Barlonyo Attack Survivors Turn to Churches to Nurse Trauma

1986 Views Lira, Uganda

In short
Faced with an absence of any meaningful psychosocial support to heal their painful past, the community of Barlonyo has opted to place their hope in the services provided by the many churches that have opened up at the former camp for displaced people.

The survivors of the February 21, 2004 rebel attack at Barlonyo former IDP camp have turned to religious institutions in the area to nurse their pain from the brutal experience.

Faced with an absence of any meaningful psychosocial support to heal their painful past, the community of Barlonyo has opted to place their hope in the services provided by the many churches that have opened up at the former camp for displaced people.

Through the church leaders, the survivors receive religious teachings and counseling by church leaders to help facilitate individual and communal healing. Lawrence Okello, a pastor at Forward Pentecostal Church, the latest of the five churches to open at the former IDP camp explains that their teachings are gradually bearing a positive impact on the community.

He says that previously many of the community members lived with anger at the thought that no one was able to save their relatives and friends from the brutal attack but this attitude, Okello says, is gradually giving way to forgiveness and acceptance. Okello adds that occasionally the churches have also helped to provide their members with basic necessities like soap.

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Moses Ogwang, the LC1 chairperson of Barlonyo says that the number of churches at the former IDP camp has grown from none to five in a space of less than four years. He named the churches that have opened up in the area as Roman Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal Assemblies of God, Victory Outreach and Forward Pentecostal Church. Ogwang said the number of people going to the churches has also risen steadily over the years. He said Barlonyo currently has a population of 4,816 people down from 11,643 before the attack that left over 300 people dead.

Ogwang says that bible teaching is not the only service the churches are providing to the Barlonyo survivors. He says that some of the churches have also started to establish schools to provide education to the needy children in the former IDP camp.

The support by the various churches is in sharp contrast to a clear absence of any support by government. Andrew Ogwang Oyang, the Lira district LC5 vice chairperson said the lack of assistance for the survivors raises suspicions.

Molly Acio, a mother of six children who lives at the former IDP camp says they always turn to the churches for comfort in the face of failure by government to provide any support to them. Acio said they have been expecting government to provide income generating projects and counseling services to help the survivors cope with the outcome of the war.

The 2004 infamous Barlonyo attack is one of the major incidents that marked the two decade war between government forces and rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda.