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Sunday, December 4, 2016
Children help each other through Mission Together
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More that 11,000 children and adults were abducted by LRA in Uganda between 1990 and 2000. The young boys and girls are targeted to carry LRA booty and later be trained as child soldiers. Young girls are exchanged for guns. Some of the girls are taken as housewives, while others are raped and abandoned. In addition to those who have been abducted, many children have been denied their right to a basic education, access to health and recreational facilities, and good nutrition.

Although the LRA is diminished but not yet defeated. The rebels could still re-group and cause fresh havoc in the region.

The children of northern Uganda do not know what it means to live in a secure, peaceful environment, where there is food, water, education and hope for the future. For many people over the course of many years, as soon as peace seems to be within their grasp, the situation changes once again and so children grow up into adults without knowing what it is to be a child.

In Kotido diocese in the north-east of Uganda, Fr Samuel Lotuk said: "The population here is predominantly pastoralist and 80% Catholic, but has low levels of education, a high crime rate and insecurity due to cattle raids. We also experience annual famine and high levels of poverty.’

Fr Samuel doesn’t say very much about the violence that the local population has experienced over many years. Close to the border with Sudan, incursions from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have terrorised people and added to their complement of child soldiers in raids on villages. There are many tales that he could tell, but the priest concentrates on a different aspect of family life: security and education. He said: "The Government introduced Universal Primary Education, but still, families are not able to provide school requirements for their children, made worse because of the low interest of parents in educating their children since most of them are pastoralists."

"Children, especially boys, are prepared to continue the traditional activities of warriors ranging from cattle herding to cattle raids and theft. Girls are prepared for early marriages and are viewed as a source of wealth. A child in Kotido remains vulnerable to many risks, especially that of dropping out of school and, as a result, receiving little or no education."

The Church continues to work hard in a country in which people have experienced a terrifying share of turmoil and which has its own mission martyrs. Uganda’s first martyrs were themselves only young boys – St Charles Lwanga and his companions in 1885.

Fr Samuel continued: "In the Diocese, we have 85 Catholic-founded primary schools. We have started the Mission Together programme in about twelve of them and wish to expand the programme to other schools as well. In 2008, we held special prayer assemblies for the missions in the schools, enrolled 105 children in Mission Together; we also celebrated a national missionary day in which we prayed for peace, missions and vocations, and managed to raise some collections for the support of children elsewhere in Uganda. The children who have nothing support those who have less than nothing."

In England and Wales, through Mission Together children pray for and help others they might never meet. Our children hear of the lives and experiences of their counterparts in far distant countries. However, in places such as Uganda, Mission Together is actually a vital instrument of the Church, encouraging little ones who have only known hardship and insecurity to look outside themselves towards the needs of others. This generosity is the very heart of an organisation that has as its motto - ‘children helping children’.

In Uganda, the Church must work with the State if children are to receive an education. The entire future stability and unity of the country falls on the shoulders of little ones who must be helped to realise that there is a world beyond violence, hunger and drought. If a good education is crucial in Britain, it is absolutely vital to the children of Uganda.

... and the children of England and Wales responded magnificently to the needs of the children of Kotido after learning of Angela and Christopher, two Kotido children who featured in the Mission Together educational materials in 2008-9. Our 5-11 year olds gave 37,000 Uganda shillings (£11,800) to the Kotido Diocese, paying for books, pencils, exercise books etc for no fewer than 3,500 children attending five Catholic schools.

We rarely consider small children as vital global peacemakers, but through Mission Together, our youngsters are helping to heal the wounds of brutal warfare, and are uniting children who have been scattered by fear, starvation and violence.

Through Mission Together, children learn to be ‘mini-missionaries’!   To learn more about Mission Together and to download free educational materials, see: www.missiontogether.org.uk



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Tags: Janet Fearns, Mission Together


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