The Common Good

Ending Uganda's Cycle of Slavery and Revenge

Sojomail - June 7, 2006

Quote of the Week : Laying the plans for war
Batteries Not Included : David Batstone: Ending Uganda's cycle of slavery and revenge
Building a Movement : There's still time to register for Pentecost 2006!
Hearing the Call : Pastor, will you help us?
Human Rights : Tell Congress: Cut off the School of the Americas!
Sojourners in the News : This week's media round-up
Boomerang : Readers write
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Laying the plans for war

"Someone in Washington is preparing the ideological groundwork for an action against Iran on the terror clause, in addition to the nuclear one. It is also a hint of a possible division of labor when the time comes: the Americans against Iran, the [Israel Defense Forces] against Hamas and Hezbollah."

- Amir Oren, Israeli columnist

Source: Haaretz

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The hope of the world can also bring hope to a child. For 35 years, the Sierra Club has introduced underprivileged kids to the joys and wonders of the outdoors through a program called Inner City Outings.

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Ending Uganda's cycle of slavery and revenge
by David Batstone

I spent the past week in northern Uganda. I am conducting field research and interviews for a book I am writing on human slavery.

I hope to be one of many to raise awareness of this tragic epidemic. Criminal activity currently enslaves 27 million people globally, half of which are children under the age of 18, and the trade generates an estimated $13 billion dollars annually.

Slavery takes a tragic twist in Uganda. Children are abducted and forced to serve in a rebel group calling itself the Lord's Resistance Army. The LRA has snatched up as many as 40,000 children over its 20-year existence.

During my visit to Uganda, I interviewed numerous young people who escaped the LRA and have gained refuge and rehabilitation at World Vision's Children of War Center. Only a few days out of captivity in some cases, the children spoke of unimaginable terror. Some of the children I spoke with had spent eight years in servitude, and many had spent at least four years with the LRA.

Most of the boys are trained to be mass murderers. I realize that language is strong, but it fits. The LRA targets young children because they believe they are more easily molded into trained killers. They learn how to engage in combat with soldiers and are forced to pillage defenseless villages, often leaving countless dead in their wake.

A smaller percentage of the girls are forced to be soldiers. Most of them become sex slaves and domestic servants to the older LRA soldiers. Typically after a village raid, the commanders divide the girls up amongst themselves. Only men of a certain rank have the privilege of owning these young girls.

At the moment most of us who are 21st century abolitionists focus on stopping the captivity and ongoing abductions of children in Uganda. Spending some time there, however, I got a glimpse of an equally daunting task: How do you bring about reconciliation once the terror comes to an end?

World Vision workers in the camp already are starting to address this dilemma. Idah Lagum Lumoro, a counselor and camp director at a World Vision center, shared with me a heart-rending tale of a woman who had her nose, lips, and ears sliced off by the rebels. When she came to the rehabilitation camp, she was horrified to encounter the very rebel soldier who had ordered her torture. In his own defense, the young man claimed that a superior officer in the LRA had commanded him to give the order. Even though civilian witnesses present at the crime confirmed that fact, you can imagine how difficult it was for the woman to forgive this young ex-officer.

That story, unfortunately, is not rare. Nearly every child abducted into the LRA has been forced to participate in atrocities. Typically, an abducted child's initiation is to kill a family member, or perhaps someone from his or her home village. For that reason, after release many of the children fear to return to their home village.

Many of the young girls have given birth to a child. They too do not view a return to their home village because the years of rape have brought them shame.

For that reason, Lumoro and her team of World Vision counselors not only help individual children to restore their lives after they escape. They reach out as well to the communities from which the children have been abducted and against which they might have committed atrocities.

Lumoro explained to me that in the Ugandan culture, when a murder is committed it is not only an offense to a particular family, but against an entire clan. A stipulated restitution must be made. If that restitution is not fulfilled, then a murderous revenge will be sought against another clan. In northern Uganda today, however, nearly 90% of the population lives in internally displaced person's camps and murder has ruled for two decades. It is impossible to balance the score with traditional restitution.

Lumoro asks her Ugandan brothers and sisters to practice forgiveness as an exercise of healing. "If we forgive, and ask for forgiveness, we are set free; then we can walk in unity," Lumoro told me. She presented the choice that Ugandans have to make for the future: "Only in unity can we rebuild our land with peace and development. If we do not forgive, our communities will explode in the future."

When people have been wronged, they often harbor a conviction that they cannot satisfy their hurt until justice (really meaning revenge) can be done. Maybe then, they say to themselves, they can begin to forgive and forget.

Lumoro emphasizes, however, that revenge and forgiveness take us down two distinct roads: "Forgiveness starts with today's enmity; revenge nurses the enmity until it can reach satisfaction in some future opportunity."

"If you want love to take root in your life," Lumoro reminds me, "you can only travel down the road of forgiveness."

