“Sticks and stones can break my bones,
But names will never hurt me.”
Did you know that’s a lie? I expect you do understand it, in the natural and even as it affects the spiritual side. I could give so many examples it would take piles and piles of “paper” to cover the main ones. However, one in particular has stuck in my head since I was in Soroti in January, ‘04.
I was in the ministry office one day, working by myself, and one of my favorite pastors came in. Pastor Job was with the Deliverance church, and a real treat. I so enjoyed my time around him. He came in to request some petty cash for a small need.
While he was there he asked me how I was involved in spiritual warfare and I told him that I did what is sometimes referred to as spiritual mapping or what I often refer to as spiritual/historical research. So he asked for more information and I spent a bit of time talking about how important it can sometimes be to dig through the layers in sensitive geographical locations to see what the issues’ root source might be.
I told him that, for instance, I recognize that the fights between his tribe, the Ateso, and his neighboring tribe, the Karamojong, seems to have been going on for a long time. I knew the Karamojong are “cousins” to the Masai in Kenya – they have a couple of the same thoughts, among which is that “all the cattle in the world belong to us” so they feel free to steal from everyone and kill anyone in the way or who attempts to interfere with them as they “restore” the cattle to themselves.
Job nodded his head and told me where the division between their two tribes occurred, although they didn’t know exactly when it happened. Unlike the majority of Uganda, where most of the tribes are Bantu... language and customs are similar to that overall ethnicity ... the Karamojong and Ateso originate in northeast Africa, and are from the Nilotic ethnic group. When they were migrating southwest, out of the Ethiopian area, their group came to a point of division. The older folks/older generation said they needed to stop moving onward. The younger generation said they needed to go further. The older ones called the younger ones something similar to “stupid kids” and the young ones called the older ones “cowards.”
They split and the animosity has stayed in place for hundreds of years. Killings, invasions, theft, hatred have been active.
In the mid-1990s a YWAM leader was sharing the gospel in the Karamojong region and some of them came to the Lord. One man was quoted as saying, with a bit of surprise and totally new thinking, “Oh, now I know we are not allowed to kill people.”
The Teso are not as violent, overall, as the Karamojong, but when I was there to help in the rebel situation, the Teso militia – the Arrows – were tough beyond belief when it came to dealing with the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] and the rebel invasion. Much tougher than the Ugandan national army that tended to run away when battles were too dangerous... at least for the first stretch. After the Arrows managed to wear out the rebels, then the Ugandan army was much more active. At any rate, the fact that the Tesos are not cowardly or passive... and the Karamojong are not only the fighters, but most of the time the victorious killers, it is an indicator of strong warriors on both sides.
A British doctor had lived up in northeast Uganda in the Karamojong district for about ten years. He told Dave and I some funny stories. Although he had been there for a fairly long time, he mostly felt forced to leave and come to the Kampala area because it was just too dangerous for his family. When they went out for a “safari” on Sunday afternoons [which in its colloquial definition simply means taking a Sunday family drive – nothing such as we see in movies], they would sometimes be shot at while the K.s were target practicing. The K.s often were seen nude and wandering around villages carrying AK-47s.
Anyhow, one of the suggestions I made to Pastor Job was that, even though they couldn’t change the names of their tribes, the Christians in the tribes could meet and repent for the curses attached to the names and seek forgiveness from each other and ask the Lord to redeem the negative actions and traditions and show them ways for active reconciliation and bring this hundreds-years antagonism to a halt.
We discussed this from several standpoints for about an hour. When he was leaving, Job said, “I thought I was coming here just for the money; that is not why I was to come. This is one of the most important spiritual lessons I have ever heard.”
I’ve often wondered where things went... Job and I have lost contact. But we had a great deal of respect for each other.
Think about how this might fit into your family, neighborhood, region, nation. I believe very strongly that it is the truth. It’s a huge battle we must keep in mind.