Each cohort of Blouin Global Scholars dedicates their time at Walsh to addressing a different global issue. While some groups have focused on tangible topics such as hunger, healthcare or technology, the third-year Blouin scholars are studying something much more abstract – “Genocide, Justice and Reconciliation.” Led by Division of Humanities Chair Dr. Bradley Beach, the group of 15 students traveled last December to Uganda where they immersed themselves in the culture of this war-torn country. Upon returning to the U.S., they were so inspired by their experience that they felt compelled to take action to aid the Acholi people of Northern Uganda.
On Friday, November 4, Walsh University hosted the alt-pop band Foreign Figures for a live concert fundraiser in the Auxiliary Gym of the Cecchini Family Health & Wellness Center. All proceeds benefited the University of Sacred Heart in Gulu in its mission “to contribute to personal and social healing, growth and holistic development of Uganda and the world community through provision of quality education, training and research and community outreach.” Foreign Figures has a strong interest in social activism and donated a portion of its booking fees to Sacred Heart. The Utah-based alt-pop band has toured nationally with artists such as American Authors and X Ambassadors. More information is available here.
Led by the junior Blouin Scholars, and a collective effort by all Blouin cohorts, the concert fundraiser was the brainchild of Walsh junior Katie Paul. She initially came to Walsh to study physical therapy but changed courses after joining the Blouin Scholars program. “We took moral philosophy our fall semester freshman year, and I instantly fell in love with it,” said Paul, who now is majoring in Philosophy with minors in Psychology and Peace Studies.
While in Uganda, Paul and her fellow Blouin Scholars met with social service organizations such as Caritas, Bosco, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Gulu Archdiocese to learn how the Acholi people have overcome the atrocities of their war-torn country.
“I am so incredibly proud of these Blouin Scholars,” said Beach, who serves as faculty director to the junior cohort. “They are the impetus behind all of this. They really do feel this deep sense of commitment to the people of Northern Uganda, and I can’t think of a better way to help these people than through education.”
For more than 20 years, the Acholi people were caught in the middle of a war between the Ugandan government and the rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Under the leadership of Joseph Kony, the group was responsible for the abduction of child soldiers and utilizing brutal tactics including murder, mutilation and slavery in a fight against government oppression that displaced two million people. These atrocities were mostly unnoticed globally until the “Kony 2012” documentary gained notoriety in March 2012.
Though Kony has since been pushed out of the region, the Acholi people are left living in poverty and trying to pick up the pieces of their former lives as they deal with territory disputes and the changing agricultural landscape.
“They might be living in poverty, but they really know what they’re doing in terms of taking care of people,” Paul said. “We could all learn something from them.”
Walsh students were able to witness the reconciliation process firsthand as people of different faiths and tribes, victims and perpetrators, came together in the name of understanding, forgiveness, and hope for a brighter future.
“That’s not how people typically respond in situations like this,” Paul said. “But what we’ve learned through the Blouin program over the last couple years is that true justice is not retributive, it’s restorative.”
For Paul, one of the most impactful experiences of the trip was a meeting the Blouin Scholars had with Ugandan cultural leaders. Though they often meet with hundreds of individuals a day, the leaders said the meeting with the Blouins was the most important because the Walsh students have the ability to go back to the United States and share their story.
“That resonated with all of us. We left feeling that this is our duty,” Paul said. “We’re among a select handful of people who have had these experiences, and we need to share them with the rest of the world.”
In addition to raising funds through ticket sales from the November 4 concert, the Blouin Scholars have also created a GoFundMe page to benefit the University of Sacred Heart in providing building improvements, technology upgrades, textbooks and other needs.Donations to the fundraiser can be made here.