Ishaq:243 "The Apostle said: 'Whoever wants to see Satan should look at a Nabtal!' He was a black man with long flowing hair, inflamed eyes
International groups of Good Samaritans travel to the Sudan-Darfur region to offer help to slaves who now have nowhere else to go.
Just over 100 men and boys were waiting under the boughs of a huge mahogany tree in the middle of nowhere near the south Sudan-Darfur border. Waiting for the abolitionists.
Led by the Arab/Dinka Peace Committee, they had walked south for miles, and for days, on their journey to freedom. Many gave up. Those who persevered waited under the tree for four days, and were now nearing the end of their excruciating journey.
When the abolitionists arrived, each of the 106 slaves were asked a series of questions, starting with: When were you taken into captivity? What was your master's name? Did you have family?
Each story was horrific. They were beaten, burned, stabbed, hit with farming tools, starved and humiliated.
Michael was one of the first slaves to tell his tale. His eyes were red, fatigue showed on his weathered face. Scars marked the places where wounds from beatings have never healed. He said his wife was stabbed to death by their master's wives, four Arab women who were angry she was at the water well with them. Michael was beaten unconscious because he charged his master when he heard the news of his wife's death.
Some of the men had been in captivity for more than 20 years, captured by the Janjaweed (Arab for "Devil on Horseback") and Arab slave raiders during the so-called civil war.
The younger slaves, children like Ahkmed, were born into slavery. His mother was killed by her master. Ahkmed has no idea where his father is, no clue of his age. The reddish tint in his hair shows how malnourished he is. His clothes were ripped and dirty, barely hanging on him.
Another man said he'd been a slave for 15 years, and had seen at least three slaves killed for trying to escape.
All of these people had lost hope they would ever be free to live their own lives and have their own families.
The government in Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement had been fighting a civil war since 1983, one of the world's longest and bloodiest battles. In 2005, a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between the Arab Muslim leaders in Khartoum and the Black Christians in southern Sudan. But what the agreement lacked were provisions to release the slaves taken captive over the past 20 years.
There are reports of tens of thousands of men, women and children still enslaved in Darfur and Kordofan.
A group of abolitionists, under the banner of Christian Solidarity International based in Zurich, has been working quietly since 1995 to free the slaves in Darfur as well as provide them with humanitarian aid.
This organized rescue of slaves was begun about 20 years ago by the Sudanese themselves. The Arab/Dinka Peace Committee is a grassroots organization that liberates Sudanese slaves. The covert operation generally begins in cattle camps in the north, where the underground network trades slaves for cattle vaccine. Each vaccine is worth about $40, and it costs one or two vaccines per slave. Livestock is much more valuable to the Arab slave masters than are human beings.
The grassroots group in Sudan invited CSI to join them in their efforts to bring slaves back home.
"In 1995, we first encountered the reality of the slave raids in a powerful way," said Dr. John Eibner, who heads the teams of two or three CSI members who go into Sudan every month to deliver humanitarian aid, medicine, sorghum, survival kits and assistance in returning slaves to their families. "The NGO's [non-governmental organizations] that were there had moved out, the Red Cross failed to go in to help because the government of Sudan said no. So, the international community allowed itself to be dictated to by the government of Sudan that was responsible for the slave raiding."
Among those on this trip were Eibner, an American, and Gunnar Wiebalck, a German, who have made a career of shining a bright light on social injustice, including working on the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa. "Because the rest of the world was not — and still is not — dealing with this issue of slavery, which is a crime against humanity according to international law, we thought we should come back and help this local, grassroots mechanism for getting enslaved women and children back," Eibner said.
Pastor Heidi McGinness, Denver-based director of outreach for CSI-USA, has made the journey to Sudan many times. "I live to see family reunions," McGuiness said. "Mothers, fathers reunited with sons and daughters taken into slavery, thought dead but returned alive, is the greatest joy one could observe.
"This abolitionist work fuels my passion to see each slave freed," she added. "There are still tens of thousands in slavery. I will not abandon them."
In Germany in the 20th century, it was the Holocaust. Some 50 years later in Rwanda, genocide again. And now, in the 21st century, as we talk about smart cars that can park themselves and sending people to Mars, we still allow the barbaric treatment of humans. Genocide rears its ugly head again. We're a society with short-term memory and information overload.
Sudan and slavery are invisible to the Western world. Few if any American journalists are telling the slaves' stories. Why does CSI go into Sudan? Because no one else will. It's remote, it's hot, and it's desolate, with no electricity, running water or cellphone or Internet service in most places.
And, let's face it. These victims are black. Politically, Darfur is in bed with China, which is in bed with the United States. Slavery in Sudan is a three-pronged issue: race, religion and politics.
So why should Americans care?
Because the Sudanese are human beings.
If slavery and genocide can go unchallenged on the other side of the world, it will continue to fester, and then when it comes knocking on our own door here in the U.S., in Denver, we will have only ourselves to blame.
There may be tens of thousands of slaves still in captivity in Darfur. If after you read this you decide to do nothing, then at least you can not say you didn't know.
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