As a child, Francis Onekalit was kidnapped and forced into the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)—a rebel group terrorizing Northern Uganda. Refusing to remain a child soldier, Onekalit escaped. Today, he is working with the Invisible Children organization to raise awareness of the plight of families—especially children—who survived the attacks of the LRA.
Regent Law’s Center for Global Justice cosponsored the March 9th University Chapel service which featured Onekalit and other representatives from Invisible Children. The organization is dedicated to raising awareness among young people to help end the longest running war in Africa.
Invisible Children has developed programs in Uganda that focus on long-term development, working directly with individuals and institutions, to best understand the needs of these war-affected areas. They rebuild schools, provide scholarships, employ mentors that holistically oversee healthy development for their students, and they have implemented micro-economic initiatives and run a tailoring center that provides training in savings, investment, numeracy, literacy and health.
Even though he was only 11 when he was kidnapped by the LRA, Onekalit didn't let that stop him; he managed to escape and pursue an education. "I didn't give up my life," he said. "I went back and finished high school." Today he is a mentor with Invisible Children, working with 30 students in Northern Uganda who have suffered under the LRA.
Onekalit is also traveling with representatives from Invisible Children to raise support for the organization and the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo who are now facing the threat of the LRA. "Whatever happened to me in the past is happening right now in the Congo," he explained. But, in spite of the terrors he's experienced, he stands strong in his faith. "I know with God everything is possible.”
At a luncheon following the service, Dean Brauch and Professor Ash, Director of the Center for Global Justice, met with Onekalit and the other representatives from Invisible Children. The San Diego based group said that not only was this the first time they met the Dean of a school, but that they had never presented to a group so diverse in age as at University Chapel. They said their time at Regent taught them that there is an audience who are receptive to their message but that they have never purposed to reach out to - a lesson which they were eager to share with the whole of their organization in the hopes of broadening the scope of their outreach.
Visit the websites for Invisible Children and the Center for Global Justice to learn more about these two organizations that are making an impact around the world.
- By Rachel Judy