Posts tagged “Invisible Children”

Where are the “Invisible Children” now? (Part II)

The following is a continuation of what Riho wrote for her last assignment in my Composition I class.  She worked very hard to find the right information.  I was very proud of her because she is from Japan and the only one on our campus, she is outnumbered by the large group of Koreans and Chinese.  Yes, she is Asian but she is invisible in her nationality amongst them. I’m not sure why she gravitated to this topic about “Invisible Children” but maybe she could relate in a small way to not being recognized as the lone Japanese girl on our campus.

 “A new video which was created by Invisible Children came out on March 5th in 2012. The film is called Kony 2012 and explains about Kony’s and LRA’s crimes toward children in conflicts by Jason Russell and calls for saving the children in conflicts. The film made a huge impact to the society. In the video, Jason tells his young son who Kony is by using simple words. Even though his story is not complicated and easy as much as a five year old boy can understand, it tells us the atrocity of child soldiers in 30 minutes. I could feel Jason’s seriousness of this issue by seeing Jason telling his child the reality. Jason’s major purpose for the video was to make many people recognize Kony’s face, and now many people who watched Kony 2012 can recognize his face and know the bad things he is doing. The video was seen by many people immediately after it was launched. “By the end of the first week, more than 112 million people had seen Kony 2012-about the same number who watch the Super Bowl every year” (Suddath, 2012). Many people who felt sad and sorry for the children, started a movement against LRA, and gave donations to Invisible Children in order to help the kids. Many celebrities also shared the facts by using the social network service to get the public’s attentions toward the poor kids. Invisible Children states Kony was the number nine most searched person on Google in 2012. Thus, the video moved the viewers.

However, the stories which are explained in Kony 2012 are lacking in creditability. “The video is charged with making mistakes and oversimplifying a complicated issue” (Hughes, 2012). In the video Jason explains Kony is in Uganda and has more than 30,000 child soldiers who were abducted. However, Kony has not been seen for more than six years, so no one knows if he is still in Uganda. In addition, the number of children Joseph showed is exaggerated. That is because 30,000 is the number estimated for the total of killed children because of the conflicts lasted over 20 years in the country. It cannot be the truth that LRA are having the number of children. Thus, some of the information is old, not true, or exaggerated, but they told us as if these are true and really happening. Then, a lot of people trusted the stories without any doubt. According to Alex Miller, Invisible Children got more than 10 million dollars of contributions by the video. Pickett (2012) explained that even though “Invisible Children” took near 14 million dollars in 2011, only 3.3 million dollars actually went to programs in Central Africa. They used the rest of the money for marketing, management, expenses, and products. Therefore, most of the money people donated to help after watching Kony 2012 might not be used for the children but for the organization. They took a lot of money from people who were trying to help children in conflicts by showing the video of children suffering. The act must not be forgiven.  In addition, 10 days after the video was released, Jason was reported with his strange behavior. He ran out naked into the street and screamed. He changed to a crazy person from the leader of saving child soldiers, so now it is difficult to trust him and the organization led by him. Thus, people should not have trusted them easily until they got enough information and creditability to decide to help the group.

On the other hand, “Invisible Children” still call for the support and donation even after these facts came up. The purposes for their activities are still to help children who are involved in conflicts in Africa, to end the actions of LRA, and to arrest Joseph Kony. They say they will not stop the movement until they move Joseph Kony out of the way. According to “Invisible Children” website, Congress passed a bill with 45 million dollars to help arrest Kony. Obama signed the budget legislation to support efforts to locate and arrest top LRA leaders. LRA killings had decreased 67 percent in the last year, and two of five top LRA commanders are off the battle fields because of their activities. By showing these facts they are trying to prove Invisible Children is motivated to make a peaceful world, and their campaign actually moved the President of the United States. In addition, even though the amount is smaller than we expect, some of the donations are actually used to help the African children. The organization Invisible Children are trying to justify their actions for child soldiers even though their creditability is suspected because of the earlier lies they made. Thus, they are suspected of manipulating the power of media and still getting support from some gullible people.

