Every one of us shares the need to connect. But despite the fact that we’re living in one of the most globally connected times in history, we still struggle to transcend our day-to-day online interactions and develop strong, meaningful connections with others.
During this time of year, we feel that struggle more than ever and go to great lengths to connect with those we love. All around the world, people are traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to be with loved ones. Families are preparing and feasting on meals together around tables. And many of us are embracing the family and cultural traditions that bring us together (even if the photos don’t always turn out exactly right).
For families in central Africa, though, meeting this universal need for connection can often mean the difference between life and death. In this remote and isolated part of the world, disconnection from neighboring communities and from the outside world puts communities at risk for extreme violence and exploitation.
That’s why, at Invisible Children, we are committed to breaking down the barriers of isolation that attract, enable, and often fuel cycles of violence against families. In partnership with trusted local visionaries, we’ve built and continue to expand programs that provide isolated and vulnerable communities with the tools and resources they need to connect with the world around them, so that they can better protect their families and call for help when it’s needed.
Almost ten years ago, Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) were attracted to remote regions of the DR Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) because they knew that isolation made it possible for them to loot communities, kill innocent people, and abduct children, with nothing to stand in their way – and that is exactly what they did.
Next week marks the seventh anniversary of the Makombo Massacre, when the LRA travelled along the road in northeastern DRC, going from town to town, killing and abducting along the way. Over the course of four days, the LRA killed more than 300 people and abducted more than 200 others, including more than 80 children. Communities in this area had no way of warning one another of the danger coming their way, which allowed the LRA to carry out one of their largest and most violent attacks.
We responded by teaming up with dedicated local visionaries to develop innovative and dynamic programs that, to this day, are making hundreds of thousands of children and families safer from violence by addressing the isolation that makes them targets. Through our Early Warning Network, we’re connecting communities to one another so they can share vital information about local security and keep their families safe. Our ‘Come Home’ radio messages are removing the threat of LRA violence by encouraging LRA members to lay down their weapons and reconnect with their families. And we’re helping community members strengthen their connections to one another to collaborate for safety and healing through local Peace Committees and trauma healing workshops.
Together, these programs have helped reduce LRA violence by 90% and thousands across central Africa are now safer because of them. But our programs have yet to reach thousands of others still living in remote corners of the region. These communities remain isolated and disconnected and, just like communities facing LRA violence, they are targeted as a result. Others armed groups like the LRA, including wildlife poachers, are exploiting the same vulnerabilities that the LRA has for years and preying on communities for their own gain.
With your support this holiday season, we’ll continue to build upon and expand these programs to connect communities and break down the barriers of isolation that perpetuate violence and exploitation.