Ugandan Rebels Attack Lachor Seminary

41 Seminarians Taken Hostage

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KAMPALA, MAY 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Guerillas of the Lord's Resistence Army attack Lachor Minor Seminary in Northern Uganda on the night of May 10, taking 41 seminarians hostage and leaving one boy dead.



Father Guido Oliana, provincial superior of the Comboni missionaries in Uganda, told missionary agency Fides that "it was about midnight when the rebels attacked. Government troops near the complex returned the fire and the shooting continued for about two hours. During the fighting, a local boy who had taken shelter at the seminary was shot dead. Sad to say he was killed right in the place where he thought he would be safest."

"The army could have done more perhaps," Father Oliana said, though "it was thanks to them that most of the boys, about a hundred, managed to escape, but forty-one were taken captive. The poor boys, first and second year high school students, were tied in pairs, the system used by the LRA when they kidnap children and adolescents."

Archbishop John Baptist Odama of the Archdiocese of Gulu, where the seminary is located, voiced his concern to Fides: "This is a very difficult moment. I ask everyone to pray that the situation will evolve for the better." The archbishop added that there was some contact with the kidnappers: "we hope the boys will soon be released."

In early March, the LRA declared a cease-fire that never took off. Since 1986, the Lord's Resistance Army, mostly Acholi tribesmen, has been fighting Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who took power that year, overthrowing a military junta made up primarily of Acholi men. The former militia of the ethnic group, having taken refuge in Sudan, formed various guerrilla groups one of which is the LRA.

In addition to being an ethnic group, the LRA is founded on an ideology of religious syncretism, mixing elements of Christianity and Islam with those of traditional African religions. Conscious of their orientation, local religious leaders have taken an active part in promoting talks with the rebels to restore peace.