By Josh Wilson
April 22, 2009
“On April 25, 2009, the world will abduct themselves in solidarity with the 3,000 child soldiers who are still trapped by Joseph Kony,” Invisible Children’s new documentary states. “In hundreds of cities around the world, we will ask our governments to come to the rescue of these children.”
The Rescue, an event to raise awareness and support to stop the ongoing atrocities in Central East Africa, will be spearheaded by young people around the world on April 25. Its plan, “self-abductions,” will hinge on mass gatherings of supporters removing themselves from familiar homes, walking one to three miles to set outdoor locations, spending the night, and remaining there until gaining attention by the media, a celebrity or a politician who will acknowledge Africa’s longest running war and the need to do something about it.
“We are mirroring the lives of abducted children in order to honor them and remember them,” says Invisible Children “roadie” Gabriel Thibodean. Thibodean and fellow “roadie” Clara Hutzler are part of a small team among a handful of others traveling the country in 15-passenger vans showing screenings of Invisible Children’s newest documentary, The Rescue of Joseph Kony’s Child Soldiers. The film outlines the coercive influence of the Ugandan rebel leader Kony and his ruthless reign of fear over children previously abducted and now forced into the LRA—the Lord’s Resistance Army.
This army is responsible for child abductions and the horrific violence in Central East Africa that has plagued Uganda and surrounding countries for more than 22 years. It is believed that about 3,000 child soldiers are currently under Kony’s control and forced to cooperate with his agenda. Roadies are promoting The Rescue and aiming big.
“It could be 2,000 people sleeping overnight in a park,” Hutzler says. “Sometimes you have to do radical things to make change, and that’s how Invisible Children works.”
The Rescue is taking place in nine countries and 100 major cities around the world. Attendance could likely be 200,000 or more. The first part of the event will require participants to come to an “abduction site” and drop off a family photo with a red circle around their face symbolizing their abduction. Then a single file march to the “LRA camp” will ensue with participants holding on to a rope. The goal is to remain there until “rescued” by the media and a public figure.
“The whole premise behind it is the fact that the only thing that is keeping this war from ending is a lack of priority and people speaking up about it and making it an issue,” Thibodean says. “And so we’re following that example and saying the only thing needed to free us from this given location, whether it’s in a park or downtown city district, is for someone of high profile to come and use their voice to speak up about it.”
The goal of The Rescue is action to rescue Kony’s child soldiers. A major part of this goal is government action. Participants will be writing letters to congressmen during their abduction. These letters will be taken in June, along with photos and media of the event, to the capitols of the nine countries in which the event will be held. Invisible Children will use this material to lobby world governments into action.
As the Invisible Children movement gains momentum, young people are the ones carrying it forward. In their experience traveling the country, Thibodean and Hutzler said they have seen a generation of young adults trading apathy for activism in the Invisible Children movement.
“To be honest I think it’s a huge focus on the young generation,” Thibodean says. “This is for them. They’re crazy enough to sleep overnight in a park and to believe that it will make a difference.”
“One of my favorite quotes in the film,” said Hutzler, “is John Prendergast from the Enough Project, and he says, ‘One of the biggest problems we face is indifference and apathy.’ So what we need people to do is take action. Go to this event. Spread the word.”
The major needs that Invisible Children is working for on the ground in Uganda, Thibodean and Hutzler said, is education for children and useful employment for Ugandans. Invisible Children attempts to provide this relief to victims of the war, but The Rescue specifically focuses on the greatest need, the return of child soldiers.
“Since this issue has escalated, the biggest need is, we need our children home,” Thibodean says. “We need Joseph Kony to be arrested and to no longer be allowed to do these terrible things and commit these atrocities.”
The Rescue is the third of three major events so far to promote awareness for Invisible Children. Previous events included 2006’s Global Night Commute and 2007’s Displace Me. All are efforts by the organization to raise awareness for victims of the seemingly endless African war. Invisible Children’s efforts continue five years after its three young founders released their 2004 documentary that helped expose the crisis.
The Rescue of Joseph Kony’s Child Soldiers builds on the previous documentary and gives a historical background of the LRA and Kony’s child army. The film shows the LRA as an army of senseless violence driven by fear and the supposed supernatural power of Kony. The film calls for action against him based on his failed cooperation in multiple previous peace talks.
Participation in the event and spreading the word about Invisible Children’s mission are the best ways to get involved, according to Thibodean and Hutzler. Instead of donating money blindly, their request is for the public to educate themselves about the situation.
“This event is going to change the world,” Thibodean said. “We are fully confident it’s going to bring the child soldiers home, along with work other amazing groups are doing.”
The Rescue of Joseph Kony’s Child Soldiers and more information about The Rescue can be viewed online at invisiblechildren.com.