We get a lot of information from the media every day from TV, newspapers, Internet, and magazines. Even our friends and families tell us a lot of information which they get from the media. Therefore, it is almost impossible not to get information from the media. According to my survey, 66.7 percent of people admitted that they have experienced being fooled by the media, but still 41.7 percent of people sometimes and 33.3 percent of people almost always believe the information which is told by the media. The data shows media has a big influence. In conclusion, even though Invisible Children succeeded to move a lot of sympathetic people and the President of this country, the fact that they fooled the receivers of their information cannot be changed. They defrauded sympathetic people of donations for their benefit and lost their trust. The inappropriate action should not be acclaimed even though it made a huge progress for helping child soldiers. People who use media can get not only a lot of money but also a lot of people’s sympathy even by telling untruth. The media could be very useful to share the true story, to tell information to many people, and to call for activities, but the media could be very dangerous because it spreads anything to the whole world quickly. We could make huge changes to the society by our movement, so we should have responsibility to check the facts. In order to avoid letting this bias happen again, the media should build accountability for their information, and receivers should pay more attention to the creditability of the information which they are told.

References

Cadwalladr, C. (2013, March) Jason Russell: Kony2012 and the fight for truth. Retrieved from the Guardian website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/03/jason-russell-kony-2012-interview

Hughes, L. (2012). Invisible Children and the Hypocrisy of the Media. Canadian Dimension, 46(3), 56. Retrieved from EBSCO

Invisible Children. (n.d.). Programs. Retrieved April 17, 2013 from: http://invisiblechildren.com/program/defection-fliers/

Pickett, I. (2012, March 9). Is Invisible Children And Kony 2012 Using Children To Rip You Off?. Retrieved from CBS website: http://tampa.cbslocal.com/2012/03/09/is-invisible-children-and-kony-2012-using-children-to-rip-you-off/

Russell, J. (2012, March 5). Kony 2012 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Russell, J. , Bailey, Bobby & Poole, Laren (August 26, 2006). Invisible Children: Rough Cut [Video firm]. Retrieved from http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/invisible-children/

Suddath, C. (2012). Guerrilla Marketing. Bloomberg Businessweek, (4294), 68-72. Retrieved from EBSCO

Swartz, L. (2012). Invisible Children: Transmedia, Storytelling, Mobilization. Working Paper, March 11. Retrieved from Google Scholar

UNICEF. (n.d.). The facts. Retrieved from Factsheet: Child Soldiers website: http://www.unicef.org/emerg/files/childsoldiers.pdf

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Where are the “Invisible Children” now?

The following research paper was written by a Japanese student named Riho. She did a GREAT job in working on this paper about child soldiers and what the organization did with the money that was donated to them, intended for the “Invisible Children” in Africa.  Riho is an accounting major and so this is fitting that she would try to find out more about how they distributed the money, but she was concerned about how they played on peoples’ emotions to get the money to come in.

Invisible Lies to the Public

“The media has huge powers which influence our daily lives. Many people believe the information which is told via social media, and we change our emotion toward the facts, such as becoming sad, happy, confused, and anxious because of the information. In addition, the information could change our behavior. For example, some people decide to donate money and do charity after they are told about the poor children who do not have enough food and are in need of help because the report raises people’s sympathy. Most people just accept the information and do not try to check the credibility of the sources even though many troubles about the reliability of the media have been unveiled. The media can get not only people’s attention and sympathy but also their money and charity by using inappropriate information, so the information could cause a huge impact to our society. Therefore, we need to require media to share the right information and check the sincerity of the facts in order to avoid being swayed by false information. Jason Russell, who is the leader of Invisible Children, is the one of the people who used the media in improper ways. He became a big liar from the leader of a charity organization because of the influence of media. Even though the media is powerful, like the organization Invisible Children which tried to help child soldiers by raising awareness and money, sympathetic people should be told the truth because organizations can lose creditability by misrepresenting the facts and gaining a lot of money quickly with no accountability.

