What is This All About?
Invisible Children’s new video, Kony 2012, is primarily focused on “making Kony famous,” which on the surface sounds like a great idea. For those who don’t know, Joseph Kony is one it the world’s most wanted men. He is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (the LRA), an army of African children and youth. For over 25 years, Kony has kidnapped children (approx. 30,000), primarily from Uganda, and forced them to become soldiers in his army, committing hideous acts including murdering their own parents. Here is the link to the video if you have not watched it for yourself. I would request, however, that you read the rest of my blog before watching the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc
The Kony 2012 video’s release created a huge controversy. Many people are accusing the Invisible Children (IC) Organization of using their video to bring in funds which do very little for the people of Africa but actually go to line the pockets of the leaders of the organization. There does seem to be reason to believe that IC is only telling a part of the Uganda story in order to make its point and gain donations, but I don’t know enough to say one way or the other. Other people are worried that this cry for help in Uganda will end up getting the US involved in another war overseas, this one being “none of our business.”
Over the past week, I’ve been doing a lot of research about this movement – watched the videos, read the blogs, both positive and negative. My goal: to come to some sort of conclusion about this suddenly gigantic issue. I will not repeat here all the pros and cons because there are plenty of resources available elsewhere. I will post a few links at the bottom to some articles I believe are particularly thought-provoking on the issue. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I think we, as Christians, should respond to this, so that is what I would like to focus on for the rest of this article.
A Response to Kony 2012
I first watched Kony 2012 a few days with the intention of figuring out what all the hype was about. I was immediately struck by what a great job IC did of marketing their cause. The video is designed to tug on your heartstrings and inspire you to want to “do something.” Unfortunately, I didn’t see that there was much to do. IC advocates stopping Joseph Kony this year, 2012. That is what needs to be done, but there is no way I can head over to Uganda and stop Kony myself…so what do I do? The answer provided by Jason Russell, the co-founder of Invisible Children and spokesperson of the video, is to sign up for IC’s cause and support them in changing the world. You have the option to buy the “Action Kit,” which apparently provides you with a bracelet to wear and a lot of posters to hang up to make Kony famous. You can also donate a few dollars (at least $15) per month. This will support Invisible Children’s efforts to get the United States Government to keep working on catching Kony, and will hopefully help rebuild Uganda after the Lord’s Resistance Army is stopped.
However, after I dug into the facts a little more deeply, I realized that a) Kony and the LRA are not in Uganda and haven’t been there for at least 6 years. They are currently operating in remote parts of Sudan and the jungles of the Congo. b) There are not 30,000 children in the LRA. That is the estimated total number of children kidnapped by the LRA over 26 years. c) Invisible Children advocates a worthy cause, but we need to realize that this is far from the only cause in the world.
My response to Kony 2012? I am not going to buy their action kit. I am not going to donate to the cause. I am not going to hang up posters with Kony’s name on them all over my home town. I am not even going to post the video on my FaceBook page, although I am including the link here for informational purposes. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think Invisible Children is a bad organization. I do believe they are a group of people with a heart for change in a war traumatized nation. They have a wonderful cause, and they are right: Kony and others like him should be stopped, and the world needs to get behind bringing him and others like him to justice. I just don’t know that IC’s answers are the right ones…There is a lot of passion, but I fear it may be a little misguided. I praise them for taking a stand, for being brave enough to put their cause out there and get people involved. That is admirable.
So, although I personally am not going to support Invisible Children financially, I do agree with one thing: We as Christians have a responsibility to act when we see injustice, and that includes not only speaking, but doing as well. For IC, that injustice is Joseph Kony and the LRA. I see far more injustice in the world than just this one cause, though, and I believe there are many things to consider before we jump on the newest bandwagon that parades by. What is happening in our own country, in our own towns, right under our noses while we focus on Joseph Kony and the issues in Africa? The statistics say that Kony has kidnapped around 30,000 children over the past 26 years, but there is something just as devastating happening in our own country: over 200,000 young children are being forced into sexual slavery here, in America, every year. I hope that catches your attention, because it sure caught mine!! Sex trafficking is becoming ever more prevalent even in the US, and we sit safely in our homes and don’t even know about it! Thousands of teen and preteen girls run away from home every year and are tricked or forced into becoming sex slaves. They are looking for hope, help, their identities, meaning in life, and end up getting sold a pack of lies that ruins their lives. And what’s even worse is that there is no one available to help them. The only way for most of these girls to get out of sexual slavery is to turn themselves into the police and get put in prison for being a minor involved in sexual activity. There are very few rehab centers and safe houses, and no one seems to notice or really care. We can’t seem to admit that this is going on in our wonderful country and it is so much easier to assuage our consciences by donating a few dollars to help stop a killer overseas than to get our hands dirty finding a solution for the pain and suffering going on in our country.
So yes, we need to do something. For some of us, the Kony 2012 issue will resonate deeply and we will be called to respond and do something. For some of us, we will look around and see the need in our own cities and even our churches right here in America, and that will resonate with us and we will answer the call to stand up and do something in the here and now. Neither is better than the other. If God calls you to support IC and the Kony 2012 cause, then by all means do so!! But if God calls you to recognize the need of teen girls caught in the sex trade, or any of hundreds of other causes all over the world, then do whatever God is calling you to do…but no matter what, DO SOMETHING!! Above all, do not sit still and judge others for acting when you will not.
The Power of the People
One big lesson to take home from this whole thing is the realization that people have power, and social networking is a great way to tap into that power. I have no hopes of my own blog becoming viral like Invisible Children’s Kony video, but I do hope that people will share it! Post this on your page if you are interested in sharing a hopefully balanced perspective of this issue. Beyond that, the purpose of my blog is not to get involved in politics or to step on people’s toes, but the purpose of my particular little voice is to address the growing issues of teen and preteen girls. I have a deep seated desire to speak truth into the lives of young women and encourage them to be strong, healthy, beautiful women of God. This is my own way of acting, speaking, and doing. I see hundreds of thousands of broken and hurting young women in the US today who need to know that they are beautiful and that is what my blog is about. If you know a girl who can benefit from having her identity as a daughter of God reinforced, please send her the links to my blog!
Following are a number of links to sites that I found helpful in sorting out this issue for myself. These are just a few of the responses to this issue. Please take time to read through some of these posts and come to your own conclusions about what this means for you!
The Kony 2012 Issue:
Joseph Kony is Not in Uganda and Other Complicated Things
World Vision Welcomes Kony 2012 Awareness but says Issue is “complex”
World Vision Knows a Killer Worse than Kony
Joseph Kony’s Staying Power as One of Forbes’ 10 Most Wanted Fugitives
12 Lessons from from KONY 2012 from Social Media Power Users
Invisible Children’s Sites:
Invisible Children Website
The Official KONY 2012 Site
Links about Human Trafficking in America:
Sex and Money: A National Search for Human Worth
Enslaved in America
US Should Stop Criminalizing Sex Trafficking Victims