Wednesday, September 26, 2012

People I Met in South Sudan Last Week

David seems to be in his late teens.  He has only one hand; his right arm ends in a clean stump.  When he was much younger, during the war, he tried to pick up an unexploded piece of ordnance.  It went off, and blew off his hand.

He has been living with a pastor whose ministry to war orphans is supported by Christian Solidarity International, the group I work for.  He is very shy, but speaks pretty good English. 

Biwan is a young (maybe 8 years old) survivor of polio, a disease that still occurs in South Sudan.  His legs are crippled, and his older brother, Ayak, carries him around on his back.  On this trip, we are able to give him a hand-powered tricycle, which will allow him to move around on his own.

Marco was freed from slavery four years ago through the efforts of the Sudanese Government's Committee to Eradicate the Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWAC).  My boss, Dr. John Eibner, met him at the time and gave him some food and a survival kit.  He sees us on the street while walking to school in his uniform and greets us.

I can't tell how old Marco is, but he seems far older than his 6th grade classmates.  Marco was often tied down and beaten by his master, especially when he refused to pray like a Muslim.  The right side of his body is partially paralyzed, and he walks with a limp.  He never found his family.  He is infectiously cheerful, and tells us he wants to be a teacher some day.

About five thousand enslaved people were retrieved and sent home by CEAWAC.  The group's head publicly estimated that 35,000 people remained in slavery in North Sudan, before the group was summarily shut down by the government.

Nyibol is 10 years old, and was freed from slavery on this trip.  When she was about three years old, her master tried to separate her from her parents.  They refused and tried to resist.  Her master had them tied up, and cut their throats while she watched.  Her older cousin looked after her after that.  She also came home through CSI's network.

Manoot is about 15 years old, and was freed from slavery on this trip.  He was enslaved with his mother and brother when he was very young.  He remembers seeing the slave raiders slitting the throats of wounded villagers who fell during the attack he was captured in.  His mother tried to escape with him and his brother, but their master's relatives found them and killed her.

Manoot's brother was already liberated by CSI.  Hopefully they will be reunited soon.

Garang is 12 years old, and was freed from slavery on this trip.  When he was about four, his parents – also enslaved – were working in the peanut field.  He cried for his mother to come nurse him.  While she was feeding him, the master came and shouted at her, “Why aren’t you working?” He took a gun and started shooting at her.  She escaped, but a stray bullet hit Garang in the lower leg.  His leg is bowed and disfigured, and he walks with a limp.  Both his parents ran away, and he never saw them again.

Garang does not know his parents’ full names, and does not know their home village in the South.  Finding his family, if he has any, will be nearly impossible.

My boss asks him what he will do now.  He says he doesn’t know, unless we have any ideas.

My boss asks him if he would like to come back to the village where CSI is based and live with one of our South Sudanese staff members.  He will get plenty of food and will be able to go to school.

Our staff member translates the question.  Garang motions at the survival kit at his feet, which has been distributed to all the slavery survivors. It contains a blanket, a mosquito net, a pan for boiling water, farming tools, and other basic necessities. “Will I be able to keep this?” he asks.

We tell him he can, and he hops in the land cruiser with us for the three-hour ride back to our compound.

Deng is in his mid-teens, and was liberated from slavery in April of this year.  When he arrived back in the South, he had huge open wounds on his legs.  His master had beaten him there because he asked to go to school instead of looking after the goats.

After staying with CSI's field physician for a while to have his wounds treated, he went looking for his parents, and eventually found them.  They gave him a big hug, and told him they were happy to see him again.  He also learned that he has a brother and a sister.  They all live together now, and Deng is going to school and attending a Pentecostal church.  "I like praying to God," he says.

While we are in South Sudan, he visits us at the compound nearly every day.  When we pack up our tents to leave, he goes around with a broom, cleaning the mud off of them. (It's the rainy season - I'll complain about it another day.) "Apotapai," I tell him - Dinka for "thank you." He smiles, looks at the ground, and replies, "Yes."

No comments:

Post a Comment