EDIT: Both sides of the story: The LORDs Resistance Army: Stopping the LRA and Joseph Kony #Kony12 @Invisible

I thought I should share this with you considering the fact that literally everyone is talking about it. If you haven’t heard about it yet, then I’m not going to say anything. Just watch:

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

It is an absolute disgrace that this is being done in the name of God. Everyone, especially the Church needs to take action NOW.

Please visit Invisible Children to find out how you can get involved. I can’t really urge you to visit now considering the edit below:

 

EDIT: However, I have done some research and found the following:

We got trouble.

For those asking what you can do to help, please link to visiblechildren.tumblr.com wherever you see KONY 2012 posts. And tweet a link to this page to famous people on Twitter who are talking about KONY 2012!

I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.

KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m notalone.

Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them,arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda andhasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.

As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”

Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.

Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.

Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s somethingSomething isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.

If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.

~ Grant Oyston, visiblechildren@grantoyston.com

If all this is true- then we face a dilemma. Kony needs to be stopped but how? I think before sending tonnes of money to Invisible Children, you may want to consider/pray over it.

Maybe we should follow Invisible Children’s advice, but do we necessarily need to attach ourselves to them?

The campaign is in order to raise awareness of these terrible people who do terrible things. And it’s also the get the Governments to do things… not necessarily allow Invisible Children to take over.

I don’t know exactly what I think – so I’d like to know what you think we should do…

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Anna

    Well.. the obvious and maybe slightly naive suggestion that seems to come to mind is to email local and national MPs, and also find out about other charities working in that area, see if any of them have an alternative strategy…?

    I think it is excellent that people are being made aware of this, but wouldn’t it be great if this also opens the eyes of the West to all of the other monstrosities being carried out around the world.

    Hoping and praying that this won’t be forgotten as quickly as it spread.

    • I think so Anna. But I mean, just like the ‘Why I hate Religion, but love Jesus’ viral video that went around – we seem to be lapping it all up without thinking about it first. And I’ve fallen victim to it.

      Should we still go to a Kony12 night takeover event to raise awareness, in light of knowing the facts?

      Takes a lot of discernment I think…

  • Danni Bolton

    Surely anything that gets people talking about a current issue is a good idea. As in, I would support raising awareness. But I think we need to look more closely at the charities that we give blindly to. This campaign has highlighted the issues in Africa (not just Uganda) so perhaps people may be more inclined to give to similar charities, charities that work at the very core of these communities. After researching the charity seems to take a more colonial view. That white people can come in and help immediately. I’m struggling with this one.

    • I think you’re right Danni.

      And the blog posts keep being published about the reality behind Invisible Children: http://whitthef.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/kony-2012/ and http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/children-and-youth/invisible-children-in-san-diego-ca-4469

      It has raised awareness, but the most sensible thing to do is to write to MPs as Anna rightly said, and support other charities.

  • And also a review: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/should-i-donate-money-to-kony-2012-or-not

  • Ah, yes … once again we learn the perils of the online church … http://www.philippianjailer.com/2012/01/online-church-playground-for-fools.html

  • David Wynd

    This reminds of the Rob Bell Loves Wins fiasco with people lining up on both sides to shout the odds.  I have to say I am glad you look to an alternative which is doing something positive about the issue instead of just throwing stones.

    The problem with the internet is that it is easy to get false data and spread it around.  The Visible Children’s article isn’t perfect at all and doesn’t really help in the long run.  It puts forward unsupported theories and quotes out of context to make its point.

    I for one will be supporting Kony 2012 to raise awareness of the issue at hand.

    • Thanks for connecting, David. I won’t be supporting Kony 2012. Because I see it that if there is any hint of controversy in the first place about a charity, then alarm bells should ring. In stead, I’ll be supporting another charity, details on my latest blog post. 🙂

  • One thing comes to mind – not as many people knew about Kony and the LRA till the Kony 2012 campaign was set up, there is more awareness and this has to be a good thing. Likewise, nobody knew about the concerns over invisible children charity until this, therefore there is an opportunity to raise awareness about these concerns. ‘Common decency’, if nothing else, dictates that in regards to the LRA and Kony we must do something. The question, as you rightly asked, is what? As a Christian I aspire to be committed to eradicating evil and injustice everywhere, as I think this is key to bringing about the ‘fullness of God’ in our world today. Whether or not I choose to support the charity invisible children (more research to be done) I still think it’s worth the ‘Church’, in its broadest sense, getting involved and raising awareness about the LRA and Kony and, in doing this, there may be an opportunity to raise awareness about the concerns over the ways and means of the invisible children charity. I guess those who have concerns emphasise there good points and there bad points of the Kony2012 campaign; they are committed to eradicating the LRA and Kony, but there methodology is questionable. I guess what I’m trying to say can be summed up in the words of the ‘global day of prayer for Kony 2012’ which is a invitation from some Christian Students at ICC  in Glasgow to all churches to have a day of prayer for the situation in Uganda;

    “Whether the KONY 2012 campaign itself is something to be supported, is for each individual to decide. Use your own wisdom to decide whether or not you want to give money to the organisation. However, as Christians we know that God calls us to fight for justice and to care for children across the world. Our concern is for the children and families who have been left devastated by the work of Kony and the LRA”

    So, I agree, prayer, supporting suitable charities and writing to MP’s are a must – but I think there’s something to be said for engaging with Kony 2012 from a Christian perspective which is in agreement with the cause, whilst highlighting the concerns. Again there is a obvious tension in doing this, which needs careful thought and discernment.

    • http://krishk.com/2012/03/stop-stop-kony-2012/ – this makes some very good points

      • Thanks for the comments, Jon. I totally agree. It does take a lot of prayer, and at least awareness of Kony has come about.

        Thanks for the link too – I was aware of Krish doing a post, and he has laid it all out well. Well worth a read!

  • Anna

    This is Invisible Children’s official response to the criticism…. http://s3.amazonaws.com/www.invisiblechildren.com/critiques.html

     

    • Thanks Anna, I did see the response this morning – shame it wasn’t all laid out on an FAQ page before all the controversy came out….

      I’m still suspicious and wouldn’t trust them. A whiff of dishonesty from a charity should be enough to set the alarm bells ringing. The more I read about War Child the more I love their method; no direct military intervention, only a rescue mission of the kids and giving them their lives back.

      What do you think of them now in light of their response?

  • Anna

    I don’t really know…

    If their main concern is publicity then they’ve got it, and certainly one of the main problems for any kind of charity is trying to get people’s attention so that they can donate money. There seems to be a lot of cynicism related to them asking for money, but how else can they run an organization?

    I don’t agree with military action generally, but as much as what War Child does is excellent, I suppose I’m in favour of something being done to stop children being forced to become soldiers to begin with, and not just helping them afterwards, when the physical and psychological damage has been done.

    I also want someone to ask the Ugandans and other African people affected what they want to be done and how. Definitely the West is in the privileged situation of being able to offer help, but the form that help takes should be informed by those who will be affected by it.

    So I don’t really know, I suppose I’m hoping that another charity is going to develop asap that will offer a third option that takes on the best of both Invisible Children and War Child… Any takers?