Invisible Children Nonprofit Extensively Tied To "The Family"
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 08:00:29 AM EST
"[It] functions invisibly like the mafia... They keep their organization invisible. Everything visible is transitory. Everything invisible is permanent and lasts forever. The more you can make your organization invisible, the more influence it will have." - Doug Coe

Executive Summary

[UPDATE: For more writing from Talk To Action on the now extensive body of evidence tying Invisible Children to the hard, politicized American evangelical right, see KONY 2012, Invisible Children, and the Religious Right: The Evidence as well as Invisible Children Touts Ties To NOM & Proposition 8 Funders and Invisible Children's "Cover the Night" is April 20 - on LGBT "Day of Silence", by Talk To Action contributor Rachel Tabachnick.]

[note: some readers who are very familiar with what The Family / The Fellowship is may want to skip the executive summary and proceed to the section titled "Invisible Children connections with The Fellowship", which starts at the 1/4 mark. For a short cover of some of the important aspects of this story, see the LGBT rights group Truth Wins Out press release, Invisible Children’s Robust Ties to The Family Suggest Invisible Fundamentalist Agenda.]

It is unlikely that many Americans who watched Invisible Children's record-smashing viral video hit KONY 2012 were aware of IC's evangelical nature (1, 2) or of the nonprofit's early financing from foundations that back the hard Christian right, including one of the biggest funders of the 2008 push for California's anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8.

But Invisible Children, which has branded itself as welcoming cultural, religious, and sexual diversity, also enjoys extensive institutional and social ties to the global evangelical network known as The Fellowship (also known as "The Family") - which has been credited with inspiring and providing "technical support" [see footnote 1] for Uganda's internationally-denounced Anti Homosexuality Bill, also dubbed the "kill the gays" bill.

[UPDATE: new video, below, describes co-mingling of Invisible Children's Ugandan education program with The Fellowship's academy system in Uganda]



[image, right: Invisible Children leader (since 2005) Jared White, during 2009 Africa cross-country motorcycle trip with Fellowship members John Niemeyer, Eric Kreutter, and Blake Gaskill]

The Fellowship is a secretive U.S.-based brotherhood of international political and business leaders.  Founded in 1935, its growing political clout was brought to widespread public notice with a 2002 Los Angeles Times report by Lisa Getter, then exposed in subsequent articles and two books by journalist Jeff Sharlet: The Family and C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat To American Democracy.

As stated by Fellowship member and Watergate felon Charles Colson, the group is a "veritable underground of Christ's men all through the U.S. government."  The Fellowship sponsors an annual National Prayer Breakfast in the U.S. and in countries throughout the world and sponsors training for youth including in Africa, where media materials repeatedly describe mentoring of a "new breed" of African leaders.

Since the 1970s, the preeminent leader of the Fellowship has been Doug Coe, who has stated that Christians should be as dedicated as were the followers of Hitler, Lenin, and Mao. Coe has also advocated that Christians should organize "invisibly" like the mafia - as Coe claims, Jesus advised.

Mike Timmis, a Fellowship leader and former chairman of Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship and Prison Fellowship International, has heavily funded both the International Foundation of the Fellowship and its Uganda network.  The first effort was a hospital built at the request of President Yoweri Museveni, who had taken control over the country in a coup in 1986.  

The next project was Cornerstone Development, a network of projects initiated by Timmis' son Mike, who had been mentored by Fellowship leadership in Washington D.C., and two other young proselytes - John Riordan, who came to Uganda after being mentored at The Fellowship's Ivanwald house, and Tim Kreutter, who still leads the Cornerstone Development network.

[image, right: longtime Cornerstone Development instructor, mentor, and Fellowship member Paul Lukwiya, as featured on 2009 Invisible Children video]

The elder Timmis wrote, "The young leaders of Cornerstone Development saw that it would be much easier to form a new generation of African leaders than to persuade the present leaders to reform."  Photos from the early days of the first Cornerstone school show both Yoweri Museveni and the Fellowship Doug Coe on location.

This new breed of leaders being mentored by The Fellowship is to bring peace, prosperity, and harmony to Africa and the world through obedience to their unique brand of faith, one in which those of all religions - Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu - worship Jesus together while maintaining their ethnic identity. In his writings Jeff Sharlet describes the family as embracing "biblical capitalism" or an allegiance to free enterprise as the foundation for all other freedoms.

Family teaching eschews divisive theological doctrine; Catholics, Protestants and non-Christians are urged to unite under what Sharlet describes as the twin pillars of American fundamentalism - the privatization of resources and the public regulation of morality. Sharlet describes the The Fellowship as having brought Museveni, formerly a  "left-wing" dictator, to one of their Washington, D.C. houses, the Cedars, where Museveni was transformed into a believer and a "key [Family] man in Africa."

