The #kony2012 video that has gone viral:
“Grisly killings, abductions, and rapes allegedly committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in central Africa have garnered international attention following the release of a video highlighting abuses committed by the group and its leader, Joseph Kony.
The half-hour film (above) produced by Invisible Children follows a former child soldier named Jacob. The film issues a call for action, reportedly aiming to raise awareness by making Joseph Kony a household name. While the organization describes itself as a movement seeking to end the conflict in Uganda, some have criticized the group’s spending practices and the film’s approach as overly simplistic.
However, the LRA is allegedly responsible for a host of abuses, including the murder, rape, and abduction of tens of thousands in the past two decades.
Kony, whose army abducts children and takes women as sex slaves, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed during a decades-long insurgency against Uganda’s government. The group has been blamed for the murder of thousands of civilians in four countries, and the U.S. classifies it as a terrorist organization.”
In the “Kony 2012” video, the co-founder of IC, Jason Russell, explains to his young son that Kony is “the bad guy,” and to save the children.
But critics say it’s not that simple.
They note that Joseph Kony no longer lives in Uganda, that his power has dwindled significantly over the past few years and that the Ugandan army—which IC says should be supported by the United States to hunt down Kony—is itself guilty of violence, looting and rapes. Some say launching a major strike against Kony may cause more violence. In addition, Christians committed to non-violence have questioned Invisible Children’s militaristic approach on the grounds that Christians in particular should seek a peaceful resolution.
Also, because Invisible Children is primarily an advocacy and awareness organization, only 37 percent of the funds they raise directly impact the people of Uganda. Critics say donors should send their money to organizations that devote a larger percentage of their resources to empowering the people in this region to bring peace and prosperity to their communities, and to help former child soldiers assimilate back into society.
Furthermore, many are uncomfortable with what they see as a “savior complex,” reducing a complex socioeconomic and political conflict into a “good guys vs. bad guys” scenario. Some African writers have expressed concern that the video presents white, American college students as heroes to poor, helpless Africans—a storyline that has plagued African aid for decades.
These are valid concerns, but many IC supporters reacted defensively when they were raised, because it disrupted the narrative they had already embraced. As difficult as these questions may be though, they are important ones to ask. For if we hope to move from mere awareness to long-term activism, we have to confront some realities we don’t like or understand, and accept that not every question has an easy answer.
To continue reading this post by Rachel Held Evans, click here.
By my current research, Invisible Children and “Kony 2012″ are doing more harm than good. I do not support the Kony “campaign”. Here are my reasons.
(1) Violent Intervention
A statement by Invisible Children’s Director of Communications has indicated that Invisible Children is now working with the Ugandan Army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army, both of which are violent forms of intervention.
IC are filmmakers (obviously powerful filmmakers at that), and millions of dollars in donations go toward their white savior films. These films hold little to no practical value except to sell wristbands, t-shirts, and other crap that makes people feel like they’ve done their social justice deed of the year.
Michael Wilkerson, an Oxford PhD candidate who has lived and reported from Uganda, writes:
“But let’s get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for 6 years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.
First, the facts. Following a successful campaign by the Ugandan military and failed peace talks in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic — where Kony himself is believed to be now. The Ugandan military has been pursuing the LRA since then but had little success (and several big screw-ups).
…Additionally, the LRA (thankfully!) does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film (and by others) refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years. Eerily, it is also the same number estimated for the total killed in the more than 20 years of conflict in Northern Uganda.”
Ugandans are expressing their alarm with the viral film. Ugandan community organizers & activists have spoken out against “Stop Kony”, saying:
“What that video says is totally wrong, and it can cause us more problems than help us . . . There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with.”
-Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of Kairos, a community health organisation in Gulu, a town that was once the centre of Kony’s activities
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“I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign. . . Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.”
Click here to read the rest of this article by Grand Oyston (a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada).
“The LRA is not particularly unique, and, even more crucially, is a symptom of a disease, not the disease itself. Joseph Kony is merely the product of a very complex mess of deep-rooted social and economic issues. He is a particularly nasty symptom who chops off people hands, kidnaps children, and brutally murders lots of people. But even if Kony is removed, the underlying social and economic ills will simply manifest as something else, like the Rwandan Genocide, the war in South Sudan, ethnic cleansing in Darfur, or the Congo war (which killed six million people). Hail Malthus.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing that we leave the people of the Congo to be brutalised by Joseph Kony and his ilk. The point is that the straightforward problem and solution presented by IC bears no relation to the very complicated problem and potential solutions on the ground in Central Africa.
Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign is not a sophisticated program aimed at the root cause of the injustices in the Great Lakes region of Africa (although these exist), it is just another ill-conceived, shiny, and simplistic form of philanthropy that make people feel like they are making a difference while in fact accomplishing no lasting positive change.
If you have seen the Kony video I am glad that you are now at least aware of a tragedy which you had formerly never heard of, but I hope that people take this as a wake up call to learn about and confront the injustices in our world substantively, rather than settling for the superficial good/evil narrative IC presents and the well-intentioned ineffectiveness their programs exemplify.”
Click here to read the rest of this post by Edmund Inglis (he spent four years being heavily involved with Invisible Children).
I have heard nothing about Kony 2012 here in Kampala because, in a sense, it just does not matter. So, as a response to the on-line debate that has been going on for the last couple days, I want to explain why, from here, Kony 2012 can be ignored.
First, because Invisible Children is a symptom, not a cause. It is an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa. Invisible Children are “useful idiots,” being used by those in the US government who seek to militarize Africa, to send more and more weapons and military aid, and to build the power of military rulers who are US allies. The hunt for Joseph Kony is the perfect excuse for this strategy—how often does the US government find millions of young Americans pleading that they intervene militarily in a place rich in oil and other resources? The US government would be pursuing this militarization with or without Invisible Children—Kony 2012 just makes it a bit easier. Therefore, it is the militarization we need to worry about, not Invisible Children.
