In Khartoum , I was the enemy.
This story about a Sudanese refugee Nyoun Yok Gargik is a reminder of the persecution that Sudanese Christians went through before civil war between the Muslim North and Christian/Animist South came to an end. Even today South Sudanese and other ethnic groups are marginalized in Sudan where power is controlled by Islamists.
By Titus Codjoe and Brett Haymaker
February 15, 2008 Sudan (citypaper.net)-My name is Nyoun Yok Gargik. My mother gave me my first name and I inherited my last name from my father. It is a strong name, strong because my mother gave it to me and because it refers to a building material composed of cement and grass that we use in Sudan . I do not know the year of my birth.
It was not until years later, after many nights staying up with my father listening to Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) news reports, when I would come to know of Islamic government soldiers burning villages and bombing cattle camps in the south. Leir, my home region, became a battleground. I was lucky. I never saw any rebels.
I moved to Rufah to attend boarding school in 1993. I remember a man at the school who spoke speculatively about Islam and often made religious jokes something you just did not do. Word spread. Islamists climbed the walls and cut the power so nobody could be seen. They broke into his room and slit his throat with a knife because he spoke badly about Islam. His blood was on the walls.
North Sudan is dominated by Islam. I am Christian. I am the minority. In Khartoum , I was the enemy.
After some time at the university, I led a bible study group. I received threats often, but there were others that shared my faith, and I was not alone. We knew of the unwritten law to not “reach out” to Muslims, but we organized a “Bible exhibition” anyway so we could demonstrate our faith to others.
A few Egyptian men who were part of our group did not show up the day of the exhibition. They had seen the written warning from Islamists posted the day before, threatening violent demonstration. Even professors from the university signed the warning. We propped up our tent and laid bibles out on tables. There were 15 of us, so when the 300 Islamic students showed up with sticks, throwing rocks and wielding knives, we ran for our lives.
Rocks flew into the tent striking peoples’ heads. A group of men cornered a friend named Peter, which is the English equivalent of his Arabic name. Peter was light-skinned, and did not look southern. They yelled at him, hitting him with sticks saying, “You are not from the South, why are you Christian?” Some protesters did not know what to do because he looked innocent, but Peter was trapped in a corner. A man knifed Peter’s side. He fell to the ground. Blood stained the walls built of cement and grass. All the Bibles burned.
A few of the demonstrators were connected with Sudanese Security, an organization similar to the Secret Service in the United States . My case against them made me a target, like the man killed at my school for talking badly about Islam. In Sudan , it is very common for people to be taken in the night. Many pastors of churches disappeared this way.