Freedom's Advance; Christians Evangelize, Labor to End Slavery in Sudan
Byline: Jen Waters, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Dr. Gloria E. White-Hammond, co-pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston, founded My Sister's Keeper in 2002 in an effort to secure peace and justice throughout Sudan.
The nonprofit organization focuses on ministering to women in southern Sudan, she said, but her advocacy work spans the country.
"On the ground in Darfur, it seems like two steps forward and three steps back," said Dr. White-Hammond, 57. "We are still working hard and confident that our labor will not be in vain."
Dr. White-Hammond began working in 2001 with the nonprofit Christian Solidarity International and now serves on the board of its U.S. division. It was through her involvement that she learned more about slavery in Sudan.
"I was naive in that I had not understood that most of those enslaved in Sudan were women and children," Dr. White-Hammond said. "I had a clear sense of calling to be in support of women as they reintegrated into their communities. Initially, our projects were targeted toward returning women. Then we realized that everyone was in a dire situation."
Since 1995, tens of thousands of people from southern Sudan have been bought out of slavery, said John Eibner, chief executive officer of Christian Solidarity International USA.
In the early 1990s, the Dinka people established peace initiatives with their Arab neighbors, allowing for the return of Dinkas enslaved by Arab militias, he said.
"The local Arabs got to go to the south for water during the dry season, January to May, and trade without being attacked," Mr. Eibner said. "In return, the Dinkas expected them not to participate in the war and help facilitate the return of slaves."
Mr. Eibner said Christian Solidarity International supports the local mechanism for the exchange of slaves. Increasingly, slaves are being traded for cattle vaccines rather than Sudanese currency. The vaccines are difficult to access, and the typical price is about $33 per slave.
"The revival of slavery coincided with the outbreak of the civil war in 1983," Mr. Eibner said. "With the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement, the slave raiding in southern Sudan stopped. There was no economic change that brought it about."
The Arabs take slaves for sex and to work in the field, he said, but mainly as trophies.
"Slavery in Sudan has primarily been a military and political phenomenon, not an economic one," Mr. Eibner said. "There is no great economy that depends on slavery."
Because many of the people enslaved during the raids are still being held captive, Mr. …