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by Hannah Beach, staff writer

Imagine being 12 years old and alone, sleeping at night in tunnels with no food, light, water, or any comforts of home. Imagine hearing gunshots at night, not knowing if one of them will find you. Imagine being forced into an army to kill others. For thousands of children in Uganda, this is life, not imagination.
The Lord’s Resistant Army (LRA) is a rebel army that has been accused of raping, murdering, torturing, maiming, and abducting children to turn them into soldiers, according to the Invisible Children Web site.
Joseph Kony, who claims that he simply wants Uganda to be a Christian nation, currently leads the LRA. Under Kony, the LRA has kidnapped about 200,000 children to use as child soldiers or sex slaves. The first step in transforming these children into hardened soldiers is forcing them to kill their own parents so they will be unable to return to home.
The world began to learn about this in 2003 when Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole went to Uganda. They filmed LRA abusing children, and interviewed children who had escaped and others who were in hiding. When they returned to the U.S, they formed the Invisible Children organization to help spread awareness of the children’s plight.
They showed their documentary across the United States, and created the Invisible Children Web site where people could donate money and other items. They also made it possible for high schools and universities to create their own branches of Invisible Children to further spread awareness.
HPU’s chapter, the only chapter in Hawai‘i, was started three years ago, and it regularly sponsors events to raise awareness across campus and throughout the state.
“ I was very disturbed,” said Chelsea Christensen, “seeing these children and what they have to go through and no one can save them.” Christensen is a sophomore nursing student, who was shown the documentary in her anthropology class.
One of the organized events was the annual sleep out at the State Capitol on April 3. This was the fourth year that HPU students participated in the sleep over, and more than 100 students and faculty have participated each year.
The sleep out is meant to recreate the conditions under which people currently live in Uganda and other African countries, where an estimated one million people live in Internally Displaced Persons camps. Some have been living there for nearly 10 years and most of their former lives are now gone, according to the Invisible Children Web site.
The sleep out was held at the State Capitol building late on a Friday evening because statelaw makers are working late and therefore able to see the people sleeping outside. Sometimes the legislators will come, talk, and join the volunteers, which helps further pass on the group’s mission to bring the plight of invisible children to the public’s attention.
The sleep-out is intended also to support legislative passage of a resolution concerning the situation. This year’s resolution is based on the fact that the LRA is now going into villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan massacring villagers.
“ The resolution will condemn using child soldiers, abducting children, and terrorizing innocent people,” said Chelsea Travis, a senior social work/social science major and president of the Invisible Children Hawai‘i HPU chapter.
The sleep out also included a candlelight vigil held to honor those currently suffering in these conditions, entertainment, guest speakers, films about the history of Uganda and the current war, and breakfast was served in the morning. In addition, volunteers took turns walking a peace flag around the capitol building all night long.
If sleeping outside is not for you, there are other ways to get involved and help support Invisible Children. Visit www.invisiblechildren.com or e-mail Travis at ctravis@campus.hpu.edu.

 

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