According to UNICEF, approximately 300,000 children who are under age 18 are involved in conflicts in the world. Joseph Kony is the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RLA). The group abducts children and uses them as child soldiers. The children are forced to torture their friends, family, and innocent people. According to Cadwalladr (2013), the group abducted more than 30,000 children and turned them into child soldiers and sex slaves. The facts affect the children’s physical health, mental health, education, and human rights. Therefore, Invisible Children was founded to help these kids. “Invisible Children is a non-profit founded in 2005 by friends Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole. Its mission is to use film, creativity, and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity” (Swartz, 2012).

I got a survey from 17 people. About 94 percent of people disagree with having child soldiers. One of the people surveyed thinks that children decide to become soldiers by themselves because of the food and money which are provided by military groups. However, the truth is most of child soldiers were forced to join military teams regardless of their wishes. I also asked them if they know Invisible Children. About 18 percent of the people know the organization, and a person recognizes Invisible Children as “Very unfortunate kids of Uganda that were being used as child soldiers because they didn’t have a place to live, food to eat or parents to protect them. Some children were used as sex slaves.” The main activities of this group are to make people aware of the reality of child soldiers and to tell people who Joseph Kony is and his crimes.

Many people are not interested in this issue because they are not familiar with child soldiers. Therefore, the founders of the organization Invisible Children are trying to make the public aware of the fact by using the power of media and handing out flyers. In the movie Invisible Children: Rough Cut, Jason and his friends actually went to Africa and met some children who were forced to be soldiers. The interview of a child whose name is Jacob had a great impact on me. He saw his brother was being killed by a member of LRA. He said if he could chose to be alive or dead, he would like to die rather than living on the Earth. The words show how hard experience he is going through. Invisible Children also collect donations in their activities. They use the money to create films which inspire global action, to mobilize teams to end LRA atrocities, to protect communities from LRA attacks, and to help former child soldiers recover from the effect of military events.”

(to be continued)

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Sending Wrong Messages on Human Trafficking

I wonder where the whole Invisible Children and KONY 2012 thing has gone to?  If you watched the video that went viral about 3-4 months ago…now THAT was a conflicted message!!! The three young guys who started this organization probably initially meant well for the sake of those children in Sudan and Uganda who were caught in the brutal web of Joseph Kony. Also, I wonder if Kony really will be captured and brought to world justice by the end of this year???

The reason I have gotten involved with the whole issue of human trafficking and trying to help eradicate it was the three plus years I spent in Kazakhstan (teaching in Almaty and Astana). To me, there seems to be a spirit of slavery and non-freedom that exists in that country, at least in those two Russified cities.  Contrast that with the Kazakhs living in the outback areas and hard-to-get to places who probably have a strong sense of independence and warrior spirit. Sadly, those Kazakhs who were “domesticated” during the Soviet period have maybe lost the will to fight to declare who they really are as Kazakhs. What a proud heritage from the long ago past.  Yet there are those vulnerable individuals from Central Asia who live in today’s contemporary society. They WANT to get out of their miserable economic situation. They have been duped by the lies of traffickers. Somehow I could relate to the book I read titled “Two Kyrgyz Women.”

I have probably gotten about 40 other people to read this book as well, ten were my Kazakh students in Astana.  I have handed out so many copies of this short book written by Marinka Franulovich that I am pleased to report that it is now on line FREE!  What good news to see this gem out there on the Internet for more people to read and become aware of the trafficking problem in Central Asia. My hope is that someone will pick up on these two stories of brave women who came forward and make it into a movie for a wider audience to know the truths in this book dealing with Central Asian culture and how women get trapped into slavery.

Unfortunately, there is a wrong message being sent out just below the description of this book that is free on-line.  Because it deals with the sensitive nature of prostitution and women being trafficked, there is a sensually provocative book also being advertised that is the exact opposite of what lessons should be learned from “TKW.” (sigh).  I told Marinka about this conflict and she wrote to the e-book distributors but I think there is not much that can be done about this.  Check out this link in order to get the free download of “Two Kyrgyz Women.”

