Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Where is Kajo Keji, South Sudan?

Screen shot 2014-11-10 at 6.49.55 AM

Today the church is praying for Kajo Keji, South Sudan, the world’s newest country. While the world moves on, there is still so much unrest in a part of Africa that went barely noticed until oil was discovered there and the janjawi’in began systematically killing off villages and towns.

Today I pray for my friend Manyang, who visited us from South Sudan and who has rarely known a time in his life when the South Sudan was not being attacked.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Character, Cultural, Dharfur, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, South Sudan | Leave a comment

Pregnant Sudanese Woman Sentenced to Death for ‘Apostasy’

She is also charged with adultery, for marrying a Christian man and (gasp) having sex with him. Now pregnant with her second child, Mariam claims she has never been a Muslim, was raised Christian, but the judge is applying new and strict Sharia laws.

Screen shot 2014-05-16 at 5.08.34 PM

As you might guess, I do not usually use Fox News as a news source, but this is an update on a story I am following:

International outrage grows for Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy

Published May 16, 2014FoxNews.com

Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani married in a formal church ceremony in 2011. The couple has an 18-month-old son, Martin, who is with Meriam in jail.
International outrage is mounting over the death sentence a Sudanese judge ordered for the pregnant wife of an American citizen — all because she refuses to renounce her Christian faith.

Meriam Ibrahim, 26, was sentenced Thursday after being convicted of apostasy. The court in Khartoum ruled that Ibrahim must give birth and nurse her baby before being executed, but must receive 100 lashes immediately after having her baby for adultery — for having relations with her Christian husband. Ibrahim, a physician and the daughter of a Christian mother and a Muslim father who abandoned the family as a child, could have spared herself death by hanging simply by renouncing her faith.

“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam,” Judge Abbas Khalifa told Ibrahim, according to AFP. “I sentence you to be hanged to death.”

But Ibrahim held firm to her beliefs.

“I was never a Muslim,” she answered. “I was raised a Christian from the start.”

Ibrahim was raised in the Christian faith by her mother, an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia. She is married to Daniel Wani, a Christian from southern Sudan who has U.S. citizenship, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I was never a Muslim. I was raised a Christian from the start.”
– Meriam Ibrahim
The cruel sentence drew condemnation from Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department and U.S. lawmakers.

“The refusal of the government of Sudan to allow religious freedom was one of the reasons for Sudan’s long civil war,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees U.S. policy in Africa, said in a statement. “The U.S. and the rest of the international community must demand Sudan reverse this sentence immediately.”

Amnesty International called the sentence a “flagrant breach” of international human rights law and the U.S. State Department said it was “deeply disturbed” by the ruling, which will be appealed.

Khalifa refused to hear key testimony and ignored Sudan’s constitutional provisions on freedom of worship and equality among citizens, according to Ibrahim’s attorney Al-Shareef Ali al-Shareef Mohammed.

“The judge has exceeded his mandate when he ruled that Meriam’s marriage was void because her husband was out of her faith,” Mohammed told The Associated Press. “He was thinking more of Islamic Shariah laws than of the country’s laws and its constitution.”

Ibrahim and Wani married in a formal ceremony in 2011 and have an 18-month-old son, Martin, who is with her in jail. The couple operate several businesses, including a farm, south of Khartoum, the country’s capital. Wani fled to the United States as a child to escape the civil war in southern Sudan, but later returned. He is not permitted to have custody of the little boy, because the boy is considered Muslim and cannot be raised by a Christian man.

Sudan’s penal code criminalizes the conversion of Muslims into other religions, which is punishable by death. Muslim women in Sudan are further prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, although Muslim men are permitted to marry outside their faith. Children, by law, must follow their father’s religion.

Islamic Shariah laws were introduced in Sudan in the early 1980s under the rule of autocrat Jaafar Nimeiri, whose decision led to the resumption of an insurgency in the mostly animist and Christian south of Sudan. An earlier round of civil war lasted 17 years, ending in 1972. In 2011, the south seceded to become the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir, an Islamist who seized power during a 1989 military coup, said his county will implement Islam more strictly now that the non-Muslim south is gone. A number of Sudanese have been convicted of apostasy in recent years, but they have all escaped execution by recanting their faith. Religious thinker and politican Mahmoud Mohammed Taha — a vocal critic of Nimeiri — was sentenced to death after his conviction of apostasy and was executed at the age of 76 in 1985.

Ibrahim’s case first came to the attention of authorities in August, when members of her father’s family complained that she was born a Muslim but married a Christian man. They claimed her birth name was “Afdal” before she changed it to Meriam. The document produced by relatives to indicate she was given a Muslim name at birth was a fake, Mohammed said.

Ibrahim refused to answer the judge when he referred to her as “Afdal” during Thursday’s hearing.

Ibrahim was initially charged with having illegitimate sex last year, but she remained free pending trial. She was later charged with apostasy and jailed in February after she declared in court that Christianity was the only religion she knew.

The US-based Center for Inquiry is demanding that all charges against Ibrahim be dropped, saying the death sentence is a clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which forbids persecution or coercion of religious beliefs and the right to marry.

“Religious belief must never be coerced and free expression must never be punished, through threat of imprisonment, violence, or any other means,” the group wrote in a letter to Sudan’s UN ambassador, H.E. Hassan Hamid Hassan. “This cannot go unanswered, and the world will not stand for it.”

