The event brought together participants from about 40 states. The ages of activists spanned the decades — from pre-teens to those nearing retirement age — but the majority of participants were of college age and in their 20s.
The three-day event, sponsored and coordinated by World Vision and several other organizations, provided attendees with an opportunity to learn more about the crisis through panel discussions, speakers, film, and advocacy training. On the third day, participants took to the Hill to meet with congressional staff.
Jessy Turnell and Jenny Smith, two young mothers from Colorado, attended the event.
Turnell first became aware of the northern Uganda crisis through a social work class. Realizing that the situation required action, she decided to attend the event when she read about it in an e-mail from World Vision.
"I just think that if I was a mother over there or a father, I would be praying for somebody to come and save me," she says. "[Attending the event] was a way to educate myself, to be an advocate, and also to get involved in the political arena."
For Smith, attending the Lobby Day was a way to learn more about the political process and how to motivate others to become advocates.
"Maybe we can't go there, but we have to do something," says Smith, a mother of two. "What they make children do to each other and other people just breaks my heart. I mean, I can't imagine my children going through that."
But some might ask whether an event like this really makes a difference.
Rory E. Anderson, World Vision's deputy director of advocacy and government relations, believes that it does. "In the midst of many competing foreign policy priorities, our collective action over the past few years has made peace in northern Uganda an issue that demands attention," explains Anderson. "Public outcry from all corners of the country compelled policymakers to mount a response."
For instance, Anderson notes that the 2006 Uganda Lobby Day yielded significant pressure on congressional members to call on the State Department for increased diplomatic action. The result: The State Department created a new special adviser position to focus U.S. diplomatic efforts on prospects for northern Uganda peace, which includes support for the Juba Peace Talks — the negotiations being held in Southern Sudan to broker a peace agreement between the warring factions.
"Increased U.S. involvement has helped bring about changes on the ground," says Anderson. "[Now there are] no more night commuters, security in the region and humanitarian access has increased, and we could be close to a comprehensive peace agreement."
This year, participants again met with their members of Congress or congressional staff. The advocates made three requests of their lawmakers during their visits:
Anderson is optimistic that this year's effort created momentum similar to that of the 2006 event.
"In the past, the result of our collective action has garnished increased funding for humanitarian development assistance and diplomatic action. This year's Lobby Day was just as successful, so I am hopeful [that we will see] continued progress by the U.S. in support of peace and development," says Anderson. "In a profound way, we have become a piece of the peace."
>> Thank God for a successful Uganda Lobby Day event. Pray that our government leaders would increase their presence as peacemakers and that a truly sustained peace in the region would be realized.
>> Send a message to Congress and the president. Leadership from the United States can help bring peace to this troubled region.
>> Make a monthly financial pledge to help provide for the needs of children affected by war.
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