Sudan’s Lost Boys

The soldiers shot into the crowds, scattering people in all directions. Many children were separated from their parents.

Eventually, a group of boys, under the direction of adults, gathered together and walked from Sudan’s battlefields to the neighboring country of Ethiopia. The “Lost Boys,” as they were called, lived there in peace until 1991, when Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam resigned and left the country. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, an umbrella group of six rebel armed forces, took over and established a transitional government. It was not long before the boys were being shot at again.

They walked back into Sudan and headed toward Kenya. Along the way, they had to cross the Gilo River, where many people drowned. Some 3,800 Sudanese children, led by Sudanese elder Joseph Maker Kur Jok, staggered into Kenya in May 1992 after walking hundreds of miles through some of the roughest terrain on earth. Nearly a decade later the boys are now men. They wait in the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya for a chance to travel to the United States.

“The Lost Boys now are getting the chance to go abroad,” Kur said. “Words are not enough to express exactly our feelings.”

U.S. immigration officers stationed at Kakuma Camp have been processing the refugees since last August. More than 1,000 have reached the U.S. Officials from the Diocese of Rumbek, Sudan, hope to resettle all 3,800 of the Lost Boys by June or July of this year.

Once they get to the United States, the USCC's Office of Migration and Refugee Policy will settle half of the group, said director Kevin Appleby.

The resettlement of the Lost Boys has generated controversy among church and human rights groups, who say that the preferable solution would have been to send the Lost Boys to schools in surrounding countries such as Kenya or Uganda. They say if Sudan loses its youth, the country will lose its future.

But the situation in Sudan remains volatile at best. Government forces, funded by huge profits from Sudan’s burgeoning oil market, continue to attack Christian villages in southern Sudan. Many women and children are forced into slavery and prostitution. An estimated 2 million people have been killed during the 18 years of civil war.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently condemned these human rights abuses and moved to aid the peace process and punish foreign companies engaged in oil and gas production in the African nation.

House members approved legislation that authorizes the president to make $10 million available to the rebels in Sudan's south and urges the administration to support peace talks and help deliver humanitarian aid blocked by the government.

The House also approved an amendment that would prohibit foreign companies from being listed on U.S. stock exchanges if they engage in oil exploration in Sudan. U.S. companies already are prohibited from operating in Sudan.

“The horror, the torture, the terror and the slavery are unspeakable,” said House Republican Leader Richard Armey of Texas.

Perhaps the cries of Sudan’s “Lost Boys” are finally being heard.

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

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