Another wrong message I witnessed yesterday was Will Smith’s wife who posed nude in a short video clip to promote something concerning human trafficking.  Talk about a conflict of interest, what was Smith’s point in doing that?  I saw the interview where Jada Pickett Smith explained what she did, but it escaped my understanding. Okay, so her daughter Willow Smith got her started on this topic of human trafficking after she had witnessed the KONY 2012 video.  I wonder what good will come of this video that Jada Smith did? Building awareness about trafficking by going nude?! Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Will Smith were in the audience of some gathering on June 19th where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a talk on human trafficking.

I hate to admit that I have never been a fan of Hillary’s but I DO respect her firm stance against human trafficking. She is consistent as a fighter against this tragedy and it is outlined in the speech she gave below.  Check out the link and see the report that just came out this month from the State Department about what is going on in the world with trying to eradicate human trafficking.

SECRETARY CLINTON: “Thank you. Thank you all very much. And I am delighted to see a standing room only crowd here in the Benjamin Franklin Room for this very important annual event. I welcome all of you here to the State Department. And I want to begin by thanking Ambassador CdeBaca and his team for all the hard work that goes into this report, and the passion that they bring to the fight against modern slavery. I would like, Lou, for you and your team to either stand or wave your hand if you’re already standing. Could we have everyone from – (applause) – thank you. I so appreciate what you do every day, not just when we roll out the report, and I’m very proud to be your colleague.

I also want to welcome our 10 TIP heroes, whose work is making a real difference. You will hear more about each one individually when we recognize them, but I want, personally, to thank them because they do remind us that one person’s commitment and passion, one person’s experience and the courage to share that experience with the world, can have a huge impact. And I am delighted to welcome all of our TIP heroes here today. Thank you. (Applause.)

And I will join Lou in thanking Jada Pinkett Smith and Will for being here, and through you, your daughter. Because, as Lou said, it was their daughter who brought this issue to Jada’s attention, and I am so pleased that she has taken on this cause. And we look forward to working with you.

In the United States today, we are celebrating what’s called Juneteenth. That’s freedom day, the date in 1865 when a Union officer stood on a balcony in Galveston, Texas and read General Order Number 3, which declared, “All slaves are free.” It was one of many moments in history when a courageous leader tipped the balance and made the world more free and more just. But the end of legal slavery in the United States and in other countries around the world has not, unfortunately, meant the end of slavery.

Today, it is estimated as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, what we sometimes call trafficking in persons. As Lou said, I’ve worked on this issue now for more than a dozen years. And when we started, we called it trafficking. And we were particularly concerned about what we saw as an explosion of the exploitation of people, most especially women, who were being quote, “trafficked” into the sex trade and other forms of servitude. But I think labeling this for what it is, slavery, has brought it to another dimension.

I mean, trafficking, when I first used to talk about it all those years ago, I think for a while people wondered whether I was talking about road safety – (laughter) – what we needed to do to improve transportation systems. But slavery, there is no mistaking what it is, what it means, what it does. And these victims of modern slavery are women and men, girls and boys. And their stories remind us of what kind of inhumane treatment we are still capable of as human beings. Some, yes, are lured to another country with false promises of a good job or opportunities for their families. Others can be exploited right where they grew up, where they now live. Whatever their background, they are living, breathing reminders that the work to eradicate slavery remains unfinished. The fact of slavery may have changed, but our commitment to ending it has not and the deeply unjust treatment that it provides has not either.

Now the United States is not alone in this fight. Many governments have rallied around what we call the three P’s of fighting modern slavery: prevention, prosecution, and protection. And this report, which is being issued today, gives a clear and honest assessment of where all of us are making progress on our commitments and where we are either standing still or even sliding backwards. It takes a hard look at every government in the world, including our own. Because when I became Secretary of State, I said, “When we are going to be issuing reports on human trafficking, on human rights that talk about other countries, we’re also going to be examining what we’re doing,” because I think it’s important that we hold ourselves to the same standard as everyone else.

Now, this year’s report tells us that we are making a lot of progress. Twenty-nine countries were upgraded from a lower tier to a higher one, which means that their governments are taking the right steps. This could mean enacting strong laws, stepping up their investigations and prosecutions, or simply laying out a roadmap of steps they will take to respond.