Both The Fellowship and Invisible Children have partnered closely with the government of Uganda which, under longtime president and Fellowship member Yoweri Museveni, stands accused of a wide array of human rights abuses [see footnote 2] and has helped produce evangelical propaganda demonizing, and blaming for their own suffering, Acholi victims of Joseph Kony's Lord's Reformation Army.

During the last decade, Fellowship members in the U.S. Congress helped turn Uganda's highly successful "ABC" HIV/AIDS reduction approach, which had promoted both abstinence, marital fidelity, and condom use, towards an approach that stressed fidelity and abstinence but not condoms. Uganda's HIV/AIDS rate reduction "miracle" subsequently reversed, so that the country is the only nation in East Africa with a rising HIV rate. Writing from one of Cornerstone Leadership Academy's graduates suggests that the "abstinence-only" approach is still favored by The Fellowship in Africa [see footnote 3].

[image, right: Paul Lukwiya, who sits on the Advisory Board of Restore Academy with Tim Kreutter, the Fellowship's longtime American on the ground in Uganda, is reported to have supervised the mentors in Invisible Children's educational program in Uganda]

At least two of Invisible Children's programs have involved collaboration with The Fellowship and and its members, and by 2007 -- according to accounts from both Invisible Children and Fellowship members -- Invisible Children had partially merged its developing school and mentoring programs in Uganda with The Fellowship's Ugandan educational and leadership training system, which works to raise up a cadre of elite Jesus-centered leaders who will transform their nation along "Biblical" lines - with one apparent objective being the categorical elimination of homosexuality.

Another Cornerstone/Fellowship activity in Uganda is sponsoring and organizing Uganda's yearly National Prayer Breakfast. At Uganda's 2010 National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, Ugandan MP and Fellowship member Cecilia Ogwal delivered a prayer (footage of Ogwal, from event) in which she declared,

"We are binding the evil of homosexuality. We are binding all sorts of forces of evil, where the devil has taken an upper hand... and we are raising the banner of Christ!"

Like The Fellowship's educational approach in Uganda, Invisible Children's stated philosophy for its Ugandan educational programs is, rather than enable large numbers of children to get an education, to focus its available financial resources on a small, elite group who will emerge as national leaders.

While the humanitarian nature of The Fellowship's efforts is invariably stressed, individuals associated with the Fellowship (and with Invisible Children) are founding a fast-growing array of Uganda-based for-profit businesses, such as Apolis Global, that capitalize on The Fellowship's privileged, high-level international political networks.

Among the current and past Invisible Children leaders and employees with professional and social ties to Fellowship members are Jason Russell, Laren Poole, Ben Keesey, Ben Thomson, Adam Finck, James A. Pearson, and Jared White - who in late 2009 went on a cross-Africa motorcycle trip with three young Americans who are working to develop The Fellowship's programs in Uganda, including Eric Kreutter - son of Tim Kreutter, The Fellowship's longtime American leader on the ground in Uganda.

Kreutter oversees Cornerstone Development, the principal umbrella effort of The Fellowship in Uganda. A leading Cornerstone initiative is its educational programs. Head Cornerstone Education Director Paul Lukwiya has been reported to be overseeing Invisible Children's mentoring program in Uganda.

Ties between IC founders Jason Russell and Laren Poole, and alumni of The Fellowship's National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF), predate the founding of the Invisible Children nonprofit, tracing back as early as 2004.

The US-based National Student Leadership Forum's partner institution in Africa is the African Youth Leadership Forum (AYLF), co-organized by Ugandan Fellowship member MP David Bahati [see footnote 1]. The AYLF has sent members to the United States, to give presentations at NSLF forums and attend The Fellowship's Washington National Prayer Breakfast events.  

Invisible Children's connection to The Fellowship's network provides an explanation of IC's early access [see footnote 2] to internationally powerful politicians; less than a year after the nonprofit was launched in 2005, Invisible Children had already gained political backing, from U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, both important Fellowship members.

Invisible Children connections to The Fellowship

Apolis Global

[image, below: Jason Russell enjoys French Press coffee on a veranda, with Fellowship members and Apolis Global cofounders Shea and Raan Parton]

One of the most immediate IC-Fellowship connections traces directly through Jason Russell, and other top Invisible Children leaders, and the co-founders of Apolis Global - a California for-profit boutique high-end clothing brand which Invisible Children has partnered with in a joint project in which cotton for Apolis clothes is grown in Northern Uganda. Apolis currently lists 43 vendors for its clothing line in the United States, with additional merchants in Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Apolis Global co-founders, Raan, Shea, and Stenn Parton are alumni of The Fellowship's National Student Leadership Forum and claim to receive annual invitations to The Fellowship's signature event, the Washington National Prayer Breakfast - a star-studded, elite invitation-only event featuring politicians and leaders from countries across the globe. U.S. presidents since Eisenhower have routinely spoken at the National Prayer Breakfast.

