Fetzer Institute Video, “Uganda: The Challenge of Forgiveness,” Explores a Community-Based Response to Joseph Kony’s Brutality

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Story documents a community as it re-integrates former Lord's Resistance Army child soldiers and officers.

"This is a story about individuals and communities being compelled to profound acts of forgiveness...."

In dealing with the aftermath of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), many people in Uganda are choosing a path of reconciliation as they welcome child soldiers and LRA officers back into their villages. “Uganda: The Challenge of Forgiveness” chronicles religious leaders, elders, and parents who are exercising remarkable leadership and courage in choosing to forgive as they seek to rebuild their communities.

“I travelled to Gulu in Northern Uganda to learn about that country's recovery from its terrible civil war,” said Daniel Philpott, associate professor of political science and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame. “In our video interviews, religious leaders spoke emotionally and eloquently of the necessity of forgiveness in the context of peace building.”

The 20-minute video, funded by the Fetzer Institute and produced by Jason Cohen Productions, is available at fetzer.org and the Institute’s Vimeo channel.

“They also talked about meeting in the bush with rebel leaders, including Joseph Kony,” continued Philpott. “Religious leaders, in a gesture of solidarity, slept on the ground at Gulu’s bus park with child ‘night commuters’ who fled their homes each night for the city center—for months and even years—in order to escape abduction by the Lord’s Resistance Army.”

The community-based focus of the video stands in contrast to "Kony2012," the much applauded and criticized viral video produced by Invisible Children, which espouses internationally sanctioned judicial prosecution.

“This is a story about individuals and communities being compelled to profound acts of forgiveness,” said Lawrence Sullivan, president and CEO of the Fetzer Institute. “It documents a very different type of leadership—one that requires courage, humility, and forgiveness. The Fetzer Institute believes that communities like Gulu help add to our understanding of the preconditions necessary for forgiveness, reconciliation, and, ultimately, peaceful societies.”

“Uganda: The Challenge of Forgiveness” includes interviews with:

  • Angelina Atyam, a United Nations Peace Prize winner of 1998. Her daughter, Charlotte Awino, was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army on October 10, 1996 and remained captive for almost eight years. Atyam co-founded the Concerned Parents Association (CPA) Uganda and was a key person in the advocacy for the unconditional release of children and youth abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
  • Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Archdiocese of Gulu. In 2002 Archbishop Odama was elected chairperson of the Acholi Religious Leader’s Peace Initiative (ARLPI), a group of interfaith leaders who have been integral in the negotiations between the LRA and the government.

The interviews in Gulu occurred in January 2012. Included in the film are the leaders’ recollections of their meetings with the rebels and Joseph Kony.

About the John E. Fetzer Institute:
The Fetzer Institute is a private operating foundation based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Established by broadcast pioneer John E. Fetzer (1901–1991), the Institute works with an international team of advisors to research and create programs that foster awareness of the power that love and forgiveness can have in our world. With an endowment of more than $400 million, the Institute dedicates approximately $20 million annually toward its research and programming efforts.

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