I was reading today an article about a recent Dateline NBC program regarding the Ugandan Civil War, specifically the children of the war. Untold thousands of children in Northern Uganda have been, and continue to be abducted by rebel leader Joseph Kony and forced to fight for a cause they can't even comprehend. Many have had to face the horrible choice of killing or being killed. I read of one 13 year old boy who watched his father killed in front of he and his siblings and then witnessed his mother beaten within an inch of her life. He was then given the choice of killing his own mother or being killed himself, or worse.
For those who don't know, the Civil War in Uganda has been on-going for nearly 20 years and has produced over two million dead and over a million refugees. Joseph Kony has continued his fight with almost zero public support and as a result and taken to abducting 8, 9 and 10 year olds and forcing them to become his warriors. Often young girls are abducting and turned over to his captains and other high-ranking members of his army as sex slaves.
As I read about this war and the effects on the children, I read the story of a mother whose two daughters were abducted from an all girls boarding school. This mother, a humble mid-wife named Angelina, soon began to speak out around her neighborhood and village as only a mother can do. She become a voice for parents throughout Uganda who have had their children abducted, literally stolen away from them. Single-handedly, this woman began to raise the profile of the lost children of a war that most people don't even remember the cause of. Eventually Angelina was asked to speak before the United Nations thereby gaining even more attention for a cause that was deeply personal for her.
Joseph Kony began to hear stories about this woman with a big mouth. He secretly sent emmisaries to invite her to a clandestine sit-down. There he told Angelina that if she would mind her own business, she could have her daughters delivered to her safe and sound. One daughter, Charlotte had been given to one of Kony's commanders and had already given birth to two children. Angelina thought about those daughters she loved and then thought about the countless thousands of other parents who had lost their own daughters and sons. If she were to be quiet, she would have her daughters back in her arms. But that left a nagging thought. What of all the parents whose children would not be returned if she became quiet. Would the abductions continue? Angelina knew that it would and so, with a heavy heart, this mother of mothers declined their offer.
One day recently, Angelina received a call. A voice on the other end of the line said "we have your daughter." Charlotte had escaped with one of her children and now, at 22 years of age, she has added her voice to that of her mothers and is also working to bring about a change to her world. They are working for peace! A peace that many of Joseph Kony's fighters because of their age know absolutely nothing about.
As I read this article, and the amazing profile of this humble mid-wife, something she said struck me like a ton of bricks. It is so diametrically opposed to our Americanized way of thinking that I initially thought it to be the ramblings of a crazy person. Angelina talked about forgiveness, in fact, she talked about forgiving Joseph Kony the man who had taken away her own daughters and forced them to be the playthings of his soldiers. And then she said, "We are sacrificing justice for sustainable peace." This mother is tired of fighting! She wants peace and she realizes that the only way to effectively produce a peace that can be sustained is to forgive the man who nearly destroyed her life. And not just on a personal level, she is calling for the Ugandan government to implement an across the board forgiveness of this man.
For we Americans that just doesn's work. I know it as well as you do. We've been programmed to clamor for justice! "An eye for an eye!" "A tooth for a tooth!" We demand justice! And yet, this little woman who has suffered so much in her life might just be able to teach us a little something about leading a healthy, happy, fulfilled life even after we've been pushed down the trash shute of life and left to rot among the maggots.
As I've thought about this amazing woman, I am reminded that she is simply following the pattern laid out by God. God, as presented in the Bible, was a pretty mean, vengeful being desirous of justice. Wars were fought and many thousands slaughtered. A flood was sent to destroy the entire world. Justice was served! And yet, apparently God didn't feel very good about all the justice that was being served out and so, a plan was devised. Justice was sacrificed in the form of a baby born in a manger who would one day be nailed to a cross and buried in a borrowed grave on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Because of that sacrifice, because God let go of an obssessive need to see justice prevail, every person who walks on this earth has been given the opportunity to live in peace.
I've been thinking a lot lately about justice and about forgiveness. If I got all the justice I deserved for all the crap I've pulled, I would be a very sad individual. Instead, I've been offered an escape from justice. It's through forgiveness. In fact, it is only as I learn to forgive those in my life who have caused me so much pain, only by sacrificing justice, that I can experience true, sustainable peace.