But this issue and the progress we’ve made are about much more than statistics on prosecutions and vulnerable populations. It’s about what is happening in the lives of the girls and women I recently met in Kolkata. I visited a few months ago and was able to meet with some extraordinary women and girls who were getting their lives back after suffering unspeakable abuses. One young girl, full of life, came up and asked me if I wanted to see her perform some karate moves. And I said, “Of course.” And the way she stood up so straight and confident, the pride and accomplishment in her eyes, was so inspiring. This was a child who’d been born in a brothel to a young mother who had been forced and sold into prostitution. But when her mother finally escaped and took her daughter with her, they were out of harm’s way and finally able to make choices for themselves.

Now I don’t know what’s going to happen to that young girl, whose image I see in my mind’s eye, in the years and decades ahead. But I do know that with a little help, her life can be so much better than her mother’s. And that’s what we need to be focused on, and it’s what we need to try to do for all victims and survivors.

That’s why in this year’s report, we are especially focused on that third P, victim protection. And in these pages, you’ll find a lot of proven practices and innovative approaches to protecting victims. This is a useful and specific guide for governments looking to scale up their own efforts. What kind of psychological support might a victim need? How should immigration laws work to protect migrant victims? How can labor inspectors learn to recognize the warning signs of traffickers? And what can you and all of us do to try to help?

When I met with the people who were working with victims in Kolkata, I met several young women from the United States who had been inspired by reading about and watching and going online and learning about what was happening in the efforts to rescue and protect victims. And they were there in Kolkata, working with organizations, NGOs, and the faith community, to do their part. So this is a moment for people to ask themselves not just what government can do to end modern slavery, but what can I do, what can we do together.

Ultimately, this report reminds us of the human cost of this crime. Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life. And our goal should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach, whether it’s getting a good job to send money home to support a family, trying to get an education for oneself or one’s children, or simply pursuing new opportunities that might lead to a better life. We need to ensure that all survivors have that opportunity to move past what they endured and to make the most of their potential.

I’m very pleased that every year we have the chance to honor people who have made such a contribution in this modern struggle against modern slavery. And I’m also pleased that this is a high priority for President Obama and the Obama Administration. It’s something that is not just political and not just a policy, but very personal and very deep. You might have seen over the weekend a long story about Mrs. Obama’s roots going back to the time of our own period of slavery and the family that nurtured her, which has roots in the fields and the houses of a time when Americans owned slaves.

So as we recommit ourselves to end modern slavery, we should take a moment to reflect on how far we have come, here in our country and around the world, but how much farther we still have to go to find a way to free those 27 million victims and to ensure that there are no longer any victims in the future.”

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“Tell a Story” says Jason Russell

Ironic that I wrote about co-founder Jason Russell of “Invisible Children” in my last post. Then as soon as I hit “publish” on my blog, I found out Russell was arrested yesterday in California for erratic behavior and indecent exposure.  I’m certain Jason didn’t want to give this kind of exposure to his operation of Kony2012. This will most certainly backfire on all their plans leading up to April 20th. I suppose the story that Jason Russell really wants to tell is about Jacob when Russell went to Africa eight years ago.  Young Jacob was able to escape the clutches of Joseph Kony who has destroyed many, many lives. That’s a very sad story.

Here’s a new story just hot off the press.  I feel sorry for Jason Russell who presumably is married with two children. He has a wife he has known for 23 years, he is 33 years old, so married to a childhood sweetheart.  That’s what I have gathered about him from different news sources. Supposedly he is a Christian, family man who cares deeply about families who have been destroyed in Africa, mainly Sudan and Uganda and anywhere else the Lord’s Resistance Army has infiltrated.

I just finished watching a clip with Mark Wexler (co-founder of Not For Sale) and Jason Russell telling an audience about how to use social media to give any abolitionist activist more impact. Anyone who has a passion to tell their story concerning human trafficking, there are astute ways to get the message across.  Apparently with the video clip of Kony2012 gone viral as of a week ago, it just so happened to take Jason out of commission.  Hopefully this is a temporary setback, I do wish him well for the sake of his cause and his family.