According to Apolis cofounder Shea Parton, he met and became a surfing partner with, and a personal friend to, Invisible Children cofounder and President Laren Poole while Parton and Poole were studying at the University of California at San Diego, and first met Jason Russell during the same time period.  

In 2010, according to Shea and Raan Parton, the Parton family sponsored top Invisible Children executives Ben Keesey and Ben Thomson, so the two could attend the 58th Annual Washington National Prayer Breakfast - where the Partons and the IC executives "met with a number of ambassadors to developing countries in search of new supply chain partnerships".

[image, right: Jason Russell models Apolis Global "Philanthropist" canvas bag]

Apolis has featured Invisible Children leaders Jason Russell and Laren Poole on its website, including a special multi-page "case study" feature on Ben Thomson.

On March 22, 2012, Apolis Global hosted a screening of Invisible Children's KONY 2012 film, attended by members of the "Invisible Children family", after which Shea Parton described "the long history Apolis has working with Invisible Children's on the ground programs in Uganda."

Recent IC/Apolis joint projects have included a $396 canvas "Philanthropist Briefcase" and a $296 "Philanthropist Tote" bag, both made from organic cotton grown in Northern Uganda's Gulu region. Jason Russell can be seen discussing the joint venture in a 1 and 1/2 minute Apolis-produced video posted July 2010 on Youtube.

Beyond the partnership with Apolis Global and the Fellowship-connected Partons, Invisible Children has also benefited from the efforts of alumni from the Fellowship's National Student Leadership Forum who,  across the United States, have been active in starting Invisible Children school clubs, which fund raise for IC and and promote its initiatives. One of those initiatives is IC's Schools For Schools program, whose Ugandan mentors have been reported to be under the supervision of The Family.  

Shea Parton describes his close friendship with Jason Russell as beginning with a 2004 meeting with Russell, shortly before Russell's second trip to Africa. One Fellowship member working in Uganda, John Niemeyer, states that in 2007 Shea Parton - with Invisible Children members in tow, visited the Fellowship leadership academy Niemeyer was helping to build in Northern Uganda.

Bob Goff

Posts on Invisible Children's website have identified the sponsor of that academy initiative, Bob Goff -- a significant leadership figure in The Fellowship who gave a seminar at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast -- as a "friend" of the Invisible Children organization.

Another IC connection to Goff is through James A. Pearson, who managed Invisible Children's Bracelet Campaign for three years, up into 2008 according to IC's 2008 Annual Report. Pearson describes Goff as a friend and in 2010 filmed Bob Goff and Goff protégé John Niemeyer at Goff's Restore Leadership Academy, one of The Fellowship's more recently established Uganda schools.

Goff's Restore Leadership Academy has been endorsed by Former Ugandan Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi, and Goff himself has repeatedly met in Uganda with First Lady Janet Museveni, including on March 23, 2012, when the First Lady officially received a delegation of sixteen American and Ugandan members of Restore International, led by Bob Goff, at the Ugandan State House.  

Goff, who describes his approach to life as "leaking Jesus", has been officially appointed, by an act of Uganda's Parliament, as Honorary Consul for the Government of Uganda -  which he describes as "evidence of Jesus". As Goff told an audience at the February 17-19, 2012 "Jubilee" conference held in Pittsburgh, "I have some cool license plates. I could park on the lawn. I have two flags... I have this card from the [U.S.] State Department. I have diplomatic immunity. I could kill you."

In February 2007, Bob Goff was mentioned in a session of Uganda's parliament as scheduled to speak at a February 23, 2007 parliamentary prayer breakfast along with top Fellowship leaders Dick Foth and Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

An adjunct law professor at Pepperdine University, Goff is part of an ambitious effort, spearheaded by Pepperdine students and faculty, to remake Uganda's judicial system. Pepperdine's fall 2009 issue of Law Magazine reported on a Ken Starr trip to Uganda during which Starr, then Dean of the Pepperdine Law School, signed an agreement committing Pepperdine to the project:

"Together with members of the Ugandan judiciary, Dean Starr signed a memorandum of understanding, a document that made official Pepperdine's clerkship program with the Ugandan judiciary. Starr committed Pepperdine would work collaboratively with the Ugandan judiciary to develop academic and legal reform measures."

Goff also sits on the advisory board of Mercy's Village, another Ugandan Fellowship academy initiative, along with Fellowship leaders Tim Kreutter and Paulo Kyama; both Kreutter and Kyama have been identified by journalist Jeff Sharlet as being in the Fellowship's key Uganda power group.

Also, serving on the Mercy's Village advisory board, in addition, is Paul Lukwiya -- now Education Director for The Fellowship's programs in Uganda. Lukwiya has also been described as "mentoring"  the group of mentors who serve children and young adults in Invisible Children's Ugandan educational programs.

