On November 4, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) and Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) launch their first jointly organized JustJourney, a trip to Uganda. For 12 days, Unitarian Universalists and others committed to social justice will take part in Witness to a Return Home: A Trip to Uganda, an experiential learning journey to an area of the world struggling to recover from war and political unrest.
In northern Uganda, more than 1.8 million people have been displaced from their homes for as long as 22 years. UUSC has been working there for two years with partner Caritas Gulu, piloting a unique program that has empowered thousands of displaced people to return to their villages. During Witness to a Return Home, participants will learn about UUSC's work with Caritas Gulu and see this eye-to-eye partnership model at work.
"Participants on this journey will see what it means to work for justice," says UUSC Experiential Learning Manager Nichole Cirillo. "It is this ‘up close and personal' witness that helps them transform their own notions of human rights."
Complementing UUSC's work in northern Uganda, the UUA has fostered a strong relationship with Rev. Mark Kiyimba, leader of a UU congregation in Kampala, Uganda's capital. Kiyimba runs a 550-student school and 20-child orphanage near Masaka and has been campaigning against Uganda's draconian anti-homosexuality bill. JustJourneys participants are scheduled to meet with the UU Kampala congregation; talk with Ugandan leaders of the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people's rights; and visit the school and orphanage the Kampala congregation supports.
Eric Cherry, head of the UUA's Office of International Resources and coleader of Witness to a Return Home, is looking forward to the unique educational opportunities the trip provides.
"Our time in Uganda is in direct response to Unitarian Universalism's sixth principle: to affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all," says Eric. "Even for those who are deeply committed to social-justice work, it's easy to forget that there are countless people who want — and need — to tell their stories. To be confronted with the existing need can be daunting, but it's also inspiring to see how the UUA and UUSC have been able to make a lasting difference — through partnership — in Uganda."
As this social-justice sojourn unfolds, on-the-ground updates will be posted to this collaborative blog, offering photos and a variety of personal perspectives. Bloggers will share thoughts on their meetings with visionary leaders, visits to important cultural and environmental sites, including Kabarega National Park, and their interactions with the people who live in resettled villages in northern Uganda.
More than tourism, JustJourneys bring social justice to life in different locations around the world. For information on future trips, including the 2011 JustJourney to Haiti, contact Nichole Cirillo.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a faith community of more than 1,000 self-governing congregations that bring to the world a vision of religious freedom, tolerance and social justice. For more information on the UUA, including recent press releases and news articles, please visit their online press room.
UUSC is a nonsectarian organization that advances human rights and social justice around the world, partnering with those who confront unjust power structures and mobilizing to challenge oppressive policies. For more information on UUSC, visit www.uusc.org.