I’ll philosophize a bit here. Maybe we as finite creatures are incapable of using all the social media at our fingertips such as Twitter, blogging, Facebook, etc.  Seems that Jason was on technology overload at the expense of his spiritual, biological and emotional health. Getting his Kony2012 film clip out for the world to see may have been his on doing while there are so many other atrocities going on in the world.  He admitted on the Not For Sale website that telling a simple story can be difficult.  He claimed you have to create forward momentum to keep it going.  Maybe Jason and his team of Invisible Children are doing too much, too soon, too fast.

Around an election year is also a critical time to be campaigning for a good cause, but aren’t Americans all tired of the hype built around candidates’ bumper stickers, campaign posters and conventions? Enough already of the hype! I still don’t understand the “Invisible Children’s” logic of “making Joseph Kony famous.” No, let’s make Kony as well known as Hitler as a wild-eyed despotic tyrant who killed many people. I have to add, as I wrote yesterday, let’s make Kony as infamous as Jospeh Stalin should be known as. Too many tragic stories in the former Soviet Union have remained untold.

Telling a story is what Kazakh people are adept at.  If only I understood the Kazakh language to hear what stories they tell their younger generations about the exploits and glories of the good old days when the Kazakh nomads roamed their steppes in freedom.  The independent Kazakh of hundreds of years ago knew how to live off the land. They also knew how to fight bravely while being hospitable to the hapless stranger who wandered on to their far off, desolate lands. I’m told the Kazakhs have an oral tradition where they really know how to tell a story. No one needs to tell them to “tell a story.”

Funny that we are advised by Jason Russell that we must know how to tell a story orally. In our western land of written literature, we need to learn how to be good story tellers. I have said many times, that each life lived out on earth has a compelling story.  Each individual soul matters. I wonder what is Jason Russell’s story that brought him to this point of exhaustion and dehydration where he is being hospitalized right now for the overwork he has committed himself to with Kony2012.  No doubt he cares for the children who have remained invisible in Africa, he has his own children he loves and cares for.

What will become of all the donation money that has come in to Kony2012 thus far to help tell the story? Will this latest drama with Jason Russell propel the momentum forward?  I wonder…stay tuned!

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Let’s make Joseph (Stalin) Infamous!!!

I’m still bothered by the hype created by the Kony 2012 people. So Joseph Kony has been marauding and pillaging for 26 years and tragically altered the lives of 30,000 children and their families. What about what Joseph Stalin did for 30 years in the USSR, what about the millions who were starved to death in the 1930s in Ukraine?  Why is it so much easier to turn Americans heads to something that is going on in the jungles of Africa?  With all the historical literature, police records and archival evidence at our disposal about the atrocities of the gulag in Russia and specifically the karlag system in Kazakhstan, why the silence?

These very same people who are lobbying, want our U.S. military to go and save the African children who are kidnapped. Aren’t they the same people who were against President George Bush who wanted to get Hussein out of Iraq and tried for war crimes and capture bin Laden for 9/11? Didn’t we deploy our military to those countries?  Apparently this is different. We are supposedly only going to send 100 “advisors” to be on the ground.  That’s how Vietnam started.  Okay, so now as of December 2011, Joseph Kony has been served notice he is the top most wanted man according to the I.C.C.

What’s this latest thing with George Clooney being arrested today in front of the Sudan embassy in Washington D.C? He is NOT one of my favorite actors (“Perfect Storm” was the last bomb I watched of him though he was funny in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”)  Does Clooney know something about Joseph Kony moving back from Uganda into the very place where he was armed by the Muslim leadership in the north to shoot and kill the Christian population in southern Sudan?  I guess the American media and publicity will shed light on what is going on right now so the killing and kidnapping can stop. YES, I am all for Joseph Kony being stopped.