Kreutter, Niemeyer, Ojok, and White

As chronicled in almost an hour of video footage posted to Vimeo.com, in December 2009 four young Americans set off on a several thousand mile, five week motorcycle trip across East/Central Africa. One of the four, Jared White, has served with Invisible Children, in various leadership capacities, since 2005. The other three had institutional connections to David Bahati, because they were helping manage elite leadership schools in Uganda run by The Fellowship.

Two of Jared's White's motorcycle trip companions were John Niemeyer and Blake Gaskill, who were both working to develop Bob Goff's Restore Leadership Academy in Northern Uganda. An October 2007 post by Niemeyer suggests the apparently intertwined nature of Fellowship efforts, such as Restore Academy and Cornerstone Leadership Academy, with Invisible Children's activities in Uganda:

"I went with Ilea and John, our driver, to the Cornerstone Ranch in Luweero for a night.  The ranch is thousands of acres and has 3 schools on it, so we went so I could check out their schools and so we could see some people.  The schools were really cool.  All of the guys who live at the Youth Corps house with me went to the Cornerstone Leadership Academy at the ranch so it was good to see where they came from.  The vision for the Restore Academy is something like the CLA so I was able to get a visual picture of what theirs looks like.

[...]

One of the IC (Invisible Children) guys, Jared, was staying at Ilea's so I got to meet him and hang out for the weekend.  He's a really cool guy and will be in Gulu until November, so that's good.  The bummer is that most of the IC people I've met have been here for a while and are on their way out or are leaving in a month or two.  But we had a fun weekend.  Friday night I went to Bible study with the girls again, which is always cool."

Another figure later reported to have shown up on the Fellowship's Gulu social scene was Former President George W. Bush's daughter Barbara Bush, who was photographed in Gulu on March 13, 2012. The previous day, as Invisible Children enthusiasts stormed, by the hundreds or thousands, social media sites such as Reddit.com to promote Invisible Children's KONY 2012 video, John Niemeyer tweeted,

"At dinner with a 300 lb all pro NFL lineman on my right, and Barbara Bush to the left. Just another night in Gulu!"

Both John Niemeyer and Blake Gaskill have each described attending an August 2008 Fellowship gathering in Tanzania, which featured international Fellowship head Doug Coe as a speaker. Niemeyer wrote,

"I just got back from a conference in Tanzania called the Jesus Reunion.  It was a conference put on partly by Cornerstone here in Uganda and the guys behind the national prayer breakfast movement.  In short, the conference was amazing, I'd never been to anything like it.  People from all sorts of backgrounds and faiths were there to focus on what unites us, Jesus.  The theme was to think, talk, act and love like Jesus.  Every session, speaker and small group surrounded this focus on Jesus.  I can't really put to words the thoughts and feelings I had throughout the week, but it was life changing.  Everyone there was considered to be a part of this "family of friends" and treated everyone like family, thus the reason for it being called a reunion.

The godly advice and leadership that is being exemplified by so many around the world was mind-boggling. To steal from one of the speakers, I've seen first hand the liberating power of "doing unto others what we would want others to do unto us."

A few things I wrote down that I thought were noteworthy:

[...]

    About the "Jesus Movement" of bringing the focus back to Jesus and his life instead of promoting "Christianity" or certain denominations: A few of the main points were that: It's a focus on Jesus as the common ground, It's a revolution of love that works across all that is dividing humanity, It's a call for personal transformation, Its about faith for a better world, A focus on the essentials: love God & love your neighbor as yourself, And reach out to leaders, but only have one Leader that you give your life to.
    The last point that Doug Coe, the main guy said to the group was pretty cool.  He said the two things:  First, that on his tombstone he would hope people would say, "Here loves Doug Coe, a man who loved Jesus with his whole heart."  The second point was to challenge us all "Don't be led by men.  Follow only Jesus with your whole heart and let the Holy Spirit guide you." "

As Niemeyer's Restore Academy colleague Blake Gaskill described the event,

"At the end of last month, John, a couple of Kampala friends, myself, and about 70 Cornerstone Ugandan friends all jumped on a couple of buses and headed out on a 24 hour bus ride through western Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

[...]

The destination was Arusha, Tanzania at the foot of Kilimanjaro, for a 4 day conference called the "Jesus Conference".   Predominately Christians, but also Buddhists, Muslims, and folks from other religious backgrounds all gathered to "think, talk, act, and love like Jesus", seeking to understand His teachings on reaching out to the fatherless, widows, and poor.   The conference has been running for at least 4 years, and is organized by a group called "The Family", aka "The Fellowship", aka "the group behind the National Prayer Breakfasts worldwide", founded by Doug Coe, a former and current advisor and friend of multiple world leaders.  Meeting around the person, life, and teachings of Jesus, whom the Buddhists consider a great teacher, the Muslims consider a prophet, and Christians consider to be the Messiah, has proved to be a great uniter of this incredibly diverse group of people, and a beacon of hope  for future inter-religious peace, understanding and collaboration.

[...]

