YU Screening of “Kony 2012” Sheds Light on Ugandan Rebel War Crimes, Offers Students Chance to Get Involved
On March 26 more than 150 Yeshiva University students filled the Koch Auditorium on the Beren Campus for a special screening of the short film “Kony 2012” and an open dialogue with members of the movement that created it.
The video was produced by Invisible Children—a group that seeks to raise awareness of war crimes committed by Ugandan rebel militant Joseph Kony—and has taken the world by storm. Employing an innovative mix of social media, pop culture and documentary, “Kony 2012” has quickly become one of the most viral videos of all time.
In its first minutes, director Jason Russel narrates: “The next 27 minutes are an experiment, but for it to work, you have to pay attention.”
And people around the world certainly have.
The video has been viewed more than 137 million times over platforms like YouTube and Facebook since its March 5 release—about 136.5 million more than expected, according to Invisible Children volunteer Brian Funk. “This is our 14th tour with Invisible Children and we’ve never seen people as honestly and eagerly engaged,” he said.
Addressing the students, Funk and fellow volunteer Bony, a survivor of the conflict from Northern Uganda, answered questions about Kony and spoke about their own experiences with Invisible Children. Bony told students about the long trek he and other children made from their homes to sleep in the city hospital each night, where armed guards protected them from being abducted by Kony’s forces into his Lord’s Resistance Army, largely composed of child soldiers. He also described United Nations refugee camps where natives fled to avoid being abducted or killed by the LRA, as well as some of the tactics Kony employed to keep his army in line.
“He forces young kids to kill their parents because he knows that if you do that, you probably know there is no one who will take care of you if you escape and run home,” said Bony.
Today, Bony is finishing vocational training and is about to begin university studies as one of 950 students sponsored by the Legacy Scholarship Program. He hopes to pursue a career in international relations and has come a long way, Funk noted, since he was filmed in Invisible Children’s first work, 2007’s “The Rough Cut,” making his nightly journey to the hospital to sleep.
“Bony’s story inspired me to get involved five years ago,” said Funk. “I never thought I’d actually be greeting him at an airport and living and working with him on a daily basis. I think that’s the power of human connection and how we truly are, through this social media revolution that’s taken place over the past few weeks, a world without borders.” He added: “We do have a commonality between all of us and Bony being here is a testament to that.”
Aviva Kott, president of Stern College for Women’s Social Justice Society and an organizer of the event, agreed. “I love that organizations like this invite students from across North America and Uganda to work together,” said Kott, a senior majoring in political science. “I’m proud of the close, tight-knit community we have on campus here but I think students also gain a lot from this kind of diverse interaction with the world around us.”
The event was hosted by the Social Justice Society and co-sponsored by the YU Democrat and Republican Clubs. Kott noted that though Invisible Children has visited YU in the past, this year’s gathering drew a significant increase in attendance, up from 30 students last year. In addition to introducing the YU community to the complexities of this 26-year conflict, the event also offered them an opportunity to question Funk and Bony about the “Stop Kony” campaign and the media frenzy that has surrounded it. Students discussed financial concerns and future goals of the organization, including whether it planned to target other war criminals and its approach to rehabilitating former child soldiers.
“I saw the video on Facebook and wanted to learn more about what’s going on and how to help from people who know what they’re doing,” said Alan Verbitzky, a freshman studying finance at the Syms School of Business. “I think bringing Invisible Children to campus shows YU’s commitment to a global society and keeping its students aware of these world situations.”
Watch “KONY 2012” below: