We all have heard the phrase ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain: how about a group that kills 300 people in this regard?
ATIAK, UGANDA — What does it mean to ‘act in the name of _____ (fill in the blank with the name of a religion or a deity)? A phrase that I recall coming up a few years ago in association with fundamentalist Christianity was WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? This simple adage was meant to guide Christians to think first about what the founder of their faith would do in a particular situation and then try to emulate that (all in the context of Jesus Christ as the perfect human, albeit also son of God).
Although I am not a particularly religious person I do not deny that for many it is a solace and a source of inspiration. Besides, what harm can come from a community of believers who put their trust in the example of a leader who, even if he was not the son of the All-Powerful, was probably a decent guy? It sure beats those who ask themselves WWHD (What Would Hitler Do?).
There are, of course, others who invoke a deity or revered figure to carry out acts that I am pretty sure Jesus – and many others – would disapprove of. Groups like Hindu extremists in India, Buddhist extremists in Myanmar, Jewish extremists in Israel, Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria (among many other countries), and so on. These actors claim that torturing, raping and killing is done in the name of, or at the behest of. their god.
And then we have the odd phenomenon of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), active at various periods in Uganda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR). It is led by one Joseph Kony who says he is a ‘spokesperson for God’ and a spirit medium. The LRA seeks to create a theocratic state ruled by the Ten Commandments.
In order to get there the LRA has engaged in a campaign of violence for decades that has included mass murder, mutilation, rape, child abduction (boys for soldiers and girls for cooks/wives/sex slaves) and destruction of homes and villages. Since 2008, the LRA has killed more than 2,400 people and abducted more than 3,400, according to the US State Department.
On this day in 1995 the LRA entered the northern Ugandan town of Atiak, defeated the Ugandan army stationed there and rounded up hundreds of men, women, students and young children who were marched into the bush until they reached a river where they were separated into two groups according to their sex and age. After being lectured for their alleged collaboration with the Government, the LRA commander in charge ordered his soldiers to open fire three times on a group of about 300 civilian men and boys as women and young children witnessed the horror. Before leaving, youth were selectively rounded up and forced to join the LRA to serve as the next generation of combatants and sexual slaves.
On this day in 1995 the LRA entered the northern Ugandan town of Atiak, defeated the Ugandan army stationed there and rounded up hundreds of men, women, students and young children where they were separated into two groups according to their sex and age.
The LRA may be a group of loonies to some extent – a ‘spiritual advisor’ named Alice Lakwena told ‘soldiers’ to cover themselves in shea butter and often little else, believing the butter made them bullet-proof, and stated that God would guide their bullets and would turn their rocks, if they picked the right ones to throw, into grenades (on occasion the LRA would sing religious songs before attacking and chant “James Bond! James Bond! James Bond!”) – but they are a nasty bunch of killers.
The LRA says they are doing ‘God’s work’. I wonder what Jesus would do if he came across these terrorists? One biblical verse stands out: Jesus wept (John, chapter 11, verse 35).