Sometimes the words we read in books paint pictures of far away places that the mind struggles to accommodate. But there is a story you read and you just see yourself in it. Reading Escape by Grace is such a story. Raphael’s story is so close home for you to put it down.
From the onset, I had the picture of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies because of the closeness in the events of the two stories. Imagine a world where children are on their own and among them order (or disorder for this case) emerges.
Like Golding argues in his novel, human beings regardless of age are capable of doing wrong. The LRA built its army through abduction. They used fear and threat to keep and grow their army. Young boys and girls became warriors for fear of losing their lives. Unfortunately, for the fear of losing their own (lives), many others lost theirs.
Raphael’s story is so gripping. You cannot put it down. He was such a young boy when he was abducted along with the 40 others from his school. He had to follow the instructions of their abductors who were young boys themselves. The difference between the two groups was in the conscience. The school boys were new to this savagery. The rebels had already become the savages themselves. The story is equally haunting. That a group of these young rebels could hack a young girl to death with clubs like it was a play is something that weighs down your heart.
War comes with destruction of both life and property. It centres itself at the heart and wrecks it apart. It takes away the human face and replaces it with evil. It brings out the evil that man could never imagine could do. When you read Raphael’s experience with the LRA, you cannot fail but imagine the swiftness with which the abducted boys were forced to change their minds.
The rebels made the boys forget about ever going back to their homes and school through the initiation rights, talks and punishment. This made them concentrate on expanding their territory.
Learning of Raphael’s grit and endurance to take the decision not to follow neither the rebels nor the UPDF is something to uphold for a young boy his age. The choice to walk back to find his way home is a story worth its salt. It is akin to Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Walking that lonely journey without any hope of getting anywhere can only be compared to surviving being sent to a gas chamber.
The LRA war in northern Uganda lasted for more than 20 years. Many people were abducted and lost their lives. Villages were burnt to ashes and many others butchered. The war was long. To date, some people’s whereabouts are unknown.
They say for every tragedy, there will be a survivor will live to tell the tale. There are so many survivors like Raphael whose tales deserve to be told. For him to come out and tell his is a commendable job. The war was rough and tough. Through it all, the scars carried on our bodies always remind us of the stories of our past.
Now a fully ordained priest, Fr. Kilama’s story should remind us not give up in life. To take up every little ounce of hope left to carry on and live. There’s always a reward on the other side of the hill.
AUTHOR: FR Kilama Stephen Raphael
TITLE: Escape by Grace
PUBLISHER: World of Inspiration Publications