A young man from Sudan, Ker Aleu Deng, spoke eloquently. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) convened the hearing of a House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights to address Deng’s situation as a “Lost Boy.” Deng was recently rescued from slavery, his mother is still enslaved in the North. Every night she still sleeps, one hopes, in a garden to protect crops of her master. The barn with a grass roof where her son, Ker, once slept tethered to a goat between beatings and backbreaking work is empty now.
Deng was also blinded by his slave master. The people of Christian Solidarity International have a long history of helping slaves escape, find a more stable life, and occasionally they bring a gentleman like Deng to the world’s attention. Sitting a few feet from him as he testified, with my teenage daughter at my side, I was entirely aware how blessed we are in the Untied States to have real freedom. Not only physical freedom, or the freedom to live and work as we choose, but spiritual and intellectual freedom as well.
The hearing began with testimony from Ambassador Princeton Lyman, the US Special Envoy to Sudan. Marginally more successful than his predecessor General Scott Gration, Lyman nonetheless gave a testimony that offered little promise about President Obama’s commitment to ending genocide, mass atrocities and continued instability in Sudan. His answers about pressing for arrests of Omar al Bashir and other genocidaires indicted by the International Criminal Court and utilizing our position in the United Naitons Security Council to strengthen sanctions or take other actions, Lyman gave a beleaguered bureaucratic and process-is-the-problem answer.
When questioned by Rep. Smith directly about slavery in Sudan, and made aware that Ker Deng was in the room and how he came to be there, Lyman’s answer was underwhelming. “…it is not only a tremendous human rights issue but it is a source of a great deal of lingering bitterness among communities that have suffered.”
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