Fox News’ Joshua Rhett Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

May 16, 2014 Posted by | Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Health Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, South Sudan, Sudan, Values, Women's Issues | | 4 Comments

Giving Birth to Gun in the South Sudan

This is the newest blog entry from my friend Manyang David Mayar in the South Sudan He visited Pensacola as part of an IVLP program with our Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council:

Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 11.12.04 AM

p01qcvym

Pregnant women fleeing the fighting in Jonglei state, South Sudan.
I was in the town of Bor when fighting broke out last month in South Sudan. I managed to escape the town despite being shot in the arm. But many other people had a far tougher time – people like Nyiel Magot, nine months pregnant and faced with the awful choice of staying in Bor’s hospital or fleeing into the bush.

Against her doctors’ advice, Nyiel decided to escape the immediate danger, and with her five children, took a narrow path out of town which was packed with people also heading to safety.

But, she told me, with every step she took, she grew weaker and more and more people overtook her.

“I was really tired and the pain became really unbearable,” Nyiel said. “I knew the time had come for me to give birth and I had to get out of Bor immediately to escape the attackers.”

Giving birth in the bush

Later that evening, the pain finally forced Nyiel to stop. Instead of a hospital ward, she found an abandoned grass-thatched house.

Luckily, there was a traditional birth attendant nearby who used her bare hands to help Nyiel deliver a healthy baby boy.

But the cold nights and hot days of December in South Sudan soon started to take their toll on the new born and reports of an imminent rebel attack forced Nyiel and her family to leave their hideout.

They walked for days until they crossed the River Nile and came to a large camp for displaced people in Awerial. And then her baby caught diarrhoea and started to vomit.

He was rushed to a hospital in Juba where, after days of treatment, he recovered.

A child of conflict

It was in the hospital in Juba that I met Nyiel and heard her story – and also learned the name of her little baby.

Nyiel had called him Matuor, the Dinka word for ‘gun’, because he was born amid gunfire.

As the conflict continues in South Sudan, I fear he won’t be the last baby born in the bush with such a name.

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Blogging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, South Sudan, Survival | Leave a comment

Manyang: Our Friend in South Sudan

God willing, in life, people cross paths and share their stories. I told you about Manyang, how he visited us near Christmas in 2012 and how his story changed our lives. Now, when we hear stories of the South Sudan, it is immediate, it is real, because we know the story of a young boy grown to be a very fine man, who survived the chaos and horrors of the janjaweed invasions and tribal conflicts before his country attained nationhood.

I recently wrote to Manyang, hoping he is still alive. It was that basic. I asked him, if he could, just to let us know he was alive, and that whether he could respond or not, our prayers were with him, for him, his family and his country.

This morning, by the grace of God, I received this wonderful response. Please, join your prayers with ours for Manyang/David, and his country, South Sudan, for peace, safety and prosperity, for justice and equitable distribution of resources.

I am glad to hear from you again. I have been talking of the nice people I was able to meet in Pensacola. Whenever, I talk about these people you are the first people I talk about. I still remember the nice dinner we had in your house.

I think God touched you to worry about my safety. You might have heard from news report the critical condition my country – South Sudan is going through. It is just like the story of my childhood to many other children now.

A political row in the ruling party here, turned violent in Juba, the capital of this country on December 15, 2013. Heavy artillary were fired and sporadic gunfire broke out in most part of the city. it was a genesis of another war which is now going on. Thousands of people were killed only in Juba.

I was in Bor, the captal of Jonglei State, about 125 miles north of Juba. The violent in Juba quickly spread to us in Bor and I was forced to flee to the bush with my family and the rest of the civil population as the town was quickly seized by anti-government forces. I carried my back on my head, walk long distant and drink dirty water again and eat grains when I was in the bush for seven days.

(This is a screenshot from Google Maps; Bor is the “A” north of Juba)

Screen shot 2014-01-16 at 9.29.01 AM

(These are photos from Manyang’s BBC blog, referenced below. Please go there to read more in his own words about the terrors of the South Sudan chaos.)

Screen shot 2014-01-16 at 9.17.12 AM

Screen shot 2014-01-16 at 9.18.26 AM

The government forces recaptured the town and we returned to the town. Many more people were killed and bodies were lying everywhere and there was a terrible smell. The rebels killed everyone they found in the town including old women, lame, deaf and all vulnerable people. And I was wounded in the upper left arm by a stray bullet of soldiers celebrating. The wound has healed and I am fine now.

It did not take long for the rebel to recaptured the town of goverment forces for a second time. And I was force to flee, this time cross the River Nile by boat to a makeshift camp across the river. This was where I got an access to go to Juba which was abit calm at the time. I am now in Juba staying in fear, not knowing where else to go.

God was speaking to you those conditions I was in in December and part of January. We spent Christmas and New Year Day on the run. I am glad for your prayers were able to lead me out of that mess. I still have hope that your prayers will continue to press political leaders to reach a peaceful solution to this crisis.

I have a live blog where I am sharing my bush experiences. You may have a look.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcmediaaction/posts/Pens-down-in-South-Sudan

Share my message with the rest of the great people of Pensacola. My heart is always there with you.

Blessings

Manyang

January 16, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Safety, South Sudan, Sudan, Survival | , , , | 1 Comment