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A spokesman for Uganda’s defense and army, Felix Kulayigye, said Mr. Kony is already a spent force. “The world is just realizing the evil in this man, but these are the things we have pointed out countless times in the past,” Mr. Kulayigye said. “Good enough, we have decimated his capabilities now.”
Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst with local research group, Fanaka Kwa Wote, said the campaign is misleading since Mr. Kony’s crimes in Uganda are from a bygone era. “What does it profit to market the infamy of a man already famous for his crimes and whose capture is already on the agenda?”
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In light of the teachings of Jesus, and the message of the cross, is war/violence the answer that Christ followers are to propose and/or support?
“While I respect that people will have differing convictions about this, I must confess that I myself find it impossible to reconcile Jesus’ teaching (and the teaching of the whole New Testament) concerning our call to love our enemies and never return evil with evil with the choice to serve (or not resist being drafted) in the armed forces in a capacity that might require killing someone. The above cited texts show that the Gospel can reach people who serve in the military. They also reveal that John the Baptist, Jesus and the earliest Christians gave military personal “space,” as it were, to work out the implications of their faith vis-à-vis their military service. But I don’t see that they warrant making military service, as a matter of principle, an exception to the New Testament’s teaching that kingdom people are to never return evil with evil.
Many have argued that such grounds are found in Romans 13. Since Paul in this passage grants that the authority of government ultimately comes from God and that God uses it to punish wrongdoers (Rom. 13:1-5), it seems permissible for Christians to participate in this violent activity, they argue, at least when the Christian is sure it is “just.” The argument is strained on several accounts, however.
First, while Paul encourages Christians to be subject to whatever sword-wielding authorities they find themselves under, nothing in this passage suggests the Christians should participate in the government’s sword wielding activity. Second, Romans 13 must be read as a continuation of Romans 12 in which Paul tells disciples to (among other things) “bless those who persecute you” (vs. 14); “do not repay anyone evil for evil” (vs. 17); and especially “never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (vs. 19). Leaving vengeance to God, we are to instead feed our enemies when they are hungry and give them water when they are thirsty (vs. 20). Instead of being “overcome by evil,” we are to “overcome evil with good” (vs. 21).
Now, in the next several verses, Paul specifies that sword-wielding authorities are one means by which God executes vengeance (13:4). Since this is the very same vengeance disciples were just forbidden to exercise (12:19, ekdikeo) it seems to follow, as Yoder argues, that the “vengeance” that is recognized as being within providential control when exercised by government is the same “vengeance” that Christians are told not to exercise. In other words, we may acknowledge that in certain circumstances authorities carry out a good function in wielding the sword against wrongdoers, but that doesn’t mean people who are committed to following Jesus should participate in it. Rather, it seems we are to leave such matters to God, who uses sword-wielding authorities to carry out his will in society.
The Kingdom Alternative
But there is an alternative to this ceaseless, bloody, merry-go-round: it is the kingdom of God. To belong to this kingdom is to crucify the fleshly desire to live out of self-interest and tribal interest and to thus crucify the fallen impulse to protect these interests through violence. To belong to this revolutionary kingdom is to purge your heart of “all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice” (Eph 4:31)—however “justified” and understandable these sentiments might be. To belong to this counter-kingdom is to “live in love, as Christ loved you and gave his life for you” (Eph 5:1-2). It is to live the life of Jesus Christ, the life that manifests the truth that it is better to serve than to be served, and better to die than to kill. It is, therefore, to opt out of the kingdom-of-the-world war machine and manifest a radically different, beautiful, loving way of life. To refuse to kill for patriotic reasons is to show “we actually take our identity in Christ more seriously than our identity with the empire, the nation-state, or the ethnic terror cell whence we come,” as Lee Camp says.”
Click here to continue reading this post by pastor Greg Boyd regarding Christians call to non-violence.
“The whole point of Jesus’ teaching is to tell disciples that their attitude toward “enemies” should be radically different from others. “If you do good to those who do good to you,” Jesus added, “what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Lk 6:32). Everybody instinctively hates those who hate them and believes they are justified killing people who might kill them or their loved ones. In contrast to this, Jesus is saying: “Be radically different.”
This is why Jesus (and Paul) didn’t qualify the “enemies” or “evildoers” he taught us to love and not violently oppose. Jesus didn’t say, “Love your enemies until they threaten you; until it seems justified to resort to violence; or until it seems impractical to do so.” Enemies are enemies precisely because they threaten us on some level, and it always feels justified and practically expedient to resist them, if not harm them if necessary. Jesus simply said, “love your enemies” and “don’t resist evildoers” – and note, some of the people he was speaking to would before long confront “enemies” who would feed them and their families to lions for amusement.
As with all of Jesus’ teachings, it’s important to place this teaching in the broader context of Jesus’ kingdom ministry. Jesus’ teachings aren’t a set of pacifistic laws people are to merely obey, however unnatural and immoral they seem. Rather, his teachings are descriptions of what life in the domain in which God is king looks like and prescriptions for how we are to cultivate this alternative form of living. In other words, Jesus isn’t saying: “As much as you want to resist an evildoer and kill your enemy, and as unnatural and immoral as it seems, act loving toward him.” He’s rather saying: “Cultivate the kind of life where loving your enemy becomes natural for you.” He’s not merely saying, “Act different from others”; he’s saying, “Be different from others.” This is simply what it means to cultivate a life that looks like Jesus, dying on a cross for the people who crucified him.”
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If you want some more resources regarding Invisible Children, the LRA, and Kony click here.