In my first blog post I wrote about the conditioning that a lot of people have succumbed to and the negative associations they have with the word “Africa. When I left for Uganda, I was in search of what often doesn’t get as much publicity– the resilience of the human spirit despite the poor surrounding circumstances that seem to plague Africa.
This was no more prominently displayed than in Angelina Atyam, affectionately called Mama Angelina. Her daughter, along with 30 other girls from the same boarding school, were abducted by rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in October 1996. She says “I remember waking up. I screamed. I screamed like a lunatic. I thought of my daughter. I said a brief prayer. A neighbor led us in another prayer.” As the weeks went by, parents would gather together to pray. The message of forgiveness became real as they recited the Lord’s Prayer.
“Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses…”
Silence fell upon the next line, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Obviously, forgiveness would be difficult to offer to the people who stole your children, raped them, abused them, and forced them to become soldiers that steal, mutilate, and kill. But the power of Mama Angelina’s faith helped her reconcile the tragedy that befell her family and community.
Recognizing the forgiveness of Christ in her life, she was able to transfer that forgiveness to the rebels who had kidnapped her daughter. After this, she raised her voice, calling for the return of the girls and recognition of the crisis from the international community. The rebels made a proposal: they would give Mama Angelina her daughter back if she quit raising her voice. She said she would only if they released all of the children. But when the rebels refused, she refused their offer also.
In the meantime, Mama Angelina founded the Concerned Parents Association (CPA) and became an international advocate for the children abducted by the LRA, speaking to the UN Security Council in 2005, among other advocacy efforts.
When our team interviewed her, I was so impressed. She exudes a special type of inner peace that is not found in many and the words she spoke were so genuine and unique. (She’s quite the quotable lady.)
But what inspired me was not her eloquent statements but the background of knowing that her words are supported by action. It’s easy to talk nice peace and forgiveness fluff but to witness a woman that practices peace and forgiveness after raw, deeply painful experiences, was powerfully moving.