However, more energy should be exerted in our school systems to know the atrocities that Joseph Stalin committed and make him infamous.  He was far, far worse than Hitler but the academic community is silent on that score, why?  Instead of making Joseph Kony famous, let’s make Joseph Stalin infamous.  The youthful enthusiasm going into this during election year has me greatly puzzled.  April 20th will be the big night out for people to demonstrate their feelings about Kony.  What if Kony is captured and killed before then?  That would be a little bit of a bummer for the organizers, right?

To me, this is too well orchestrated…too sinister on many levels. I hope I am wrong about the Invisible Children founders.  Gavin Russell certainly is a cute little boy who could tell the bad guy (Joseph Kony) from the good guy Jacob who lost his brother to the L.R.A. Gavin’s father is doing what he can for justice.  However, I’m reminded of the verse from Micah:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

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“Invisible Children” Gone Viral, Who to Believe?

The Internet has been deluged about “Invisible Children” and most recently the “Kony2012” video. According to a Wall Street Journal article on March 9th, last Thursday this latest YouTube clip had 44.7 million views and over 170 related clips.  Twitter users mentioned Joseph Kony almost one million times. What and WHO are we REALLY to believe? Of course, there are many perspectives about this awful topic of child soldiers in Africa. However, I think it is very important we have a measured response and listen to those people who live in the areas of Uganda and elsewhere in Africa where Kony and his troops of the “Lord’s Resistance Army” have infiltrated.

I am no expert on any of this, it is so far removed from the clean and Spartan classrooms that I have taught in while living in Ukraine and Kazakhstan.  Jungles and military are about as far away from what I experience on an every day basis while back in Minnesota now.  Difficult to believe I’ve been home experiencing a whole year back in my home state of Minnesota since my return from Astana, Kazakhstan.  What can I do about what is happening when young children are yanked from their homes and forced by fear and intimidation to become child soldiers?

Just the other day I met a young woman in my hometown who had a pierced lip and dark makeup with her bright orange hair that was dyed unnaturally under a black stocking hat to suit her horrendous, gothic appearance. She would be a charming enough looking girl if she went natural, she seemed articulate enough.  She too had seen the Kony2012 youtube flick which has been put out by the Invisible Children guys out of California.  They are calling for military action against Kony, the infamous leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. This young gothic girl was ready to put posters up all over town to bring awareness to this situation, I know she doesn’t have the money to donate to the “cause.”

What I did NOT appreciate what the Invisible Children producers did, when I watched this one hour documentary, was to confuse the issue about WHO the good and bad guys are.  If I’m not mistaken, they wanted to make it appear that the Christians were part of the “Lord’s Resistance Army.”  Any time there was a Catholic priest talking against Kony with a large cross on his front, they carefully cropped that out.  The three California guys had a long prelude about how they were going into a dangerous place in Africa and probably were going to be killed, but they were going to find a story anyhow. They went to great lengths to show that they didn’t know what they were doing with their cameras and how naive they were about what they were getting in to. The first part of their film was entertaining but narcissistic.

Now this latest Kony2012 shows clips of the Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell playing with his toddler. The founders of I.C. are making yet another emotional appeal for Americans to send them money to their organization so they can continue to bring awareness to this problem.  Yet there have been several people on the ground in their respective African nations who are saying there is a different view to what these well-meaning “outsiders” are producing.  All the hype of sending money to I.C. to continue this fight, well, what about the Christian pastor in Iran who was just executed for turning from his Muslim to become a Christian. Where is the outrage about that? (crickets)

David Batstone, co-founder of “Not For Sale” produced an article to what is really happening according to an African who was in Kony’s army.  Here’s another clip from Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist who claims that things have improved over the past several years.  We, as Americans, live a very sheltered life compared to what the people in Muslim countries go through who want to be Christians or what fear Africans are living in with losing their children to these marauding bandits that have weapons.  The children they kidnap are their shields of protection. Those parents who want their missing children back, must separate Kony from his child concubines and other child soldiers who are forced to kill. These parents want their children back!!!

Yes, the producers are “Invisible Children” probably have their heart in the right place but is this Joseph Kony really the “white man’s burden” to help save Africans from themselves? But are we, as westerners, to stand helplessly by as parents lose their children and as children lose their childhood?  Why is there evil in the world? No easy answers but awareness about human trafficking can help make us love those who are close to us knowing that life is fragile, handle with prayer.

