Tag Archives: IDP

Abia, the Reality.

One of the most challenging experiences I had in Uganda happened in Abia.

Abia is a former Internally-Displaced Persons Camp in Northern Uganda. During the war, many villages and its inhabitants were displaced and forced to live in these camps. With the end of the war, these people struggle to find integration back into the rest of Uganda, suffering from unemployment, starvation, and over-population.

Abia

Traveling to Abia was initially a joyous experience. We were greeted in the same vein as we were at Ave Maria a day before (see here for my experience there) with singing, dancing and many people saying, “you are most welcome!” Unlike Ave Maria however, this smokescreen wore thinner and thinner the longer we spent there.

Alison Prater with some Abia kids

At some point, another student and I broke off from the rest of the group to go get B-roll (extra footage). This is when I started to see the reality of this place. I saw classrooms with five times as many kids as a classroom could fit crammed into it, buildings with giant holes that look like a bomb went off for doors, and most striking of all, children with distended bellies.

I learned a long time ago when I saw a presentation of children in impoverished countries that distended bellies was a sign of extreme starvation. The way it was described to me at the time was this: when the body is unable to get nourishment, it turns on itself and begins to devour itself from within.

I wrote something in my journal the day after we went to Abia, which simply read, “I wonder why it is we live in a devour to survive society?” Yet it wasn’t until I came back home, posted my pictures of Uganda to facebook, and read a comment my aunt made on the above photo that said, “do you know why the shirtless boy has a distended belly?” that I really started to consider the reality of Abia. It was then that I really came to understand the reality of this place, the reality of things I had only heard about before.

Abia, for all the dances and performances we shot for our video, for all the efforts to erect a smokescreen of well-being and survival, was the biggest smack of reality I had seen on the whole trip. There were people there, people who are STILL there, who struggle to survive, and most (including said shirtless boy), who aren’t succeeding at it. The reality is, not everyone survives, not everyone is in a position to survive, some will die. The shirtless boy may be dead already, and that’s the reality of these kinds of places.

Abia was the reality.

Shattering

I don’t think you can understand good and evil exclusively. I think also that in some cases, you can see moments of pure goodness in the middle of the worst kind of evil.

Look at a man like Joseph Kony for instance. We learned in Abia, which is an Internally Displaced Person camp, that one of the ways Kony would “train” the children he kidnapped was by gathering all of the kids from the same town, choosing one of them, and ordering the others to kill him. This would ensure that these children’s connection to their home would be shattered, the emotional links to their parents would be shattered, and that they would never be able to return home.

This is one of those times where I can’t believe the absolutely insane amount of evil in the world. This man took these children, his own people, and turned them into complete monsters. In the wake of something like that, I start to believe that there is nothing, no amount of good that can combat that kind of evil.

At Radio Wa though, I think I found it.

Radio Wa is a radio station that is affiliated with the Catholic Church. During our visit to this station, we learned that Wa had a channel that broadcasted details about the war and those in “the bush” (people who had been taken by Kony).

In particular, one of these broadcasts was designed so that the families of the children that had been taken could communicate a message to those in “the bush” in the hopes that their children would hear it:

“We still love you. Come home.”

I think that that level of unwavering, unconditional love is something that no amount of evil or men like Kony have any hope of destroying. That kind of love is the kind that never weakens, even as one’s child has been transformed into a complete monster. That kind of love is the kind of love I think we can learn from, the kind that never dies or is even shaken. I find that that love, in this nation where I see fights in the street, poor people with no way out, and people whose lives have been shattered by war and poverty, is one of the purest forms of good I have ever seen.

Alberto, the man who runs Radio Wa, told us that there were many kids who made it out of the bush, and they said the reason they came back is because somewhere out in the wilderness, they heard these broadcasts. It’s no surprise then that during the peace talks, one of the conditions of peace was that that specific broadcast be shut down.

TL;DR: No evil is strong enough to shatter real love.