At one o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, hundreds of UCSB and SBCC students were “abducted.”
The abductees met at Chase Palm Park near Stearns Wharf for a daylong reenactment of the plight of child soldiers in Northern Uganda. The country has been plagued with conflict for 23 years by the Lord’s Resistance Army’s war to overthrow the government. The simulation, named “The Rescue,” was part of a nationwide campaign to promote aid for the people of Uganda and ultimately the end of the war.
According to those involved, the campaign promotes four primary goals: to rescue child soldiers and capture top Lord’s Resistance Army leaders, to support the protection of civilians in war-torn areas, to provide humanitarian support for displaced persons and to support recovery and reconciliation initiatives in Northern Uganda.
Ashley Gutierrez, one of the Invisible Children roadies who volunteered for 10 weeks to help put on the event, said the act of being abducted was symbolic.
“The point of ‘The Rescue’ is to sacrifice your time,” she said. “You abduct yourself for the abducted.”
In addition to the students and community members who participated, a former child soldier and a man from the Acholi tribe in Northern Uganda attended the event. The two men led the group in single file holding onto a rope through downtown Santa Barbara to symbolize an abduction and capture. Half an hour later, they reached SBCC West campus, which was designated as the LRA camp for the day.
Once they reached the camp, participants registered and were told they could not leave the site until they had been “rescued,” which could only be achieved when a celebrity or politician came to the camp to set the participants free. Santa Barbara was “rescued” by professional surfer Tom Curren.
However, according to Gutierrez, the simulation was not over until all the participating cities were rescued worldwide.
“Today, this is happening in 100 cities,” Gutierrez said. “We are constantly getting updates. Orlando has been rescued, Sydney has been rescued, Pete Wentz rescued D.C.”
At the camp, while music played and poetry was recited, the registered “abductees” wrote letters to politicians pleading for the cause. At 10 p.m. there was a period of silence lasting 23 minutes, which symbolized the 23 years of war.
Fourth-year biopsychology major Hoda Abou-Ziab was one of many UCSB students who showed their support by participating in the simulation.
“I’m here to support the cause against the war that is happening in Northern Uganda,” Abou-Ziab said. “We want to spread awareness about the children that have been abducted by the LRA and turned into child soldiers.”
Gutierrez said the number of participants at this weekend’s event was indicative of the community’s concern.
“It’s awesome to see how many people came together on a Saturday,” she said. “It’s great to see so many people willing to come together and say that we will wait this out until we get attention.”