Tuesday, May 27, 2014

South Sudan is potentially headed to the worst humanitarian disaster in modern history.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Planning the Akot Medical Mission: now closed, sadly.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Notes on life and death in the Meningitis Belt of Africa. We will always remember Kuot.

Paul and Rose Kuot are amazing Sudanese Christians that love the people of Akot-- often taking in the destitute and abandoned. Their oldest son is named Kuot, which means, Sour Pumkin. There is nothing sour about them. The photo below is their home.
Hart gave Kuot a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe once. He lit up and asked "Is this a book about God?" Hart explained that this was a book about how God might have been in a world like the one the author imagined. He read the book many times, often out loud to nearby children. Soon they all knew the story.

This area is in a region sometimes called "the Meningitis Belt of Africa," because of the cyclic epidemics that sweep through the area. I was in one and it was bad. When Kuot died suddenly of meningitis, we were devastated. I wrote a single email to around a dozen people describing the need for $35,000 in order to vaccinate the village and surrounding areas. Within weeks, we had exactly that much. When my two daughters came with me with a group of medical students we vaccinated around 9,000 people-- all in the midst of another regional war with soldiers and fighting all around. I have never been more proud of a group of young people in my life. The next time the epidemic swept the area there was a blank spot on the epidemiology maps around our village-- an amazing thing. One epidemiologist estimated that 127 children survived the next epidemic because of their work.
While there doing the vaccines, we held a memorial service for Kuot, hoping to encourage his parents that he did not die in vain and that neither we nor God had forgotten him. It was the hardest thing I ever did.
Rose wrote me the letter below.
 It is now one of most cherished possessions.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Unedited description from a Dinka about Dinka beliefs regarding life after death.

 Dead are not Dead :

According to the Dinka culture especially Agaar Dead people are considered alive after death.The spirit
of deceased person of the remained family is said to live after he or she had died.

They believe that there is world of the dead and the ghost will still visit the remain alive  family.
At night the ghost may visit with the other group who died long ago.
If the deceased was unmarried young man or young lady.
He | she can get married to his | her wife .This can be done by one of the relative who is alive.

The father ,uncles and the rest of the relatives proposed a girl to be married to the ghost.
When they have all agreed for the girl,the whole clan visit the girl family and declared to  the girl and
the parents that they come to marriage their girl for the ghost.

After the negotiation, the clan came back for collecting cows for marriage.
The girl will know very well that when she get married to that man who is a kinsman ,she will stay with
him like a widow.The children born to her are call for the dead person.

Even the children will call the man who born them their uncle or any kind of the  relation he has with
the ghost.

The man  can marriage his own wife again.The children which can be produce by the second lady will
be for the man because she is his wife.

According to the Dinka belief to the ghost, is that if the younger person to the ghost marriage his own
wife forgetting the ghost ,the ghost will kill the children.
The ghost will start attacking the family saying that the line of family order is cut.

Let,s  me say if someone elder brother died and the younger brother ignored the deceased
person,the ghost will kill the children or cause some of the children to be  abnormal.
According to their beliefs,a man can marriage for his dead brother, father,s uncle, father,s aunt ,
father,s sister, father,s   brother  ,mother,s  brother.
A man can,t marriage  for  his sister,s son.
This is because they don,t want another clan to marriage for another clan.
But for the case of mother,s brother,they valued the son of  a sister to the dead person to marry for
the uncle.

If you marry for the mother,s brother the children are belong to the clan of your
Mother,s brother.Even if the girls you have produced got married ,you will be given small portion just
like two or three cows.
And the whole dowry belong to the clan of your mother.

After the children grown up they joint their clan most especially boys.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Interview with the man who cut off the ears of some Atuot girls in order to start a war. He has now repented of this action and works as a police office. Interesting story in my original notes form.

Interview with Akec Bilal (Gabrial)
Akec was born in Akot. He is not certain of his age. When we asked when he got the marks (scars of manhood ritual), he replied that it was in 1973. In the area of Akot, most youth get their marks at age 15. We believe, therefore, that he was 20 years old when the incident described here occurred. He said that for as long as he can recall, there has been tensions between the Atuot and Agar. He and several other interviewees, however, recall only 4 incidences between 1975 and the present (2005).
In 1975 "a man went to fish at the lake where the Atuot also fish. The Atuot beat the man, but did not kill him.
Why did they beat him?
“The Atuot were fishermen and the Agaar man went to fish.”
The man was Akec's brother. It “annoyed” him. He looked for some Atuot on which he could take revenge, the the Atuot would not come out of their territories where they could be attacked. Three years after the events that took place on the lake, Akec found 5 girls in the forest. He caught one of them and cut off her ear. He denies doing anything else to this girl or to the others.
 When the girl returned home, the Atuot “were annoyed and blew the whistle and beat the drums to call the people to war.” They organized themselves to attack the Agaar with spears, sheilds, clubs, and bows and arrows. The Agaar were similarly armed except that the Agaar had no bows and arrows. Neither side possessed firearms. The Atuot came to the Agaar town of Akot with their warriors. Many people were displaced at that time from their ancestral lands near the border, including the translator (Mayam- Gordon). His family has never returned to their lands and now live nearer Akot.
The Agaar knew the Atuot were coming and prepared for them.
How did you know they were coming?
“Because I cut off the girl's ear.”
Did you know cutting off the girl's ear would start a war?
“Yes, but my brother was beaten. That is why I did it. I wanted to generate a war.”
According to Akec, 32 Agaar and 32 Atuot were killed in the war of 1978. Another 12 on each side were wounded. The exact equal distribution of the casualties raised unanswerable questions regarding the accuracy of the data.
The war stopped when the government troops and police intervened. They arrested all the people who had killed anyone (34 total) and put them in prison. Akec was among those imprisoned. They all spent 5  years in prison (1978-1983). Alec was released when he was taken before a court and made to pay a fine of 9 cows. His uncle paid the fine. Normally, the fine for murder is 31 cows, but that only applies to Atuot-on Atuot killing or Agaar on Agaar killing. Akec says that “prison was bad. Bad food. That is why I am still so skinny.”
Akec knew of another incident in 2003 where Majur Mayam (Atuot) was killed by an unkown person. The Atuot blamed the Agar and took revenge.
Presently, Akec works as a police officer in Akot. He has a wife and 5 children. He converted to Christianity in 1991 after encountering a Kawaja[1] missionary from the ECS (Episocopalian Church of Sudan). He now attends a small Baptist congregation in Akot. He says what he did was very wrong. He would not do it now because he is now a policeman.
Also, the Atuat “are our brothers as there is no river between us.”
The phrase “there is no river between us” was also used by Martin Majok in during his interview. It appears the phrase has both a geographic usage (there literally is no river or natural boundary between the Agaar and the Atuot territory) and a metaphorical meaning. In using it, the speaker appears to mean that there exists no tangible reason that the Agaar and the Atuot cannot consider themselves one people. In fact, there was a referendum in 2004 on just such a move. The referendum was to politically consolidate the Atuot and Agaar as one county. The referendum failed by a large margin.

[1] Traditionally a term for Europeans, the label Kawaja is often used for any non-Dinka and non-Arab. Most often, it is translated “White Man,” but the author has seen the term used of other black Africans (Kenyans and Ugandans) who are usually of lighter skin color.