A CHILDHOOD TAKEN
A Childhood Taken: Martin walked us to the very place where he had hid, fearing the rebels and fearing for his life. There, high in a tree, he hid and watched as the LRA rebels attacked his village. He had been just 12 years old. Sadly, at 12 years old, Martin was found and abducted. From 2001 to 2006, Martin was captive to one the most brutal rebel armies East Africa has ever known. The LRA rebels forced Martin to use a gun. Through violence and psychological torture, they forced him to live as a soldier — a child soldier. Tragically, Martin lives with memories of the day he was forced, during an ambush and clash, to kill one of his close friend (another child soldier). In 2006, Martin was reunited with his mother, but his father had died while Martin was still in captivity.
ON A JOURNEY OF HEALING
His heart aches for having to kill so many people. He still has nightmares and flashbacks when he sits alone or when something stirs an old memory.
Among peers and in the safety of loving caregivers, Martin has begun a journey of healing. He now knows that these acts were not his fault. They were forced upon a child who was powerless to resist. Thanks to loving caregivers and counselors walking alongside Martin, and others, the wounds of trauma are being healed… and child survivors are becoming leaders for peace in their communities. While the past cannot be erased, hope and restoration are possible. Hope and restoration are happening!
If Only the World Could Learn from His Example
Not an easy thing to do… Martin has forgiven the men responsible for abducting, abusing and torturing him during the war. And… he yearns to see his community and the world learn to forgive – to forgive all child soldiers and even forgive Joseph Kony, the warlord who started the war in Northern Uganda.
Martin has also forgiven himself. He says he learned to overcome the stigma (of being a former child soldier) because he now knows it was not his making… it was not his choice to fight.
“The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Martin has a future – a bright future – ahead of him. He is on a journey to heal the wounds of his traumas and moving beyond the heartaches and pains. Martin was able to return to school and DREAMS of becoming an electrical engineer to bring electricity to remote parts of his country. Martin also DREAMS of serving vulnerable children and orphans… passing on the healing and hope he himself has experienced.
Photo and art by Jeremy Cowart. This piece and many others are a part of The POZA Project — an immersive visual experience into the lives of #LRA rescued child soldiers. Each piece contains art from the children themselves. Through The POZA Project and Jeremy Cowart’s collaboration, the children’s stories are being amplified. All funds raised by this project support the on-going care of young men and women like Martin.