Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sharing Stories of Life in Northern Uganda

The JustJourney to Uganda arrived in Gulu (northern Uganda) on Sunday. In the post below, participant Marie Kidder shares her impressions of the people and places they’re visiting in the north.

We are staying in a compound near the cathedral; there are bells at 6:30 a.m. Nuns who were up late to care for us were up early to make sure we had breakfast.

We are clearly in the north. One of our hosts said, "In the south, they say, ‘What can I do?’; in the north, they say, ‘What can we do?’" In the south, the institutions were run by the government; the churches are the anchor of the north. The religious compounds are for religious services, language lessons, schools, medical care, and security. We saw amazing caretaking.

We are reflecting on yesterday’s inspirational stories. Sister AnnaMaria from the Aboke girls’ school (where the rebels abducted 139 girls) talked about the abductions and the fact that she lost some of her girls, which she had to come to peace with. Fr. Luis told of the father who searched for his lost son, found him in government custody, and had to get paperwork to show he was not a rebel — only to return with the paperwork and find him dead. He said he's unable to forgive because his government killed his son for no reason. Paul, one of the Caritas leaders, told us that church leaders came together up here to start working on the peace process. Even imams joined in.

In our meeting at the seminary, they told us that northern Uganda was left alone without any help for nine years of the war. It was off limits to travelers. The Africans have a saying: "When two people fight, it is the grass that suffers."

Paul, the Caritas worker, is a remarkable young man. His nephew was abducted and later rescued, and Paul has forgiven him. One of four children, Paul has experienced much loss. One brother died of disease, and one other died in the war. Together they left five children, and Paul came back after university in Kampala to raise them. "I was a father before I was a husband," he says. He and his wife have a 14-year-old son and two daughters. Paul was a "night commuter" with his children, walking into Gulu every night to sleep.

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