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Changing the Face of Hunger

As a member of Congress, Tony Hall was reluctant to wear his faith on his sleeve. But if he was to be true to his faith, he must a way to bring God into his political world.

He found his answer in Ethiopia. After visiting, he realized he would travel among the hungry and bring their needs to the attention of Washington.

In Changing the Face of Hunger Tony shares his travels and the issue of hunger worldwide. From the dark corners of a political prison in Romania to barren, famine-stricken Africa, people are suffering and we can help.


There's still time to register for Pentecost 2006!

»Register today!
There's still time to register for Pentecost 2006: Building a Covenant for a New America from June 26-28 in Washington, D.C.

Our all-star lineup of speakers - including Sen. Barack Obama, Marian Wright Edelman, and Tony Campolo - make this a MUST-ATTEND event! You will not just be inspired, you will leave this conference with the tools to put your faith into action to overcome poverty in America and throughout the world!

+ Register now!

Speakers include:

Sen. Barack Obama
Sen. Hillary Clinton
Sen. Sam Brownback*
Sen. Blanche Lincoln
Sen. Rick Santorum
Sen. Olympia Snowe*
Marian Wright Edelman
Tavis Smiley (bonus event on Sunday, June 25)
Rev. Tony Campolo
Rev. Sharon Watkins
Rev. Brian McLaren
Rev. Jim Wallis


+ Register now!

Seize the moment. Change the wind. See you there!

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Alzheimer's, Diabetes, Cancer, Parkinson's, Heart disease ...

These are just a few of the many medical conditions that scientists believe stem cell research could treat or even cure. The Religious Right opposes this life-saving research. And they are holding our health hostage.

Despite overwhelming public support, Majority Leader Bill Frist refuses to hold a vote in the Senate.

Take action today and demand that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist stops pandering to the Religious Right and allows a vote on this crucial legislation today.

DefCon is an organization dedicated to confronting the growing influence of the Religious Right.


Pastor, will you help us?
by Bill Yaccino

"Pastor Bill?" said the unfamiliar voice on the end of the line. "My fiancé and I need help, will you help us?" Her name was Jennifer. I had never talked to her before this phone call. "My fiancé, Mike, and I consider ourselves spiritual but not religious. We are getting married in a few months and we kind of think it is one of the most important days of our lives. We've called seven churches, talked to six receptionists and one minister, and all have told us they can't help us."

"How so?" I asked.

I'll never forget the rejection in Jennifer's voice. "Some asked if we were members of the church - I guess we gave the wrong answer. Some asked if we were living together - again, wrong answer. Others asked if we were previously married. Still others required we go through a 10-week counseling session. I guess we just had the wrong answers to some of the questions. Honestly, it made us feel pretty sh---y!"

Here was a couple looking for spiritual guidance. Christian pastors were nowhere to be found.

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Faith, Politics, and Policy
Fall Conference
Candler School of Theology, October 8-10, 2006

In a politically-divisive era, Candler hosts one of the most compelling events of the year. Legislators and Candler faculty will be addressing important political and religious issues of the day including immigration, health care, tax policy, welfare, and child poverty. Speakers include Jim Wallis, Andrew Young, James Forbes, Susan Pace Hamill, Jim Towey, Cynthia Tucker, Robert Franklin, and Minerva Carcano. For more information, visit or call (404) 727-0714.


Tell Congress: Cut off the School of the Americas!
from School of the Americas Watch

SOA Watch has received confirmation that this week Congress will vote on an amendment to close the School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) will introduce an amendment to the Foreign Operations appropriations bill to cut funding for the school!

+ Send an e-mail and fax to your representative! (Be sure to click the "Send a Fax" box to have the fax sent).

The School of the Americas is a military training facility for Latin American security personnel located at Fort Benning, Georgia, that catapulted into the headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this shocking admission and hundreds of documented human rights abuses connected to soldiers trained at the school, no independent investigation into the training facility has ever taken place.

Wednesday, June 7, is a call-in day to close the SOA. Call Congress at (202) 224-3121 or toll-free at 1-888-355-3588.

+ To learn more about the School of the Americas, see the SOA Watch Web site.

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Give to the Pentecost Scholarship Fund

Maryada Vallet is making a difference. She's a young Christian volunteer with No More Deaths, an organization that searches the Arizona desert rescuing immigrants overcome by heat and exhaustion.

We want to provide scholarships for young adult leaders - like Maryada - to attend Pentecost 2006: Building a Covenant for a New America, June 26-28 in Washington, D.C. Sponsor a scholarship by giving online through our secure donation page.

Help raise the next generation of progressive Christian leaders. Make a gift today to the Pentecost 2006 Scholarship Fund.


This week's media round-up

Top story:

With God on Both Sides Washingtonian
Jim Wallis's latest book, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, has sold nearly 300,000 copies. In it, he offers a path between the conservatives of the religious right, with their focus on abortion and gay marriage, and secular fundamentalists on the left, who dismiss talk of religious values in politics.

