You’ve seen the videos. You’ve heard the reports. You’ve read my prior critiques. So can the Kony 2012 campaign be trusted? I think the short answer is: Yes.
If you read my post a few weeks ago when the first Kony 2012 video first hit the Internet you know that I raised a substantive issue as to whether Invisible Children would allow warlord Joseph Kony’s execution if and when he is apprehended. You can read that post HERE. Of course, in the mean time, Invisible Children (IC) has faced intensified scrutiny over their finances (particularly how they spend money), their social media approach (as it is new), the accuracy of some of their claims and the public meltdown of the Kony2012 filmaker Jason Russell. In the midst of all of this though Invisible Children has also faced the reality that when one knocks on the door of the world and the world decides to actually answer – well, be prepared to be buried by the response.
In an attempt to handle the press and the social media critique, IC launched the #askicanything hashtag on Twitter allowing everyday persons to ask their questions, IC promising to do their best to answer them as quickly as possible. IC executive Ben Keesey then responded to numerous tweets via several short Vimeo videos. I of course raised my question time and time again – never to get a response. Pretty soon all of the other Twitter questions started to disappear and while, IC never formally acknowledged that they were officially stopping the response period, no responses appeared after IC’s response to the Russell incident .
Over time I grew skeptical as to if I was ever going to find out what IC’s stance was on the subject of a potential Kony execution. Simultaneously, as part of my ministry, I work with youth on a weekly basis and talk with numerous youth director/pastor sorts and of course teens and parents. Numerous people were asking what I thought and when I raised my concern regarding the potential execution issue they all shared my apprehension. Once considering my position, no Christian that I engaged wanted to be involved with a movement that was intentionally working to capture a criminal if it meant that he would be tried and potentially later executed. What message would we then be sending to our Christian teens?
Of course, that being said, I wanted to give IC the benefit of the doubt. In many regards they obviously have been overwhelmed and have faced, at times, what I would consider unjustified criticism. In my personal experience, many times when faced with ethical decisions persons simply haven’t thought about the potential consequences that their actions might make. This isn’t intentional it is just overlooked. Additionally, sometimes it hasn’t been overlooked at all – it has just failed to be properly communicated.
I had also heard that IC was releasing another video and I was hoping that maybe that video would address my concern. When it was released on Maundy Thursday I soon found out that it didn’t. What it did communicate though was that, while armed security teams are actively seeking Kony in various countries, IC is first and foremost advocating peaceful ways for Kony and the LRA to surrender. This is good news of course but it still didn’t answer my question.
So, ironically, on Good Friday I called Invisible Children’s Headquarters seeking answers. I was greeted on the end of the line by a charming young woman named Katie. When I asked her my question she immediately admitted that she didn’t know the answer. I explained what I believe has been admirable about the KONY2012 campaign thus far but also expressed why this issue of Kony’s potential execution after capture matters so much. Katie revealed to me that she is a self-professed follower of Jesus and confessed that, in the shadow of the cross on Good Friday, she shared my concern. Accordingly she asked someone from IC to investigate while she stayed on the phone with me.
This process took a little bit but after some digging Katie came back with the following response which I asked her to forward to me via email. It said:
“Invisible Children is firm in our stance that we want to see Joseph Kony tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Kony was the first war criminal indicted by the ICC, and the harshest penalty that the ICC can bestow is life in prison.”
As a result of this statement, I now feel comfortable in supporting Kony 2012. While I certainly think that pastors, youth leaders, students and parents should pray about how God is calling them, if at all, to be involved with this particular process – I personally am certainly in support of apprehending violent criminals. Joseph Kony certainly fits that description. I would encourage you to also consider being involved in the April 20th, Cover the Night event in some IC endorsed way.
Some other points to consider:
• All institutions have imperfections that need to be continually addressed and corrected. IC is no different in that regard and I think they deserve some grace in the light of recent increased world-wide.
• Some may argue that there are better ways to pursue Kony than an international armed man-hunt. That may be true, but what are they? Countries have law enforcement policies for a reason. As long as they are just, this is a reasonable avenue of pursuit.
• Kony could resist capture and be killed. If this happens Christians should not celebrate his death. Instead, we should mourn that we live in a world where violence ends person’s lives on a daily basis.
• Others will have certainly have opinions on IC depiction of the facts at hand but there is no denying that Joseph Kony is #1 on the International Criminal Court most wanted list.
• IC should still reconsider using the slogan “Stop at Nothing”. It is over-the-top and insinuates that inappropriate action (which IC does not not condone) though misguided rhetoric.
• How individuals and groups handle the Cover the Night event will shape the future of such social media driven advocacy. If mass vandalism happens, expect media pushback aimed towards IC.