The conference drew about 350 people, from 23 countries around the world, including Japan, Nepal, India, USA, Norway, Ecuador, and multiple African countries. We had a wonderful time of friendship, meals, rest, recreation, workshops, and speaking sessions on youth mentoring, school development, and many other humanitarian aims."

As Cornerstone Leadership Academy leader Philip Ojok, one of the early CLA graduates, described the Tanzania event headed by Coe and attended by Niemeyer and Gaskill, in the October 2008 Cornerstone newsletter,

"[D]uring the months of June and July we were involved in organizing the Arusha Jesus Reunion (AJR). In the past we have held similar conferences under a different name, but we chose to call this one a "reunion" because, this time it was a bigger gathering that brought together 220 people from 20 countries."

Ojok described the conference as organized under four main groupings - the Prayer Breakfast Group, the Youth Mentoring Group, the Student Leadership Group, and the Leadership Academy Group.

In an October 9, 2008 post, Blake Gaskill reported on a trip that Cornerstone and Restore members made, to attend the 2008 Uganda National Prayer Breakfast where, according to journalist Jeff Sharlet, the idea for the subsequent "kill the gays" legislation was first discussed. As Gaskill wrote,

"I'm in Kampala today, as several of us were able to attend the National Prayer Breakfast this week.  Most of the Ugandan Members of Parliment [sic], several ambassadors,  foreign dignitaries, President Museveni, and hundreds from the community gathered at the Hotel Africana Wednesday to lift up Uganda in prayer.  People from various faiths were there, and it was a wonderful morning of reunion, friendship, hope and prayer for the future of Uganda and the larger African community.  Unfortunately, they didn't allow cameras for security reasons, so I'm unable to pass along any photos, except this one of ten of us squeezed in the Land Cruiser on the way home from Hotel Africana"

Accompanying Blake Gaskill's report was a high quality photo of Gaskill, John Niemeyer, and other Fellowship members in the Land Cruiser en route to the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast.

Another member of Jared White's 2009 motorcycle trip quartet was Eric Kreutter. According to the February 2009 issue of Tim Kreutter's Cornerstone newsletter, his son Eric Kreutter was in 2009 working internationally to manage Fellowship group homes in which orphaned children lived with and were mentored by graduates of the Cornerstone Leadership Academy. Joining Kreutter in this work was Philip Ojok, one of the highest ranking Ugandans in the Cornerstone operation.

The Africa Youth Leadership Forum

Another of Ojok's projects has been taking the lead role in launching the African Youth Leadership Forum, a transcontinental Fellowship initiative which is now active in seven African nations. Helping out with the task of organizing the AYLF, according to an October 14, 2007 story from the Ugandan government controlled New Vision news service concerning a 2007 meeting of the Africa Youth Leadership Forum (AYLF), has been MP David Bahati. The New Vision story stated,

"Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, one of the organisers, said the youth forum would become part of the activities of the annual National Prayer Breakfast.
    "The forum is to mentor young leaders in good leadership skills and to respect God," Bahati said."

Under the auspices of the recently-formed African Youth Leadership Forum, which serves as a support network for Cornerstone Leadership Academy graduates, Ugandan CLA alumni have traveled to the United States to attend the Washington National Prayer Breakfast and give talks for the National Student Leadership Forum, whose alumni Shea, Raan, and Stenn Parton are partnering with Invisible Children.  

In a December 23, 2009 comment on the website of an Eastern European Fellowship member who has been critical of David Bahati's Anti Homosexuality Bill, Philip Ojok accused critics of misrepresenting the bill, affirmed MP David Bahati's membership in The Fellowship, and aired a conspiracy trope endemic to Ugandan political culture -- the claim, also promoted by First Lady Janet Museveni and MP David Bahati, that rich Westerners in Uganda are bribing Ugandan youth to become gay:

"I think that what the West is running around with is not a true representation of the bill itself or even the spirit of the Bill. David Bahati (Hon) is a member of our fellowship, and within our circles talks have been ongoing for grace towards specifically the aggravated offenders. Yesterday the Hon. Nsaba Buturo (Minister for Ethics and also a member of our fellowship) said that portion of the bill is going to be amended. However, my personal opinion was to treat aggravated homosexual behavior with a very harsh deterrent equivalent to those of other sexual offenders.

We live a country where young people are taken into doing anything as long as it gives them some economic gains. The West have made it seem like the bill is calling for death on all gay people this is not the case. By and large a big population of this country will support the bill. My biggest challenge is a group supported by some reach Americans going around boarding schools with lots of cash recruiting young innocent children to homosexual behavior.

Sincerely,
Phillip Ojok, Uganda"

Cornerstone Leadership Academy graduates have credited Ojok, along with Tim Kreutter and Paul Lukwiya, as being one of the most inspirational leaders in the program.

