Today I traveled to northern Uganda, the part of the country that was, up until only a few years ago, ravaged by civil war and terrorized by the LRA. It’s in recovery now – they’re rebuilding, and reconciling, and coping with their fear that it’s not over.
You know what they say here, said one woman to me. They say that Kony is back, and hiding. Or that he’s coming back, soon. Because his work isn’t done. You want chills to run down your spine, you head into the bush of northern Uganda and have that conversation.
Then have any number of further conversations with mothers in that area who lost their children to the LRA, by abduction or machete. It doesn’t matter how many of those conversations that you have. Your heart will have chilled and quailed at the first one.
When I said the other day that I didn’t know how to write these stories, I had no idea. I had no idea what stories were to come.
I had no idea.
I need to sleep on these ones, and decide whether these are stories that I can even hold in my mind (one mother told me that her daughter was lost when they fled their village, in fear of the coming rebels. She lost track of her, her little girl, just six years old, as we all do sometimes. And she was left behind. She was not abducted. She did not live to be abducted.)
You can’t sleep, with these stories. You shouldn’t be able to sleep. I can’t.
Ah, I am not uplifting. I can’t be, not tonight. But I do have to say, that it wasn’t all fear and tragedy. There’s hope there. There is. There are great programs in play up there, programs in health and micro-finance and gender equality, among others, that are really making a difference, in big ways and small ways and all the ways in between. Women – and men – are being empowered to rebuild their lives and their communities.
And, there was dancing. There was play. And where there’s dancing and play, there’s hope.
(There was play. No hopeful heart can resist play. Mine can’t.)