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Joseph's Story ÷from the Sudan
by Brad Phillips (an aid worker December 2003)

The story I am about to tell you is true. It is the story of a young Dinka boy who was the victim of the barbarity of the civil war in Sudan, and who barely escaped with his life.

I have been a regular visitor to Sudan since 1998. I have witnessed incredible tragedy, injustice, and cruelty from the Moslem North against the Christian South. Even so, I had difficulty believing the reports about this story until I had the chance to go and see for myself during our December 2003 outreaches in Sudan.

My good friend Tommy Zurowski found Joseph in June of 2003 when his plane was diverted to Joseph's village due to inclement weather conditions. Just prior to my departure in December, he asked me to make a follow up visit on their behalf to deliver some relief items to Joseph and further investigate possible ways in which he might provide medical and other assistance to him. I had the privilege of spending a day with this amazing boy who is now called Joseph. I spoke with him, I interviewed him, I saw his scars, and I saw his eyes. What I saw moved me, and still haunts me. Here is his compelling story of suffering and Faith...

In 1987, at the age of seven, a group of Murahaleen (Arab slave raiders) rode in on horseback and invaded the Dinka village of Aweil in Bahr el Gazal. They killed everyone they could catch, except for the women and children. The women and children were kept alive for the slave markets in the North. Santino Garang, a young 7-year old Dinka boy, watched as his family and relatives were slaughtered. He and all the children from his village were kidnapped and taken North to be sold in the slave markets. Slavery continues to be openly practiced in the Sudan...with mostly Christians being bought and sold by their Muslim captors.

He was given an Arab name to replace his Dinka name, but his master (Ibrahim) only referred to him by the pejorative "Abid," which means black slave. For ten years, Joseph languished under the cruel whip of his master.

During his enslavement, eating from the garbage, and surviving by eating the leftover scraps from his master's table. He was often beaten, tortured and abused by his Arab master. African slaves, especially Christians, are viewed as lower than animals.

Joseph was raised Christian. His desire to worship was mocked by his master who told him every day for 10 years that he had no business praying since he was of no more value than a donkey.

Joseph was charged with fetching water and tending his master's camels. He performed his daily tasks honestly, in spite of his master's cruelty. One Sunday morning, he heard singing. The singing of hymns and worship were food for his lonely soul. His heart got the best of him, and he followed the melodies to their source, and sat in the Christian service. A church service like those he remembered as a boy. His comfort and joy were to be short lived÷..
When he returned home to his master, several camels had escaped and were unaccounted for. Joseph searched frantically for the camels, but before he could find them, his master flew into a fit of rage, and swore he would kill Joseph and do to him what had been done to Jesus... he would crucify him.

After brutally beating Joseph on the head and all over his body, the master laid him out on a wooden plank. He then nailed Joseph to the plank by driving 9 inch nails through his hands, knees and feet. He then poured acid on Joseph's legs to inflict even greater pain, and finally left him for dead.

Joseph lay crucified to a wooden board for seven days.

The master's young son heard Joseph moaning and crying for help, and had pity on him. Risking his father's wrath, he secretly brought Joseph food and water for the next week. Joseph slipped in and out of consciousness and delirium. Finally, the slave owner's son pulled out the nails and carried him to a medical clinic. Frankly, it is a miracle he survived.

In case you are wondering, no criminal charges were brought against Joseph's master, because he acted within his "rights" under currently practiced "sharia law." .

After his return from the "hospital" his master saw little value in Joseph's life, as he was crippled from the nails being driven through his knees. Joseph was "redeemed" by Christian slave redeemers who arranged his return home to his village in Bahr el Gazal.

When he arrived back to his home village from which he was kidnapped ten years previous, he was warmly welcomed. The village elders decided he must have a new name in order to mark the beginning of a new life. He was given the biblical name Joseph, because like Joseph in the Old Testament he was sold into slavery.

By God's grace Joseph survived kidnapping, the loss of his parents, ten years of enslavement, and near death by crucifixion. But while Joseph is free in body, he is still in great pain physically and emotionally. He bears the marks of his crucifixion in his body, and the scars of his torment in his soul. He is wounded and broken in his spirit. And he is haunted by the memories of hundreds of other children from his community who perished, or remained enslaved in the North.

Joseph is one of a small number of people in the 21st century who knows what it means to be crucified because of his Christian faith. But the reality is that hundreds of thousands of our fellow Christians, mostly Catholics, in the Sudan have been enslaved, driven from their homes, hunted and murdered. This war has raged for centuries in the Sudan. Please remember our Sudanese brethren in your prayers, and do all you can to aid us in the relief of their suffering.

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