This article was first published in The Jewish Advocate
January 14, 2011
On Jan. 9, the day the people of Southern Sudan began voting in a referendum to decide whether to form their own nation, 199 slaves were freed by Christian Solidarity International, a human rights organization that helps victims of repression and disaster. Charles Jacobs, president of the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group and a columnist for the Advocate, witnessed their liberation in a remote region of the South. They told Jacobs stories of mutilation, one losing an eye for having cried and another a finger for resisting capture. A woman said she was forcibly converted to Islam and genitally mutilated.
Christian Solidarity has freed tens of thousands of slaves. The group supplies hard-to-get cow vaccine to Arab cattlemen, who in return find slaves and return them to the South. Jacobs also saw buses full of refugees fleeing the North, fearing retaliation from Arabs in the wake of the expected vote for secession.
Referendum results are expected by Feb. 14.
Since Sudan’s independence in 1956, the South Sudanese, who are African Christians and Animists, have been fighting against political, economic and cultural domination by the Arab Muslim North. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement stopped the war, but not before more than 4 million South Sudanese had been killed. Arab militias, sponsored by the government and often joined by the Sudanese army, raided hundreds of Southern villages, executing the men and taking women and children into slavery in the North. The peace agreement, which mandated the referendum, stopped the slave raids.
Christian Solidarity International and the American Anti-Slavery Group are continuing to raise money to free an estimated 35,000 remaining slaves and help them establish new lives in the South.