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Shalala rescues ‘abducted’ Invisible Children members at rally

COURTESY CHELSEA WERNER

COURTESY CHELSEA WERNER

Over 250 attendees, including many University of Miami students and President Donna E. Shalala, spent at least a portion of Saturday at an international event for political activism: Invisible Children’s “The Rescue of Joseph Kony’s Child Soldiers.”

“We are here to make a statement,” said Chelsea Werner, a junior and the president of UM’s Invisible Children. “We have contacted many local politicians and celebrities. If we don’t get support, we are not going home. We are not leaving until we get ‘rescued.'”

Invisible Children is an organization launched by three young filmmakers with the intention of making films to spread awareness about violence and war in Northern Uganda. The Rescue, the organization’s latest film, aims to educate the world about Joseph Kony, head of a Ugandan guerilla group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The group is responsible for abducting an estimated 20,000 children from their families to enlist as soldiers in Kony’s army.

The event began at 3 p.m. at the field next to the Miami Baptist Church, located at the intersection of Kendall Drive and SW 147 Avenue. While The Rescue took place on that same day in 100 cities in nine countries, the local event was coordinated by the Invisible Children groups from the University of Miami and Florida International University.

“We had a hard time finding a site for this event,” FIU senior Christopher Collins said. “The city of Miami was very difficult to work with, and we almost had to cancel the event because of it. We ended up getting this field because one of the attendees asked his pastor if we could use the field.”

Melissa McBride, a senior and public relations chair for Invisible Children, said that many Invisible Children events “had major impacts and were effective in getting the attention of politicians and local celebrities, which helped bring the child soldier issue, of Uganda, into the spotlight for the first time.”

Participants made a commitment to remain “kidnapped” for as long as it took. Under the shade of the moonlit night sky, participants had set up tents and sleeping bags around the field, as they all situated themselves around a stage and a large projection screen, where Invisible Children videos were being shown.

“We are here to make sure that something gets done,” freshman Sarah McKenny said. “We have kidnapped ourselves, and we do not plan on leaving until someone of strong influence comes and rescues us and we get media attention. That is the only way the world will do something about the horrible situation in Uganda, where this rebel leader, Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, has kidnapped over 25,000 children and forced them to join his unjust rebel cause against the Ugandan Government.”

After being out on the field for about seven and a half hours, the Miami participants erupted in cheers and applause, as their rescuer finally arrived, with the following words:

“Never give up,” Shalala said. “The children of the world need [your] courage and commitment.”

Although many attendees were satisfied that Shalala validated their efforts, some students decided to stay at the event longer.

“Although we have been rescued, we are planning on staying out here and to watch some [Invisible Children] short films until the morning,” sophomore Steve Hernandez said. “President Shalala’s words have inspired us to keep fighting. She even promised to help in the ways she could. It is so important to have someone of her influence on our side. This is the first step in rescuing the child soldiers and returning them to their families.”

April 26, 2009

Reporters

Pravin Patel


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