MU chapter of Invisible Children hosts screening, discussion of 'KONY 2012'

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 | 11:07 p.m. CDT; updated 12:20 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 15, 2012

COLUMBIA — Mollie Jackman, treasurer of MU's chapter of Invisible Children, said Facebook has played an integral role in increasing awareness of the exploitation of children in Africa.

The group hosted a screening of the popular documentary, "KONY 2012," and a short Q-and-A on Wednesday in Neff Auditorium, attended by members of the MU chapter and about 45 other MU students. The documentary, which uses pop culture to reach a young audience, has a simple message: Stop Joseph Kony. 

"The screenings just take off because of Facebook," Jackman said. "A lot of people can't make our meetings, so being able to answer the community's questions that way is really helpful."

Messages about the documentary have flooded social media websites over the past week, along with a YouTube video that has gone viral, identifying Kony as No. 1 on a list of the world's most dangerous war criminals.

Kony, head of the Lord's Resistance Army — a rebel group in Uganda, is accused of enslaving millions of children in and around Uganda.

"KONY 2012" documents one man's journey as he explores Uganda and his inspiration to make a difference in the east African nation, which the documentary portrays as dangerous and war-torn. The documentary also shares the stories of children there who, for more than 26 years, were kidnapped and killed or forced into a world of sex slavery and combat, all at Kony's command.

The documentary furthers the idea that young people can help end the cycle of child exploitation by rallying together around the cause. But critics have scrutinized the video and the organization's impact on the crisis in Uganda and question whether there is still a crisis there.

After the documentary ended, Komakech Lawrence, a Ugandan student and representative for Invisible Children, addressed that question:

"Things have changed in north Uganda," he said. "There is peace in northern Uganda. Life has started again normally."

Liz Bohannon, an MU alumna, is the founder of Sseko, a sustainable shoe company based in Uganda that offers woman and girls resources for education and job opportunities. Bohannon said her company is trying to tell a new story about Uganda — one of hope, potential and growth.

"We have yet to see if (Invisible Children) will harness the energy and awareness needed, but it would be powerful," she said. "They have mobilized a group of youth — is it perfect? No. But you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Lawrence went on to talk about where the trouble currently lies and where the Invisible Children mission seeks to go from here, which is central Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The rest of the representatives, all full-time volunteers, addressed a few other questions before debuting a new program for the organization, "The World's Largest Dance Marathon," which will be held Nov. 3.

Jackman said members will go throughout Columbia on April 20 to put up fliers and spread awareness of their message, something they hope to get the entire community involved in. They are also going to lobby on April 3 in Jefferson City.

"The more people that come, the better," she said.

Of the 20 celebrities featured in the film — including Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Bill Gates and Kim Kardashian — representatives said only 11 or so had actually made public statements against Kony in support of Invisible Children's mission. The organization has two main objectives: To rebuild communities and stop Kony. They said they want to translate awareness into action.

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