I was blessed to participate in a study abroad program in Uganda in conjunction with my internship sponsored by the Center for Global Justice.
I believe it’s so crucial to be in tune with what is going on in the world around us and not to get so caught up in our own lives that we forget the value of others’ lives. It’s important to go and meet people where they are when you can, to personally hear their stories and realize they have dreams, goals, families, struggles, and successes just like you and I. Even for those who cannot go, you can still make an impact by listening, praying, and reaching out however you can.
I want to explain a little bit of what people in Uganda are up against, from what I’ve encountered. First, I’ve blogged before for the Center on land grabbing. I had worked on a project last semester involving land grabbing cases in Uganda. That was all well and good but it couldn’t even come close to grasping the breadth of the problem. My perspective has changed since being faced head-on with the issue. We visited organizations who directly intervene for widows who have been violently removed from their land. We heard of a woman who was chased off her land [again] by men with machetes when she and her child had returned to try to harvest her meagre crops, which was her one way of providing for herself and her family after her husband’s death. We’ve met single mothers who are struggling to scrape together enough money for their children’s education, who have no way of collecting child support or alimony from the fathers because the government doesn’t enforce that. It’s given me a whole different perspective when I see with my own eyes families farming their land, selling produce at the market, and I realize this is their only way of existence, this land is truly their livelihood.
When I think of land grabbing, I now think of faces.
Another prevalent issue in Uganda that I thought I knew about was child sacrifice. I was broken the first time I heard about child sacrifice in Uganda, and of course I expected to be broken every time I encountered it again. What I didn’t expect was how looking at children in the very community and on the very land where their friends, relatives, siblings were killed would shake me to the core. Suddenly, I was thinking of all the babies and children I love back home, and realizing the only thing making these kids different from those kids is the place where they were born. It’s not fair. But it’s their reality. They don’t know how many children are sacrificed every year, but the number seems to be growing, not diminishing. Kyampisi Childcare Ministries noted the number of cases they’ve seen since they were established has grown every year. We can’t allow this. Would you believe that it’s a huge battle to even arrest the perpetrators of these crimes? The survivors know who did it to them, and in several cases these people were still shamelessly living in the same community, even taking other lives. But the justice system struggles to function properly so it can take years to even arrest the person.
Think about that. Think about living in the United States, and knowing your neighbor killed your child, seeing your neighbor walking around every day undeterred, and knowing there is nothing you can do about it. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stand it. Yet, here, they have to.
When I think of child sacrifice, I now see faces.
Another problem in the justice system is the lack of funding and corruption. Everything needs money. If you want someone arrested, you have to pay the police. If someone who is pretty well-off committed a crime, easy, just pay the police or bribe the witnesses and everything goes away. That’s why so many wrongdoers don’t go to prison and so many innocent people do. They also have a problem of people waiting in “remand centers” for their trial; sometimes what they are going to eventually be tried for has a shorter sentence than the time they spent in jail just waiting for their trial. I got a glimpse of this when we visited a criminal trial at a low court level. If the witnesses weren’t present, the trial just got bumped back. I wondered if all these men were actually guilty. I wondered how long they had already been in prison, waiting for this trial. I wondered how long they would have to wait for conviction or release.
The stories of innocent people waiting and waiting in prisons and remand centers now had faces.
Although it can be very depressing, there are so many stories of freedom and hope. The woman who was chased off her land by men wielding machetes recently won in court – the first case that convicted anyone of land grabbing in Uganda. There are two trials this month for witch doctors or accomplices who attempted to sacrifice children – one who had been in hiding for 8 years. There are NGO’s speeding up the processes of trials, and doing other incredible work. So there is hope. But there is still a lot of work to do. So please, don’t forget to pray for Uganda. Think of them as faces, not just far-off stories because they are real people, and real stories, and they need real justice.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.