Thursday, October 5, 2006

An e-mail from John Edwards

Pass this on.

I got an email from John Edwards telling me about his trip to Uganda and asking me to spread the word about the humanitarian crisis happening there. I thought you might like to read his message. Here's what he said:

I just returned from a trip to Uganda and wanted to share my experience with you. Uganda is home to one of the greatest unreported humanitarian crises in the world -- millions of people have been displaced from their homes and subjected to horrific violence. And with the exception of extraordinary groups, like the International Rescue Committee (IRC), whom I traveled with, most of the world is ignoring this tragedy.

Uganda has been plagued by a long civil war and a rebel army/terrorist group called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Among other things, the LRA abducts children, turns them into soldiers, forces them to commit atrocities, and in some cases, turns them into sex slaves.

We first went to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp outside Kitgum, just over 30 miles from the Sudan border. The people at IDP camps are the same as refugees, but they have not crossed a country border. This camp was one of hundreds throughout the region, and many of the people in this camp have been stuck there for several years, some for twenty years.

I sat under a tree with three adults and lots of children. They told me the stories of what they'd been through and what their hopes were. I met a little girl, about a year old, whose mother said she had never smiled -- her father was killed by the LRA. I tried to get her to smile and almost got one.

The living conditions at the camp were awful -- open sewage, little water, malnourished children. There were children that had been abducted by the LRA, forced to commit atrocities against others, including their own families, but had escaped and come back to the camp.

The next day we flew to Lira, another region of northern Uganda. There, I visited with a family that had taken in a young girl, an orphan, named Lilly. Lilly's parents had been killed by the LRA. She was about eight or nine years old -- around my daughter Emma's age. Lilly carried one baby in her arms and one on her back. It was heartbreaking to see her providing childcare for babies instead of going to school.

We then went to the Kira School, which is run by the IRC. In spite of everything they'd been through, the children at the school were remarkable -- they still had hope and lots of love to give. A 14-year old boy performed a song that he had written. He had lived on the streets for 13 years, and a year ago had been taken in by the IRC. In front of us and hundreds of his classmates, he sang a song about how happy he was to have a new life.

I also had the opportunity to meet with the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. I talked with him about what I had seen, the critical importance of the peace process and what we can do to help it along, and all the suffering we had witnessed in Northern Uganda.

Although I am back in the United States, I know I will never forget the faces of the people I met in Uganda, especially the children.

What's happening in northern Uganda is similar to conditions elsewhere, like Darfur. But with a peace process underway, this is a great opportunity for Americans to show we care about the suffering of people around the world. But before people can care, they have to know what's gone terribly wrong. You can help spread the word about what’s happening in Uganda by forwarding this message to a friend. Please help us spread the word.

Thanks for taking a moment to read this message.

Your friend,

John Edwards