Paul Lukwiya

The stated philosophy of Invisible Children's Ugandan educational programs closely mirrors the stated philosophy behind The Fellowship's Cornerstone Leadership academies. Neither program seeks to maximize educational opportunities for large numbers of Ugandans. Rather, both programs foster small numbers of exceptionally talented students, selected from at-risk populations; both programs also state explicitly that their goal is to raise up a generation of Ugandan leaders who will transform their nation.

Toward that end, both programs employ mentors who are paired with individual students and provide a crucial quasi-parental support system. Further, both mentoring programs have been supervised by Ugandan Fellowship member Paul Lukwiya, now Education Director for The Fellowship's Ugandan leadership training schools.

On October 14, 2009, only weeks before Jared White and his Fellowship comrades had set out on their cross-Africa motorcycle odyssey, Ugandan MP David Bahati put on the Ugandan parliament's legislative agenda the now-notorious, internationally-condemned Anti Homosexuality Bill.

Two days later, an October 16, 2009  post on the website of the Invisible Children nonprofit described a inspirational speech that Paul Lukwiya, one of Bahati's colleagues in the Ugandan branch of The Fellowship, had given to students attending the Pope Paul VI Anaka School, in Uganda's northern Gulu region.

As the post noted, addressing the students were "IC [Invisible Children] mentors, the school's Head Teacher, and the man who mentors the IC mentors, Mzee Lakwiya [more commonly spelled Lukwiya. Mzee is a Swahili term of respect for an elder man]." The post neglected to mention that Lukwiya had headed The Fellowship's boy's Cornerstone Leadership Academy in Uganda for over a decade.

As the October 16, 2009 Invisible Children post, titled "IC mentors address a group of students at Pope Paul VI Anaka School before their exams", described,

"Two thick mvule trees loomed overhead, casting webs of shadow and light across the two hundred students gathered beneath them.  Sitting in a row before the students, a half dozen guest speakers waited their turn to speak.  The students, all in grades S4 and S6, and all about to take the most important exams of their lives, sat wide-eyed and still.  The open-air meeting was a crucial one.  The guest speakers--IC mentors, the school's Head Teacher, and the man who mentors the IC mentors, Mzee Lakwiya--were there to mentally prepare the students for their upcoming UACE and UCE exams, tests that would help determine the paths their lives would take.  "On Monday," one speaker said, "you all will jump into hot soup.  We're here to help you get ready." "

Lukwiya's relationship with Invisible Children goes back at least as far as early 2007, by several accounts.

In Spring 2007 - little more than a year and a half after Invisible Children nonprofit was launched - Paul Lukwiya is reported to have traveled with Invisible Children members to the United States, where he spoke before an April 28, 2007 Invisible Children Seattle rally. As John Niemeyer, who now manages Fellowship's Restore Academy, wrote in a November 10, 2007 blog post, describing Mzee Paul Lukwiya,

"Mzee Paul... is the wisest, godliest old man.  He oversees all of the Cornerstone schools, I think there are 5, and he wants to include Restore and Peter in all of his meetings, retreats etc.  So that's really cool, Cornerstone is what we are modeling our school after and there is no one better than him to help us shape the school.

Mzee actually went to San Diego last spring with Invisible Children (He oversees all the Cornerstone schools, oversees all the IC mentors and now helps oversee Restore Academy)."

Niemeyer's account of Lukwiya traveling to San Diego with Invisible Children during the Spring of 2007 is corroborated by an op-ed that appeared June 27, 2007 in the Forrest Grove News-Times, which described Paul Lukwiya as speaking at an April 28, 2007 5,000 person Invisible Children rally in Seattle.

Other indications of Lukwiya's involvement with Invisible Children include footage of Lukwiya that can be seen on IC's current website. In a video attached to text describing IC's Schools For Schools program -- which has paired American schools with counterpart schools in Northern Uganda, for which the American schools have raised funds for rebuilding and educational improvement -- Lukwiya can clearly be seen (beginning at 4:55) though he is not identified.

Leaders To Transform a Nation

In the video, which was originally posted in 2009, Invisible Children's Africa Program Director Adam Finck described the function of IC's mentor program, and its associated Legacy Scholarship Fund:

"The true success of each student depends on encouragement and investment from their specific mentor - who not only acts as a positive role model but also gives academic counseling, career guidance, spiritual support, and practical life skills to every student in the scholarship program.

Mentors are the key to supporting the next generation of leaders in Uganda.  

[...]

After more than two decades of war, a generation of young leaders is emerging in Northern Uganda - becoming more prepared each day to become the leaders of tomorrow."

In a companion video, about Invisible Children's Scholarship Program and also posted in 2009, Finck explains that IC's approach is to use its resources to support "quality over quantity", which is the title of the video subsection. States Finck,

"Rather than using our funds to put as many students in school as possible, we made a choice - to invest in the most outstanding future leaders. We take a deep and comprehensive approach, equipping students with the necessary supplies and, most importantly, with a mentor, to help them realize their full potential."  

