Monday, November 07, 2005

GuluWalk


On October 22nd, I walked a few miles through downtown Seattle on one of the last mild autumn Saturday evenings before the cold rains began. I joined with over 15,000 participants clad in official orange t-shirts in an event called GuluWalk occurring simultaneously in 37 other cities worldwide that day.

Gulu is a large city in northern Uganda where over 50,000 children flock every night, traveling as far as 20 km from surrounding villages, seeking asylum until morning light. They are desperately trying to escape roving militias that have already stolen over 30,000 of their siblings to use as child soldiers and sex slaves in the region’s brutal 20-year civil conflict. The situation has been dubbed “the world’s most neglected humanitarian crisis” and “one of the biggest scandals of our generation,” by U.N. Under-Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland. So as the tangerine river of Guluwalkers poured onto the city sidewalks of the world that night the purpose was simple: awareness, solidarity, action.

The worldwide GuluWalk movement was spurred by 2 Canadians determined to get the message to their community by attempting to come to grips themselves in a small, but significant way with the plight of these young “night commuters”. This past July Adrian Bradbury and Kieran Hayward walked 12.5 km every night into Toronto, Ontario to sleep on the steps of the city hall for four hours before walking home at sunrise in time for work the following day. They succeeded in gaining media attention and began organizing fundraising efforts, such as the walk, to benefit the organizations that are providing shelter, food, and healthcare to the Ugandan children.

I believe it is crucial to our own wholeness to connect emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally, and financially with the things that are happening in our human family around the globe. For instance, why do we know the names of every US soldier that has been killed, but not one single name of a child that has been stolen, abused, and murdered in Uganda?

At one point during the GuluWalk another participant turned to me and asked if I could imagine how these children must feel as they journey in the darkness. But, quite honestly, as I walked those few short miles in my comfortable clothing and hiking boots, on a balmy evening, through a safe and pleasant cityscape—I simply did not have the capacity to imagine. Terror, loss, hunger, exhaustion…their tender, battered souls have known more suffering in a few short years than I may know in a lifetime. I wish I could somehow carry some of their burden, but for now I will carry their story to help us not forget them. And if you will carry their story too, then as an old Ugandan saying goes, “one by one makes a bundle”, our voices together will begin to move our own hearts and the world.

Please visit: http://www.guluwalk.com/ to learn more about how you can get involved.

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