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“Invisible Children” and “Kazakhstan Presentation”

I’ve had sufficient time to reflect on the one hour film I saw last week, but it still haunts me.  I think everyone in the auditorium who also watched “Invisible Children” will have a difficult time ignoring the young boy’s story named Jacob and his sobbing. Jacob missed his brother who was killed by rebel soldiers in Uganda. They abduct children from age 5-8 because they are able to carry guns. Jacob’s English was very articulate and he conveyed his hopelessness in wanting to die, to go to heaven to see his brother again. His crying was not typical of the whimpers you would normally hear, it was more of an unearthly high pitched groan. It probably got the cameraman (one of three southern California guys out on an adventure to get a story) crying too.

What is interesting about these three guys (you can look it up on imdb.com yourself) is that they were looking for an adventure that would have an impact. They were kind of like Peace Corps types but in hyper mode with cameras to go where Peace Corps would never allow volunteers to go to, such as Sudan. Once they found the children in Uganda who were walking from the rural areas of the jungle into cities for protection under verandas of hospitals or bus parks, they knew they had to report this to the rest of the world.  One comment that I recall from the movie is that they said the difference between the children they encountered in Uganda and the children in the U.S. is that these kids don’t cry anymore.  Normal kids cry, but they were way beyond having any hope of getting help from the outside world.  Some had seen terrible atrocities in their village.  Jacob had seen his brother murdered by these marauding bands of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), fortunately he and his friend had escaped.

Another thing that I can’t get over is the sentence I heard several times “Fear is an understatement.”  The whole countryside is living in fear of these rebels who were armed by the powers in northern Sudan.  That is no life to live to be constantly on the move, where do the children find food to eat?  They are certainly not getting their education but only learning how to survive day to day.  “Fear is an understatement.” Is there a hyperbole for the word “fear” which our English language does not provide to truly understand what these children are suffering?

Now I want to go to an 8 minute clip probably done by a young Kazakh man living in Czech republic.  I don’t think what he puts together as “Kazakhstan Presentation” on Youtube.com would be sanctioned by the Kazakhstan’s government.  Yet it is indicative of what is going on with the human trafficking from the rural areas of Kazakhstan to the big cities of Almaty and Astana.  If I were a mother of a Kazakh girl and one who dresses provocatively, I would warn her of the great dangers that are out there.  Traffickers are quick to snatch up the “beautiful ladies” and bring them to brothels in the cities.  So, what this filmmaker is promoting essentially is sex tourism.  Watch it for yourself and see if there is something not right about it.  Well, it starts out with Sasha Cohen and Barot so you know that it is offensive already to a normal Kazakh person.

Is it just me or am I being too hyper sensitive to all this human trafficking?  The more I see and read, the more I KNOW we live in a fallen world. I am doing what I can to spread awareness and help the victims who get out of it whether they are child soldiers in Uganda or Kazakh girls trapped in prostitution or Uzbek men who are snared into working on building construction and not being paid for their work.

I’d like to get your thoughts on this from my readership.  I see that my blog spiked to almost 200 hits yesterday.  I think it is extremely interesting since I don’t write as much these days not like I did every day when I lived for 3 1/2 years in Kazakhstan, a land I miss.  Yeah, I know there are robots and trolls hitting this blog but I know there are real compassionate people who are trying to figure out what they can do to help Kazakhstan now that Peace Corps has left. I’m still very sad about that because I know that many of those volunteers gave hope to the Kazakhs in the rural areas of Kazakhstan.  I think there is something very sinister going on and I think if advertisements such as “Kazakhstan Presentation” are stopped, hopefully the demand would go down and the supply of young Kazakh girls would not be yanked out of their homes.

Check out “Kazakhstan Presentation” and buy the documentary on “Invisible Children” or google what is going on with the Lord’s Resistance Army.  We have a crisis going on here and I don’t think I’m an alarmist!!!

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