Joseph Kony. A man whose name has long been distasteful to me. A man whose actions have destroyed and re-routed thousands of lives. A man whose time has come.
Or has it?
Invisible Children released a video a few days ago called KONY 2012. I finally had a chance to watch it tonight and my feelings are as mixed as they were before I watched it. If you haven't seen it, it is on Youtube and Vimeo. The gist of it is that Invisible Children feels that after two decades of wreaking havoc across Africa, Joseph Kony's time has come. They advocate the use of U.S. military technology and advice to the Ugandan army in order to capture Kony and bring him to justice. I have some concerns about this. One is that Kony's army is built by the capture, arming, and brainwashing of children. Some of them have grown up in the army, and life under Joseph Kony is all they know. If these children have been brainwashed and are victims of Stockholm Syndrome, who's to say they will let him go easily? Who's to say they will allow him to be captured? If they have come to love him and look at him as their father, their leader, their priest (in its early days, at least, the Lord Resistance Army's original leader Alice said she was receiving guidance from the Lord/Holy Spirit), then what makes anyone think that they aren't willing to die to save him? How many will give up their lives and fight to the death to prevent his capture?
I also have questions about the use of the army. If the Ugandan army is like many African armies, they are not much better than the LRA! Many armies perform the same looting, raping, pillaging, and (in some cases) the capture of children for use as soldiers during war time (I am specifically thinking of the army in Sierra Leone during its civil war for this example) for which we heap condemnation upon the LRA! Is the use of one corrupt and violent army to stop another corrupt and violent army really the best way to go about things? Is this really our only option? Or is this one of those "necessary evils," (a concept which I fully grasp and just as fully detest), one of those vile paradoxes foisted upon us by nature of living in a broken and sinful world?
I do question some of the statements made in the video, such as the claim that "Ninety-nine percent of the world has never heard of" Joseph Kony. Really? I'm betting the number of people just in Africa who've heard of him is greater than one percent of the world's population (for the record, I despise sensationalistic journalism no matter what it's for or against, so I'm not picking on them exclusively; anyone who makes an unsubstantiated, outrageous claim like this will get it from me. I should also note that I greatly appreciate Invisible Children's efforts to raise awareness and bring attention and notoriety to Joseph Kony, the LRA, and their actions). The thing is, the reason governments haven't been involved before now is because it has not been a "big" or "important" enough issue for them to allocate finite resources to deal with it. The world ignored Rwanda when it cried for help in 1994; an estimated 800,000 people paid with their lives in the span of a couple of months. Joseph Kony has been destroying lives for a quarter-century, and in that time, according to the video, 30,000 children have been affected.
Nearly that many children, under the age of five, die each day from preventable, poverty-related causes. Twenty-three thousand is the estimate (I'd have to check, but I believe that statistic is attributed to UNICEF). Each. Day.
Do I think Joseph Kony needs to be brought to justice? YES. Absolutely, unequivocally, unreservedly YES. Anyone who's heard me speak on this issue knows my passionate desire to see him brought to justice. But he is a madman, and he has had a long time to cultivate and perfect his methods and tactics, and finding him, let alone bringing him to justice, will not be easy. And I submit to you that without God, it will be impossible.
To the Christians, I ask this: did you pray before you reposted that video? Did you pray when or after you watched it? Did you stop to think critically about it (actually that question is for all people), to consider whether violent means are the best way to bring a violent man down? I understand that sometimes violence is the only way, in this fallen world. I am, after all, a product of a military state and a staunch supporter of our service members. But to bring this man to justice could result in the needless deaths of many more people, many of them children or captured as children and raised in the army (an upbringing absolutely no child should ever experience).
Furthermore, (and this was a point raised by a friend of mine) what will we do with the soldiers in his liberated army? I'm sure some, perhaps many, will need to be brought to justice for their own part in the crimes committed by the army, for the role they played in disrupting and destroying the lives of others. But what of the children? Repatriating a child soldier is not a simple process. They have been taught to hate, to kill, to consider human life expendable. Read "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier in the Sierra Leone civil war, to see what I mean about repatriation. To bring these children to a point where they are able to reintegrate into society will take resources: counselors and healthcare workers and other aid workers with immense patience and a willingness to work a potentially dangerous job, intense training and discipline and re-programming (which sounds like a dirty word except it will be necessary to undo, as much as possible, the programming they received in the LRA). Eventually there would be a need for schools and teachers to teach them. Many of these children may have no family to return to, and if they do, it's possible their families will reject them for their actions (especially if they killed other family members) and in all of these cases, the children will need families of some sort--perhaps homes with an "auntie" or orphanages or some such thing. I don't know. I have no experience and too little knowledge in these matters to be able to say with any certainty what the best course of action will be.
Perhaps using violence to bring about the end of a violent, cruel, and wicked man really is the only way it will happen. Perhaps there is no other recourse. Perhaps. But this man has been here for a quarter century and all previous efforts to stop him have failed and resulted in violent retaliation on more innocent people and what will we do if our efforts again fail? What if the failure of these attempts results in the worst retaliation yet, because the "mighty" United States dared to get involved in an "African affair?"
If combining the advice and technology of the U.S. military with the might of the Ugandan army is our best course of action and is, in fact, the best way to bring about the fall of Joseph Kony, I still believe that there is a high risk of failure unless these efforts are covered in prayer. If we have not yet succeeded in this endeavor, a few new pieces of equipment are not likely to change that. But God can.
I see this as more than just a physical war; I believe it is, at its very heart, a spiritual one. Look at the roots of the LRA! A woman named Alice, claiming visions or mandates or what-have-you from the Lord, telling her soldiers that smearing oil on their chests will make them invincible to bullets! Either the woman was crazy, or she was in fact seeing visions--but not from God. Perhaps she was both crazy AND seeing visions from whatever spiritual power was speaking to her. And if this army has been fueled for nearly three decades (perhaps longer; I'm not sure) by demonic forces, no amount of human-fueled effort will ever prevail!
So I challenge this: if you want to see Joseph Kony brought to justice and the Lord's Resistance Army brought to its timely end, if you are a Christian and believe God has the power to move mightily in the supernatural to bring about change in the natural, then you need to pray! Reposting videos, wearing trendy bracelets (and we're Americans; we love our trends!), and plastering your city with posters and buttons and lawn signs will do no good if you don't pray! Pray for justice; pray for liberty for the captives; pray for the peace of Africa! If we could get a worldwide movement of Christians praying for this--really, truly praying intercessory prayers and crying out to God for justice to be done--then I have no doubt that we WILL see Joseph Kony fall. We WILL see justice delivered. We WILL see peace in Africa. We will see children again have the chance to be children; we will see people no longer having to fear for their lives and those of their loved ones; we will see change come to beautiful Africa.
Please, for the love of all Africa's children, please, please pray. I exhort you, brethren, to pray!