I must admit, I was a bit unsure of what was going to transpire that afternoon when a group of boys and girls came to visit us while we waited inside a secondary school in Kamuda. They looked like an average group of teenagers: shy smiles, short glances in our direction, and nervous laughter. They did not appear like what I had imagined former child soldiers to look like.
As we listened to their stories, and then heard the songs and poems they had written while in the recovery centre, each volunteer in our group sat transfixed. We heard of the horrors that were inflicted upon them and were amazed at their resilience in retaining the goodness that existed in all of them. But in all of these stories that spoke of new found freedom and restoration there is one story that stood out the most.
A woman in our group asked the children: “If you were to meet Kony right now, what would you like to say to him?” A young boy stood up and without any hesitation replied, “I would ask Mr. Kony to come out of the bush and come and live with us, because I forgive him.”
The room went absolutely silent.
I remember almost gasping for breath trying to fathom how a boy could come to this high level of forgiveness. I put my hand in the air. “Charlie,” I stammered, “how can you say this?” And Charlie simply replied, “Because the Bible tells me to.”
I thought about what Charlie said for a long time. For many days matter of fact. And I came to a bit of an understanding. Charlie was forced to inflict unimaginable horrors on others and he begged for forgiveness. Perhaps he believed that if he could do something as immense as forgive Kony, then others would be able to forgive him. I don’t know if this is what Charlie believed. All I know is that I admired Charlie and I thought he would make an excellent leader in his village and perhaps in years down the way, in Uganda.
I remarked to Martin, the WV worker who oversaw the recovery centre, that I was very happy to see the smiling faces on these children and to hear their stories of newfound hope. Martin just beamed. He was proud of these children too.
My journey as an author, giving voice to child soldiers.