JACKSON, Tenn. – April 18, 2006 – Union University students will lead Jackson in a downtown demonstration on the night of April 29, sleeping in the streets to represent the thousands of children who do so every night to escape abduction in northern Uganda.
The simulation, called the “Global Night Commute,” will occur simultaneously in more than 130 cities across America with participants numbering in the tens of thousands. The night commutes are orchestrated by Invisible Children Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the children of war-ravaged northern Uganda.
Union University student Tyler McMurtry, one of the event’s organizers, said that he and other students involved feel convicted with “a burden for these people who are suffering.” They hope through this event to help “relieve the suffering and show them love.”
The east African nation of Uganda, though regarded as one of Africa’s economic success stories, continues to sustain an ongoing 20-year civil war in the north between the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan government.
The Global Nigh Commute focuses on the war’s impact on the children of that region — specifically LRA leader Joseph Kony’s practice of abducting, brainwashing and coercing children to become soldiers and slaves. World Vision estimates that more than 30,000 children have been kidnapped, and Amnesty International estimates that children make up 90 percent of the LRA.
The night commute is symbolic of what approximately 30,000 Ugandan children must do to avoid rebel raids — flee their refugee camps each night to sleep in “safe zones” established in towns by various non-governmental organizations. Most do so without the protection of adult family members.
Jackson participants will gather at 6 p.m. at the Civic Center parking lot at 400 S. Highland and walk about a mile through Jackson’s streets, ending at the Farmer’s Market on 91 New Market St.
Participants will receive information about the Ugandan crisis and will be given an opportunity to write letters requesting action from political leaders to put an end to these human rights violations.
A crew from Invisible Children will film the Jackson marchers with a sign containing a message that, when combined with similar signs from other cities, will form a message that literally and figuratively stretches across the nation. The message for Jackson’s sign has not yet been released.
The event’s organizers plans to show the film “Invisible Children: Rough Cut,” a 2003 documentary that makes the lives of a distant country’s children a palpable reality. Invisible Children has screened the film to colleges, youth groups and organizations around the country. It played at the United Nations Association, the Carter Center and the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and its footage aired on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” CNN and the National Geographic Channel.
Currently, this documentary is only available by special order from Invisible Children, but a feature length film version is planned for release in December 2006.
McMurtry learned about the crisis from his brother’s experiences with the International Justice Mission in Uganda. He invited Invisible Children to present its documentary to Union University in February.
After the screening, representatives informed students about the Global Night Commute. McMurtry said that after seeing the film, he couldn’t remain uninvolved.
Because the sign-up process is informal, it’s hard to know how many people will join in Jackson’s night commute, McMurtry said. Around 65 have registered online, but McMurtry expects at least twice that number.
He said this event is special because it is a grassroots movement initiated and organized by the students and driven by their desire for social awareness and change.
Union students will also hold a Day of Prayer and Action on April 21 in the Barefoot Student Union Building lounge on Union’s campus to raise awareness, pray for Uganda and take action through writing letters and petitions.
According to the Invisible Children’s web site, the goal of the Global Night Commute is twofold: to appeal for U.S. political pressure on the United Nations and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to end the conflict and provide humanitarian aid, and to raise social awareness by connecting the youth of the United States with the youth of Uganda.
For more information on the Global Night Commute, call McMurtry at (615) 476-9117.
By Chris Pearson ('08)