have done much to resist and see Kony brought down, and many Ugandan organizations are having great impact without western leading- even our Kobwin ministry is almost completely Ugandan led and run (as one example).
The book When Helping Hurts has some good insights into this discussion, as much Western “help” can actually end up hurting. We need to remember that partnership in the truest sense of the word is a two-way street, one where both parties recognize they have needs the other can meet, both seeking the good of the other. It does not fill the “need to be needed” mentality that I have seen many Westerners carry over here to Uganda, and it does not bolster an “I’m helping you from up here, you who are down there” mentality. To move beyond these natural initial responses takes good teaching and solid cultural exposure.
So what is a proper response for people being touched by God in a genuine and compassionate way to help in Uganda? 1. Pray– consistently and with purpose. Pray in the larger realm for God’s Glory to be manifested in the midst of the darkness. Pray for the works going on in Uganda and for broken children to find genuine healing through God and His people. 2. Research and find out what is happening in-country. What are Ugandans doing? What are solid local organizations and churches doing who understand the broader issues and what are THEY saying that they actually need? 3. Support is good, but partnership is best. Find out how you can truly partner. 4. Check financials of any ministry you are considering working with. If only 30% or 50% of the money given is actually getting “on the ground” or directly to those in need, you should step back and re-evaluate. Any organization has overhead, but HOW MUCH is being used and for what purpose?
Feel free to write with any thoughts or comments (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you want to read more on the orphan heart and issues related to orphan ministry, check out my blog: www.orphanheart.blogspot.com