“Our Father who art in Heaven,” I prayed, even as a little boy in Sudan, “hallowed be thy name.” I was baptized as a child and learned about God and his will and his Kingdom in Catholic schools. I have always believed that He gives us our daily bread and that He forgives us when we’ve done wrong. I have always been comforted by these words and I have always believed God is the Supreme Being who will deliver us from evil. I have believed that even when suffering horrific beatings and torture. I have believed it even when logic would dictate that all hope is lost. I believe in a God who answers my prayers. Even in the worst of times, when I could barely muster the strength to kneel before God, I prayed to Him for guidance and help. And He has responded. My survival is living proof of that.
These words were penned by a friend of mine. I can’t tell you his name because he currently serves as with the U.S. Armed forces.
He is one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan who has become a U.S. soldier.
A child of war waging war.
It is jarring to consider.
He fled the Sudan as a young boy to keep from being forced into the servitude of rebel fighting. So how is it he came to be an American soldier, fighting in Iraq & Afghanistan?
He’s working on a memoir about all of that. I’ve been advising him on the writing part. He’s looking for a publisher who will honor the circuitous journey that brought him to this country to escape war and then led him back to war.
Every decision he makes is weighed in the darkest shadows of faith.
Asked to name who is heroes are, he always replies Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.
He won’t be taking a holiday weekend with his family to celebrate MLK day.
He’s not even with his family this holiday weekend. He’s holed up, studying military strategy and leadership, preparing to protect his men for the next time he’s called up. Most likely Afghanistan, soon as he completes his current courses, he told me.
Meanwhile, he’s distracted by the slaughter taking place in Juba. A place and people he knows intimately.
His mother is there, in the middle of yet another “ethnic cleansing”. Isn’t it troubling the way we journalists and talking heads reduce the machete slaughters and the execution of children to a term like “ethnic cleansing”?
He’s a soldier who has honorably and admirably protected the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, yet, he cannot intercede on behalf of his own mother and siblings.
Do you have any idea the guilt he feels over that?
Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to be a student of the best military strategy in the world, and yet lack the power to protect one’s own mother?
There is no question about how dire the situation in the Sudan is right now:
South Sudan’s conflict has turned into a “horrifying humanitarian and human rights disaster” with evidence of mass atrocities, child soldiers and human rights violations by both sides during a month of ethnic fighting, the United Nations said yesterday.
Ten thousand dead, news agencies and humanitarian communities are reporting.
Imagine if a terrorist group stormed the campuses of Harvard and Princeton wielding machetes and machine-guns and managed to kill every undergraduate student.
That’s what ten thousand dead looks like.
Imagine if that terrorist group stormed into every elementary, middle and high school in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and killed every student.
That’s what ten thousand dead looks like.
Faces of babies blown off.
Eight-year olds raped then murdered.
Breasts of young girls cut from their chests.
Heads of mothers screaming sliced off as the blood of their already dead husbands seep into the dirt.
That’s what we mean by the sanitized term “ethnic cleansing.”
We will likely hear more self-congratulatory news reports over the next few days about all the gains we’ve made in the fight for Civil Rights than we will hear about what’s going on in the Sudan. We will take the long weekend to see a movie, see a family member, read a book. Perhaps even a book about our own troubled history of ethnic fighting.
Many will take to their blogs to praise MLK and all that we have learned from him. Many will host dinner parties and talk in reverent voices of MLK. Schools in Nevada and Nebraska, in Alabama and Alaska have hung photos of MLK and taught a brief history of the victories he won. Sermons have been prepared in anticipation of Sunday’s remembrances in D.C. and Atlanta, in L.A. and Seattle. Oprah, and thousands like her, will quote MLK on Twitter and Facebook.
All the while, my soldier friend will be working feverishly from a military base in the U.S. trying to get his mother and his siblings into Uganda before they become part of the head count of one of the worst genocides of our time.
I can’t help but think if he were around today, MLK would be storming the gates of the White House trying to put a stop to the killing in the Sudan.
And I can’t help but wonder, why is it we aren’t?