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Speaker talks of slavery in Sudan
By Jimmy Ryals, The Daily Reflector

Beatings, rape, human burnings: Reports from three years of genocide in Sudan ‘s Darfur region have become almost routine.

But Sudanese immigrant Simon Deng’s story of life in Africa ‘s largest country included a practice that, to most Americans, died nearly 150 years ago.

“When you hear about the issue of slavery, everybody assumes we’re talking about it as part of the past,” Deng said Monday to an audience of 150 at East Carolina University ‘s Hendrix Theater. “It is true, you’re right. But unfortunately, slavery still exists, and slavery still exists today in the country of Sudan . Tonight, I’m standing before you as living proof of slavery.”

Deng described a Sudanese childhood marked by civil war and regular brushes with death. One near miss saw him watch two friends being gunned down as he fled militiamen, he said.
At age 9, Deng was kidnapped by a neighbor and given to an Arab family as a slave. During three and half years of servitude, he was the first awake and last asleep in the family’s house, sharing sleeping quarters with animals and eating scraps.

“I was constantly being kept under terror, being punished, even though I did nothing wrong … I had to be punished so that I had to see myself different from them,” Deng said.

Deng placed the current government-backed violence in predominantly Muslim Darfur into the context of decades-old civil, religious and ethnic conflict. The conflict once pitted Muslims against “infidels,” said Deng, who is Christian. Today, Sudanese Arabs target blacks, Muslim or not, he said.

“They took the religion of Islam, but they didn’t take the whole packet,” Deng said. “And today, they’re paying a price for it.”

The United Nations, Deng said, has done nothing to stop the violence. He called the United States Sudan’s last hope and urged his audience – mostly students – to write Congress and call for action.

He also called on them to urge ECU not to patronize companies that do business in Sudan .

“One dollar should not go to Khartoum ( Sudan ‘s capital),” Deng said. “And they’re going to feel it.”

Asked by a member of the audience which companies invest in Sudan , Deng named none.

Deng’s ECU appearance came two weeks after he completed a 300-mile walk from New York City , where he lives, to Washington , D.C. Deng closed his Sudan Freedom Walk with an appearance at the U.S. Capitol with U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton, Sam Brownback and others.