At Invisible Children, we approach the LRA conflict from a lot of different angles. We drop defection fliers from the sky. We broadcast “Come Home” messages. We generate mass international awareness and lobby our political leaders to invest in peaceful solutions. When even one LRA member defects, it creates a ripple effect – their surrender encourages others to do the same, and it weakens Joseph Kony’s power.
But in order for these efforts to be effective, defectors must come across a receptive community when they finally leave the battlefield. In the past, communities have been frightened or defensive when LRA members defect, not realizing their intention for peace.
How do we address this critical misunderstanding? Well, true to Invisible Children fashion, we’re using a film. Through the use of Mobile Cinema program and our partnership with Discover the Journey (DTJ), our staff in Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo is touring a short film called “They Came at Night” in LRA-affected communities. It features local actors and depicts the all too common experience of a boy’s abduction into the LRA and what he needs to go through to successfully escape.
Many communities associate LRA soldiers with the fear and loss of past attacks; they don’t know the complete history of the conflict, or that most soldiers were abducted as children. By promoting understanding and emotional connection, the film lays the groundwork for empathy and forgiveness.
In addition, we have worked with local leaders to form Community Defection Committees, through which our staff and local partners train members on how to create a safe environment for LRA members to surrender. Our staff empowers volunteer community members to create their own defection messaging, and they adapt strategies to their own situations. Together, we implement Safe Reporting Sites, where LRA members can safely surrender and reconnect with their families and communities.
We are committed to sustainable solutions to this conflict, and our programs bring communities alongside our efforts to keep up the trend of LRA defections. Through our partnerships, we encourage local leaders to take charge of their own implementations. We believe that community empowerment will create permanent change, and forgiveness will pave the way for lasting peace.
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