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6/12/2006

INVISIBLE CHILDREN: QUESTIONS WITHOUT ANSWERS...YET



The film Invisible Children (watch the entire film above) documents the travels of three Abercrombie-ish looking friends who accidentally discover the untold story of the "invisible children" of Uganda and document it in hopes of bringing the world to their rescue.

These children live in fear of kidnappers from the Lord's Resistance Army patrolling the night in search of young ones to kidnap and force into soldiering.

Watch the film and you'll be moved to action. But what action? The recurring suggestion throughout the film is simply this: Tell the U.S. government to pressure the Ugandan government to end this war with it's enemy and protect these children.

We'll be showing the documentary Invisible Children this Tuesday night in the chapel of The People's Church instead of holding our usual Ikon gathering in our usual Ikon place. Join us if you're in the Nashville area.

After the film we hope to discuss, among other things, what other action we in the Church should take, if any, on behalf of these victims half a world away.

Here's some of what I've been asking myself in preparation for Tuesday. And I'm having a hard time finding answers. Chime in with any thoughts you may have.

1. Is the Church in Northern Uganda? What are they doing for peace in Uganda and what help could the Western Church be to their efforts?

2. What relief organizations or peace making forces are already on the ground bringing solution to this problem? How can we join them in their established efforts instead of duplicating them?

The Invisible Children website doesn't answer these questions. IC is made up of a handful of very young folks extremely gifted in communication. But solutions are lacking. For now they are asking their audience to buy a bracelet and tell a friend about these kids, place pressure on Congress, buy merchandise, demonstrate (Night Commute) and give Invisible Children, Inc. more money.

IC has no formal partnerships, from what I can tell, with the Church in Uganda or the West or with more established experienced organizations like World Vision and Compassion International who have proven their ability to save children from poverty, sickness and spiritual need around the world - including in Uganda.

I'm calling Invisible Children this week in search of answers/more details and I'm sure they have many. We desperately need them. Like the three young men in this film, the Western Church will have it's perspective shifted by this film and it's heart moved to compassionate response. Then what? Will we tell the Church to call their representatives? I think we can do better. What do you think?

Some more info about Invisible Children from the blogosphere:
  • A blogger visits a bracelet making project
  • Lord's Army and child soldier history
  • A journalists thoughts on ending Uganda's cycle of revenge
  • Children of Northern Uganda blog
  • 10 Comments:

    Anonymous keith said...

    Here's a group that's doing something. We've helped them support children in Nepal for several years, and we believe they do great work.

    6/12/2006  
    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    Thank you, Keith! Great info.

    Anyone else?

    6/12/2006  
    Anonymous tiffany said...

    World Vision is there in Uganda, but I'm not sure how involved they are with IC. WV has an online declaration/petition here: https://worldvision.org/Worldvision/guest.nsf/nochild_soldiers?OpenForm and a lot more information about what they are tangibly doing here: http://worldvision.org/worldvision/wvususfo.nsf/stable/globalissues_uganda?Open&lid=learnmore&lpos=leftnav They have child sponsorships, of course, and also apparently run a counseling center.

    I know that one of Invisible Children's biggest goals right now is their education program, but I don't know all of the details. I've struggled with the fact that IC seems to refuse to directly attach the name of Jesus to their work, but actions speak louder than words, right? If they're showing Christ's love, then hopefully people will see Jesus working rather than just hear about him.

    IC also has a great potential to impact this country for Christ - I believe that the majority of the people who have seen this movie are in their 20's and younger. Not all of the people who have been moved are Christians; my cousin being one of them. I'm eager to see how involvement with IC will change her perspective on Christ and Christians.

    6/12/2006  
    Anonymous TuckeyRichGirl122 said...

    Thanks for covering this. I'm already active in Invisble Children, but I'm glad other people are stepping up.

    6/12/2006  
    Anonymous keith said...

    A while after posting my first comment above, I thought I should have put the name of the organization instead of just a link for the curious. Maybe for the search engines I should tell you that the group is called World Help.