The educational approach described by Finck closely resembles that of The Fellowship, as described in the November 2009 Cornerstone newsletter:

[Cornerstone magazine, November 2009] "The Cornerstone Leadership Academies(CLA) are "Advanced Level" boarding, high schools that aim at molding young people coming from poor backgrounds, but with high potential - into future leaders.

[...]

In addition to the academic studies, the program involves a comprehensive discipleship program following the principles, precepts and person of Jesus.

[...]

Most of these young people come from broken homes or grew up as orphans so the `Cornerstone family' often becomes their extended family. Many are in positions of leadership at their respective colleges and the university. Others in more quiet ways are making a positive impact on those around them. The long term potential to influence this nation is increasingly becoming evident as we see the maturity and commitment exhibited in the lives of these future leaders who have come up through our programs."

In the July 2008 edition of the Cornerstone newsletter, Cornerstone Leadership Academy graduate Mbaziira Josephats expresses the politicized, revolutionary ethic common to Fellowship members:

"[E]very movement that has caused significant positive impact in history - including Uganda's own National Resistance Movement (NRM) and the more significant Jesus Movement has had simple yet profound principles shared by a committed band of friends. A small group deeply committed to each other with a shared vision. It only takes about 5% of the population to cause a revolution that influences the remaining 95 % For the Jesus Movement it was Peter, Paul, James and others. For NRM it might have been the likes of Museveni and Tumwine, and for COSA, it will have to be you and me!"

NOTES

[1] David Bahati and The Fellowship

Spurious claims that David Bahati is not a leader of the Ugandan branch of The Fellowship are overwhelmingly contradicted by multiple sources including statements from Bob Hunter, Family member and spokesperson for The Fellowship in Uganda, who has referred to Bahati, on television and radio, as a Fellowship member, and reports from Ugandan government-controlled news services, which have identified Bahati as co-organizing The Fellowship's Africa Youth Leadership Forum and note Bahati's prominent presence, onstage with Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, at Fellowship events in Uganda.

Multiple issue of Cornerstone Development's Cornerstone newsletter identify the African Youth Leadership Forum as a direct Cornerstone initiative. Working supervisor of The Fellowship's Leadership Academy and associated educational programs in Uganda and across Africa Tim Kreutter wrote, in the July 2008 edition of the Cornerstone newsletter,

"The Prayer Breakfast movement around the world works to bring people in political leadership together across all the divides. And as the young people in our Cstone programs mature we see them gradually taking up this vision as it is very aligned with our own vision and values. So, we help organize and support the various National Prayer Breakfast groups and events around the region. We are also developing a "young wing" of this work which involves Universtity [sic] student leaders and is called the Africa Youth Leadership Forum."

Kreutter went on to describe The Fellowship's National Prayer Breakfast in Kenya that year, 2008, which was attended by the Kenyan President, Vice President, and Prime Minister, as well as U.S. Congressional Representative William E. Fauntroy.

According to an October 14, 2007 story from the New Vision news service concerning a 2007 meeting of the Africa Youth Leadership Forum (AYLF), MP David Bahati was one of the co-organizers of the AYLF :

"Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, one of the organisers, said the youth forum would become part of the activities of the annual National Prayer Breakfast.
"The forum is to mentor young leaders in good leadership skills and to respect God," Bahati said."

By one account, the ALYF has the direct support of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Close ties between David Bahati, the Musevenis, and the Fellowship in Uganda were in evidence in a June 21, 2011 New Vision story about "the inaugural dinner hosted by the Uganda Parliamentary Fellowship for members of the 9th Parliament at Sheraton Hotel Kampala" at which Janet Museveni was the head guest of honor. As the story, which featured a photograph of "Mama" Janet greeting MP David Bahati onstage at the event, described,

"Mrs. Museveni asked leaders to take up their responsibilities in building a firm foundation for a better Uganda.

"With God on our side and Ugandans really working together for the good of our prosperity, nothing is impossible," she added.

Mrs. Museveni said if Africa is to overcome its social and economic disgrace the world over Africans must abandon idolatry because God judges it severely.

She congratulated the parliamentary fellowship members for keeping it alive and maintaining a spiritual presence in parliament through the years.

[...]

The chairman of the parliamentary fellowship, David Bahati, said the caucus of God is bigger than all other caucuses and does not discriminate against political affiliations.

The parliamentary fellowship was founded in 1986 by the late Hon. Balaki Kirya, and has since 1991 been organising a prayer breakfast on every October 8.

Bahati said the fellowship, initiated some bills like the Anti- Homosexuality and Anti-Pornography believes in a God led country and God led policies."

As quoted in the February 29, 2012 New York Times story Resentment Toward the West Bolsters Uganda's New Anti-Gay Bill, MP Bahati directly credited The Fellowship with inspiring the Anti Homosexuality Bill:  

"It was in the United States, Mr. Bahati contended, that he first became close with a group of influential social conservatives, including politicians, known as The Fellowship, which would later become a base of inspiration and technical support for the anti-homosexuality bill.

