Angelina Atyam was a nurse-midwife and mother of six in the Acholi region of northern Uganda when her daughter Charlotte was abducted from her school in 1996, along with 30 other students. In short order, Angelina became an outspoken advocate for abducted children.
For over a decade the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) abducted children and youth to serve as soldiers, slaves and so-called “wives” to LRA commanders. After her daughter’s abduction, Atyam co-founded the Concerned Parents Association to support families, to raise international awareness of the situation, and to call for the unconditional release of children and youth abducted by the LRA. The group documented some 24,000 abductions. More than 1.5 million people were displaced and thousands killed during the height of the LRA insurgency.
At one point Atyam’s outspokenness got the attention of an LRA commander and he offered to free Charlotte if Atyam would cease her advocacy work. She made the difficult decision to refuse, saying, “All the girls are my daughters.” Charlotte eventually escaped on her own, after eight years in captivity; by then she was the mother of two small children.
Several times the Ugandan government launched major military attacks to try to destroy the LRA insurgency. Atyam and others opposed the use of violent force against the rebels, because so many of those rebels were abducted children. “Let us think about forgiving,” Atyam said. “Because if we don’t forgive these rebels, we are signing the death warrants of our own children.”
Today, Atyam is retired and living at her homestead in northern Uganda. Her courage and strength in the face of great violence is a legacy passed on to others.
MCC has gathered stories of Women Peacebuilders as part of our annual Peace Sunday Packet. The complete 2016 Peace Sunday Packet can be viewed here.