Friday, January 27, 2006


We’re in the middle of the dry season here. The intense heat, dust and wind makes the people in the IDP camps even more vulnerable. Last week there were massive fires in 4 large camps. One camp, Amoro, saw 450 grass roofs burn, resulting in the death of 3 children. A friend of mine who was there said, “You can’t imagine, even if you saw it, you couldn’t believe it”. As we discussed this issue in a United Nations Working Group on Child Protection, an INGO representative said, “This is our fault, we are to blame. We knew this was coming, and yet we’re working with the aftermath of the fires without taking the proper preventative measures. Child-headed households are cooking meals with little to no concept of how to manage a fire for cooking. Look even now, we’re reacting to the catastrophe of the fires and making no plan for preparing the camps for the rainy season-which causes even more damage and claims more lives.” Everyone can become frustrated at the circumstances here. Some NGOs blame the camp residents for setting their own homes on fire so that they can receive non-food aid from the government or INGOs. I personally have a hard time believing that, and others I’ve talked to feel as though that response is given out of sheer frustration at the immense challenge of keeping the people in the camps safe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Peace is Like Glass

Officially, we started work last week. But the needs are great and I was getting restless, so before Christmas I assisted with a small part of an assessment and I learned so much. During that week I spoke with parents of young women who returned from the LRA last year. I met their daughters. Most of them were in captivity for about 8 years. I’m struggling to find the right words for my interactions with them. They may not exist—somehow I was inspired and heartbroken by the same conversations. Most of the girls who have returned came back with children. When I talked to the parents I noted that the moms seemed to have adjusted to that more easily than the dads. The dads all shared their struggle to accept and love the children that were a constant reminder of how they had failed to protect their daughters and how they had been repeatedly raped while in captivity. It's so heavy.

Angelina, the Chairperson of CPA, says that peace is like glass. You have to keep it carefully. If it breaks it shatters and you can only hold onto a few splintered shards. What we’re doing is trying to put the pieces back together. The conversations I had feel like splinters of peace. There was resilience. There was pain and hope.

Angelina is an amazing woman whose approach to suffering is profoundly spiritual. She shares her painful stories openly. She told me of how she used to pray lying on the concrete floor pleading with God for the release of her daughter. After 7 years of pleading she told me how one night she reminded God that the seventh year is the year of freeing those who are in captivity. “God, you do not break your promises—you are not a liar,” she told Him, “are you going to let this year pass without fulfilling your promise?” She told me that the same night her daughter had a dream where God told her that she was going home to her people. The next day in the middle of 4 guards and a convoy of rebels she felt that she should turn left at a fork in the road. In broad daylight she walked to the left holding the hand of her son while the LRA walked to the right. No one stopped her or asked where she was going. She was free. Then, Angelina asks, how can we not know that God is supreme? That He is faithful? She told me that once a white woman told her that if her God was faithful and supreme He wouldn’t have let the girls be taken from Aboke in the first place and the war would never have started. She told me that expecting me to be equally shocked that someone would say such a thing. But I confess, I identified with the other white woman. After hearing about the things her daughter went through during the 7 years before her miraculous escape I found myself questioning God’s timing. If God was going to intervene eventually anyway, than why did it take Him so long? Angelina asked a different question, “How can a WHITE woman who has so much not have the one most important thing--the knowledge that God is good?”