    6/12/2006  
    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    I've received several e-mails from folks about IC and Uganda in general. All very helpful. One trend is developing: there's a lot of distrust of IC beyond communicating the story of these kids. Folks have "evidence" and first hand accounts they're relaying to me that paint a picture of IC being great communicators raising awareness about these kids but being good for little else. The consensus - without me asking the question even - seems to be that these guys found an issue, made a movie about, hired a bunch of their buds to staff their office, got famous, and have done little to actually help the people of Uganda. Ouch.

    I don't know if this perception is reality. I'm trying to find out. But, hey, they've raised awareness about these kids' problems and that's valuable stuff. So lets' pray for them and think the best until we find out what's going on.

    If anyone has insight that is negative please share it in e-mail (shaunfanmail@bellsouth.net) and not here. I'd rather not unjustly accuse these guys of anything.

    Thanks.

    SG

    6/13/2006  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I met all 3 of them in Los Angeles. Great guys, who actually care about what is going on.

    It seems like they are (were) more focused on getting the message out as soon as possible and are now currently trying to get others involved without a full-proof "Compassion International" business plan in effect. They are students who accidentally found something out... how are they supposed to know what to do?

    "seems to be that these guys found an issue, made a movie about, hired a bunch of their buds to staff their office, got famous, and have done little to actually help the people of Uganda. Ouch."

    It seems these guys could use the help of christian pop stars, rather than recieve critism from them.

    6/14/2006  
    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    FIrst of all, Anonynous, people who have pure motivations and kind constructive words to say NEVER write as Anonymous. The only reason to be anonymous is because one has something to hide.

    Secondly, I'm not criticizing them at all. In fact, I'm asking in my comment that public criticism stop. Perhaps I was unclear in the bit you quoted. by using "seems" and writing everything else I wrote before and after it, I thought it was obviously that negative opinions about these guys were only that: the negative opinions of others.

    I have no opinion of my own...that I've stated here, other than to say that they've done an outstanding job of raising awareness about an important need.

    Thirdly, I have tried to get in touch with these guys to ask some questions that, by simply being asked, I think would serve as an odd sort of advice. Questions like: What percentage of each dollar given goes to these children? Are you in contact with the Church in Uganda? Is any part of your program about enabling the Church in Uganda to aid it's own people? What negative effect, if any, does sending Americans over for "visits" have on the people of Uganda and the mission relationships built for many years before you guys ever arrived? What older, wiser, Christian ministers/missiologists/economists/sociologists/accountants do you guys consult and/or answer to? Who are you accountable to? Why have you chosen not to steer your audience to established Christian and non-religious organizations already working in the region before this film was made?

    Lastly, I'm not, and I don't believe anyone else is, questioning how much these young men and their team "care". They obviously do. But how many organizations have folded, become ineffective or corrupt and as a result tainted the public's view of relief work and hurt involvement in reputable agencies simply by have a bad plan, no plan, or no accountability? It's not critical to ask. It's critical and wrong only to assume the answers before they're received.

    That's why I've asked that we not do that here. Please pass me any info on IC - good or bad - but send the bad via e-mail and not the comments section. I've asked that we do this because I had to delete a mean spirited and unprovable claim that was posted here yesterday. I'm defending these guys, not attacking them, while wanting more info from them.

    Hope that's clearer.

    Post again as Anonymous and you'll be deleted. Post as Anonymous on the new blog when it's built and you'll be banned. Cowards don't get to join the conversation.

    6/14/2006  
    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    Oh yea, and it's "soft rock star", not "pop star".

    6/14/2006  
    Anonymous AP said...

    Hi Shaun, I found your blog when you posted a link to powellblog.com about my experience in Northern Uganda. I don't know how much info you want, bet feel free to email me (uganda2006@gmail.com) and I can tell you what I learned about IC as well as World Vision and Compassion while I was in Uganda this month.

    6/28/2006  

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