We met Elizabeth in the main church in Kampala in the spring 1986, few weeks after a new government had replaced the terror-regime of Milton Obote. She was part of a group of young girls who had been kidnapped by the government soldiers during the guerrilla war in Luwero north of Kampala. The young girls had been abused and raped and been used as slaves by the soldiers.
Red Cross had managed to take care of some of them after they had been freed from their captivity, but no means for rehabilitation or follow-up were available at that time.
The church, however, had their own rituals for reuniting them with their families and the society. On this Sunday the whole service, which lasted for more than four hours, were dedicated to the young girls.
One by one they stood in front of the congregation, and helped by the priest, they told their sad and brutal story in a direct language. After their confession they were taken behind “the scene” and washed and dressed in white. When they all appeared in front of the huge crowd attending this special service, they were met by a song of praise and a hallelujah that lifted us all closer to heaven.
For ever this event reminded us about the importance of connect with the institutions available and functioning even immediately after a war had ended – when most of the social fabrics laid in ruins.