Friday October 14, 2005

Walk for Justice

UD student organizes area's first GuluWalk, which raises awareness about the plight of children in northern Uganda.

Emily Nohner, an international studies and human rights student at the University of Dayton, spent several weeks this past summer in Uganda and came back with a mission: To educate others about the plight of children in northern Uganda.

Every night, as many as 40,000 children living in rural northern Uganda walk into the town of Gulu and other urban centers to sleep in relative safety and avoid abduction by the rebel army. These 'night commuters' walk from as far as more than 19 miles away and make the return trek home every single day.

"The atrocity of what has been and still is being done to children is beyond words or explanation," Nohner said. "Upon returning, I knew I had to do something to help others to become aware of this tragedy."

She's organized the area's first GuluWalk Day, designed to raise awareness about these children. Dayton will join more than 40 cities from Canada, the United States, Europe, China and Africa in the walk, which will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at the University of Dayton's ArtStreet Studio B. ArtStreet is located in UD's south student neighborhood on the corner of Kiefaber Street and Frericks Way. The film "Invisible Children," about the young Ugandans' experiences during the country's civil war, will be shown prior to the walk at 2 p.m. in ArtStreet Studio B.

GuluWalk Day is the largest show of solidarity for this all-but-forgotten 19-year civil war, according to event organizers. The international event is designed to send a message that this is a vital issue to citizens worldwide, who will no longer sit idly when there is indeed an opportunity for peace.

During the original GuluWalk, which lasted 31 days, Adrian Bradbury and Kieran Hayward conducted their own 'night commute.' Every night, they walked more than 20 miles into downtown Toronto to sleep in front of city hall. After about fours hours of sleep, they made the trek home at sunrise, all while continuing to work full-time and attempting to maintain their usual daily routines. However, this GuluWalk could not possibly replicate the terror, fear and uncertainty of the real 'night commuters,' who walk for their lives every day.

The civil war in northern Uganda has been going on for nearly 20 years, and the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel paramilitary group, has abducted more than 20,000 children to be used as soldiers and sex slaves. The Acholi people of northern Uganda are usually the rebel army's targets, and today more than 90 percent of the Acholi have been displaced in camps that offer neither security nor basic provisions.

GuluWalk Day is a partner of the Act for Stolen Children campaign, which raises public awareness and funds to aid children affected by the humanitarian crisis and conflicts in northern Uganda. The campaign also encourages governments to play a leadership role in resolving this crisis through its work with the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and other agencies.

For media interviews, contact Emily Nohner at (937) 627-8433 or via e-mail at nohnerea@notes.udayton.edu or Adrian Bradbury, GuluWalk Day campaign director, at (416) 426-2787. For more on GuluWalk Day, see www.guluwalk.com.