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ICC NOTE: This woman has just recently visited Sudan and seen the atrocities in Darfur. She also highlights the need to remember the South, the persecuted church who have endured over 20 years of genocide.

Woman tells harrowing tales of Sudan

By Kevin Ryden

Published: Monday, May 15, 2006

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Woman tells harrowing tales of Sudan

By Kevin Ryden

When she was a little girl, Pastor Heidi McGinness witnessed the horrors of war in her small German village during World War II, but was able to escape. Through the years, she has worked to help save the lives of others.

A naturalized American citizen who moved from Germany when she was still a young girl, McGinness has traveled with an organization that has worked to win the release of more than 300 people in Sudan who were slaves.

McGinness is an ordained Presbyterian minister and spoke Saturday at First Presbyterian Church about her experiences in the troubled African nation and the work of the human-rights organization, Christian Solidarity International or CSI.

“Every journey into south Sudan and in south Darfur is a quite compelling one,” she said Thursday from her home in Denver , Colo.

There has been a “tidal wave of suffering,” including genocide, in Sudan for 21 years, said McGinness, who serves as CSI’s outreach director. She has seen thousands of refugees flee on foot from an oppressive, radical government. “I have seen this with my own eyes since 2004,” she said.

The people who are fleeing have nothing and go to places where nothing awaits them. A group of people CSI reached had not had any medications in six months.

When McGinness traveled to Sudan in April, hundreds of thousands of people were fleeing to the northern part of the country. Many people have run out of food and mass starvation is anticipated if the harvest is unsuccessful or rain is scarce.

The people of Sudan have been subjected to genocide for 21 years, but it has been billed as a civil war, McGinness said. She feels the public is not well informed on the issue, but praised celebrities like George Clooney for helping raise awareness about the atrocities, the victims and the perpetrators.

McGinness is not medically trained but when she travels to Sudan , she takes a large first-aid kit with her. “It’s like walking into a war zone after the bombs stop dropping,” she said.

Pastors have seen members of their congregations killed, mothers have searched for the enslaved children and fathers have tried to sell cattle to win the freedom of their children, only to be told they need to sell more cattle.

Those who have ended up in slavery have been forced to work without pay with cattle, as concubines or in a variety of other circumstances.

There is evidence that many slaves have been taken out of Sudan , according to McGinness, and most have been persecuted for being Christians. Southern Sudan is 70 percent Christian, McGinness said.

Slavery is a crime against humanity and God, she said, describing herself as a “modern-day abolitionist.”

Despite the hardships they have faced, many former slaves fiercely held onto their faith. Sudanese are generous, kind and loving people, McGinness feels, and they are “Christians, magnificent, pious Christians.”

“I can tell you examples of their sacrifice that will make you weep,” she said, explaining that one man rode a bike 150 miles to deliver medicine to people suffering from meningitis.

McGinness also planned to speak Saturday about the history of the conflict in the region, the warning signs of genocide, the novel “The Lost Boys of Sudan” and where some refugees are now located in the United States and what they are doing.

McGinness was recently asked to be the keynote speaker at the National Genocide Coalition Conference.

She, along with officials from the State Department and the White House, attended a briefing on Darfur in Washington , D.C. in March.