Mr. Bahati said the idea for the bill first sprang from a conversation with members of The Fellowship in 2008, because it was "too late" in America to propose such legislation. Now, he said, he feels abandoned. "

[2]

Invisible Children's early support from Inhofe & Museveni

As the syndicated Religion News Service reported, in a story published April 27, 2006 in the San Diego Union-Tribune,

"Invisible Children Inc. has garnered political support from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who sponsored a nonbinding Senate resolution last month calling for the American government to help bring down the rebel army.

"They see something that's an atrocity that has to be corrected, and they're willing to devote a good part of their lives to correct this," Inhofe said of Invisible Children. "And if they can do that, we can help them as best we can." "

Invisible Children came to Senator Inhofe's attention even earlier - Inhofe mentioned seeing Invisible Children's first film during a February 2, 2006 statement before the United States Senate.

Inhofe has also been one of the U.S. Senators, along with another Family (Fellowship) member, former U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, who has taken the lead in promoting the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, signed into law May 2010 by President Obama.

One of the controversial provisions of the bill was a provision to team up the United States military to the Ugandan military, to hunt for Joseph Kony. In a 2005 ruling ( http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/116/10521.pdf ), from the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Uganda and the Ugandan People's Defense Forces were accused of a range of human rights violations and atrocities in Northern Uganda and the DRC Congo. Recently, the UPDF has also been implicated in supporting Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga, now on trial by the International Criminal Court for human rights violations in the DRC Congo. The UPDF has also been charged, in 2012 by Western human rights groups, with committing rape and looting in the Congo while searching for Joseph Kony. Accusations against President Yoweri Museveni include charges of a planned, slow genocide committed against the Acholi people of Northern Uganda

[3]

As Cornerstone Leadership Academy Rwanda graduate Samuel Birondwa expressed in the July 2009 Cornerstone newsletter,

"The Lord has enabled us to champion a unique outreach to high school students called the "Vision Conference" (Proverbs 29:18). And, we are involving students from all different religious backgrounds. Our vision is to transform these young people who will in turn transform others, thus transforming society. It is an attempt to reach out to a greater number of young people with the concepts found in our Discipleship material. Our objectives are:

  1. To preach the Gospel by lifting up Jesus alone - who is our common ground - across all divisions.
  2. To promote unity and reconciliation.
  3. To encourage abstinence until marriage by emphasizing
sexual integrity and HIV/AIDS sensitization. (Our students have created a movie on this to be launched at the next conference.)
4. To encourage hard work through community service."



Display:
It's a little off-topic, but are there connections between FGBMI and the Family?

Something just struck me... how much a lot of this sounds like the actions of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International.  The theology sounds much the same (from what I remember), and the activities too (especially the "all is fair" capitalism and desire to micromanage people's lives).  There was a big interest in Africa too.

This is the type of thing they were pushing back when people were trying to get me involved (from the time I walked through the time I walked away from the steeplejacked Episcopal church).  

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 10:00:53 AM EST

There's lots of crossover leadership - Bredesen, for example.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 10:05:16 AM EST
Parent
Bruce - I desperately need to talk to you. Can you please contact me? I assume that my contact is accesible via my profile for you.

Thanks, Adam Fell

by Adam Fell on Wed Apr 18, 2012 at 02:38:55 AM EST
Parent




Blake Gaskill: ... a group called "The Family", aka "The Fellowship", aka "the group behind the National Prayer Breakfasts worldwide", founded by Doug Coe...

And Abraham Vereide spins in his lonesome grave.

Is Gaskill just another student nodding out during history lessons, or has the present leadership of "The Family" started rewriting their own origins?

by Pierce R Butler on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 07:52:56 PM EST

...of the Family's history, per Jeff Sharlet's reporting. From what I've seen, The Fellowship's African members appear top notch: an "elite cadre", indeed.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 07:31:53 AM EST
Parent


How much of the Family/Fellowship attention is due to reported oil and gas deposits, as well as metal deposits, in Uganda? Is it possible that they had advance knowledge of prospecting results for valuable commodities? Offhand, the discovery announcement in 2009 (per BBC profile - by a UK co "Heritage Oil") is considerably later than the first interest in Uganda (1986, coup of Museveni). I don't know how long prospecting had been going on. A discovery might intensify interest, though.

by NancyP on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 03:00:25 PM EST

WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. ...There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment's pleasure, for the rest of their lives.madeira plastica | plastic lumber | Ssangyong | concessionaria hyundaiCtjrw

by dennishobson on Wed May 15, 2013 at 09:08:37 AM EST

I'm impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that's both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.madeira plastica | plastic lumber | Ssangyong | concessionaria hyundaiJaf8f

by dennishobson on Wed May 15, 2013 at 09:14:46 AM EST


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