More Sojourners in the news:

Howard Dean's fruitless outreach

AIDS Fight Moves to Religious Arena - Evangelicals Clash Over U.S. Funding for Relief Agency Chicago Tribune

Where Religious Left Meets Right - Biblical Common Ground National Review Online

Fellow Methodist Demands Bush Impeachment The American Spectator

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We are Christian, we are feminist, we are inclusive, and we welcome you. Come meet us at the EEWC conference July 20-23 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Enjoy speakers, music, workshops, and worship.

Get your copy of Persian Dreams at and read to discover the truth about the people of Iran. You will be gripped by tales of love, religion, war and revolution in this poetic saga.

Engage your congregation in the pursuit of social, political, and economic justice, along with community faith-building, through congregation-based organizing. Christians Supporting Community Organizing.

Sisters Online is a collaborative ministry of women religious committed to global kinship, a Web site focusing on spirituality and justice, seeking to be voices for right relationships, and agents of economic/social change.


Readers write

Patti Batchelder writes from Georgetown, Massachusetts:

Jim Wallis presented a really good set of arguments for maintaining the estate tax ["To protect the common good" SojoMail 5/31/2006]. I especially liked his point about how government expenditures help people become rich. Consider modern-day Russia: It's pretty hard to get and stay rich honestly if you can't enforce business contracts (the legal system), or if vandals can burn your property to the ground (police and fire protection), or if gangsters can kidnap you and your children for ransom. And the taxes that support these services are a far greater percent of most people's salaries than they are of the very rich. That's an argument I hadn't heard before, but it's important.


Carol Manson writes from San Diego, California:

Jim Wallis: I agree with so much you say usually, but I must differ with some of your views on the estate tax. I am engaged to marry a farmer here in California and we are desperately trying to figure out a way for his land, 250 acres in San Diego County, to stay in the family. Why? Because he has put blood, sweat, and tears into it for 40 years. He isn't rich off the land, only has a beautiful piece of earth to call home. His nearly-adult son wants to continue to farm it. He provides delicious, organic fruit through sustainable farming practices such as using local farm manure, spring water from his own land, and doing business with packers who hire legal pickers. It serves as a beautiful wildlife habitat for several endangered species, verified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a grove of 500-year-old oak trees. And yet, right now, on his death, his family would be forced to sell to pay the tax.

Do you know who wants to buy the land and is buying up land all around him? Developers who want to put 40 luxury homes on it and add 80 cars to the country road that leads to the highway. I know to most people having $2 million dollars in property sounds like a lot - that's a house and a half in San Diego County. Our property taxes are high and our cost of living is high (gasoline is $3.60 at the corner). And his income on the ranch last year was less than what you probably make (assuming you don't make much). But there ought to be a way to do this fairly for the poor and the rich.


Tom Johnson writes from Slovakia:

I want to thank you, [Duane Shank], for your article "Steroids, racism, and the home run king" [SojoMail 5/31/2006]. I agree with your insightful comments, taking issue with none of them. It would be a mark of courage, honesty, and humility if such action would be undertaken by MLB, but I won't hold my breath.

As a young white baseball fan in St. Paul, Minnesota, I was privileged to grow up watching the Milwaukee Braves on television. Henry Aaron immediately became my hero. At that time, (late 50's, early 60's) Aaron was always referred to as "under-appreciated," something that has dogged him his whole life. He certainly was not under appreciated by me -- I idolized him.

In 1969 I had the good fortune to sign a pro contract with the Minnesota Twins. Then in 1975 while playing the Milwaukee Brewers, I realized a dream beyond almost anything imaginable. I found myself pitching to Henry Aaron in a game in Minnesota, and on top of it, I gave up his 744th homerun!

The class with which he handled the challenges faced in breaking Babe Ruth's record, as you pointed out, is remarkable and under appreciated, but not by me. Thanks for allowing me to relive a few special moments.


Wandalee Kabira writes from Yokohama, Japan:

Mr. Hadley's recent comments on the success of capitalism and no success in socialism seem a little extreme to me [Boomerang, Sojomail 5/31/2006]. Of course, it may depend on which versions of these two and which criteria are in question. For example, if capitalism is such a success in the U.S. where there are transparency and rule of law, why are there 37 million people (including 13 million children) living there with incomes under the poverty line? Why do millions and millions live there without health insurance and where educational test results of young Americans are not in the world top lists? One may then look, for example, at the very successful moderately socialistic economies in Scandinavian countries. For example, in Japan one finds a basic capitalistic economy but with national health insurance which we who live here find wonderful. If the U.S. would take the best elements of economies around the world and stop labeling changes as socialistic, they could lose their myopic view of the needed adjustments to a U.S. economy which seems to swing more and more wealth to the top one-half of one percent of the population. Is that the definition of a successful economy?


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