Faith J. H. McDonnell, IRD’s Religious Liberty Programs Director, and co-author former child soldier/abductee Grace Akallo, celebrated the release of their book Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children last Wednesday, June 6, 2007, at a well-attended Capitol Hill reception and book signing.
IRD President James Tonkowich welcomes those attending the Capitol Hill reception for the release of Girl Soldier.
The celebration was held at the Cannon House Office Building, hosted by IRD. President James Tonkowich welcomed the attendees, who included board members and friends of IRD, advocates for Northern Uganda, as well as family members and friends of the two authors. U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), the sponsor of the event, was on hand for much of the afternoon. Tonkowich introduced Congressman Smith, Grace Akallo and Faith McDonnell.Smith, a stalwart defender of human rights for many years, congratulated the authors for producing such an important work. Smith praised Akallo for her courage and resilience, noting that he was deeply moved by the gentle spirit of this young survivor. He thanked McDonnell for making it possible for Grace’s story, and the story of so many other thousands of Northern Ugandan children, to be heard.
Akallo admitted that when she was first approached by McDonnell, she was uncertain about co-authoring a book about the deeply personal and painful story of Northern Uganda. After much prayer and seeking counsel from others, she decided to go ahead, and she admitted that she was very glad that she did. She hopes and prays that God will use Girl Soldier in such a way that the children of Northern Uganda will be able to live in peace and freedom. Akallo particularly asked those gathered at the Cannon Building to pray for two of her friends, fellow students from St. Mary’s school in Aboke, who were abducted when she was and who remain in captivity.
Faith McDonnell, Grace Akallo, and Congressman Chris Smith at the book release party for Girl Soldier.
In her remarks, McDonnell showed how the history of Uganda had been full of both tragedies and triumphs. She talked about the Ugandan martyrs of the 19th century. The feast day for these young men who were burned alive because they would not compromise their faith in Jesus Christ was only three days before the book release celebration. McDonnell also recounted the terrible reign of Idi Amin, and the courageous witness of Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum, an Acholi from Northern Uganda. Then she explained how whereas these past tragedies had been met with the personal, spiritual triumph of these Christian overcomers, something new is happening with today’s tragedy in Northern Uganda. She told how people, especially young people, all over the country, are being raised up to make a difference for Northern Uganda. She told the audience that those who are working to help the children of Northern Uganda “are defiant in the face of the deception that says ‘there is nothing you can do.'” (The full text of Faith McDonnell’s remarks at the book release are available here.)After the speeches, Ms. Akallo and Mrs. McDonnell spent some time signing copies of Girl Soldier. Ms. Akallo will speak at “The Father’s Blessing,” on Friday, June 15, at 7:30PM at Church of the Apostles in Fairfax, VA (www.churchoftheapostles.org). The next book signing will be Sunday, June 17, from 12:30-3:00 PM, also at Church of the Apostles.