By Matt Chancey
When did you have your first memory? I vaguely remember my nursery at home when I was probably two or three years old. Some people can remember even earlier. But a young man I recently met in South Sudan has no memory of his childhood.
I met Santino on a recent trip to the refugee community of Jaac on the Darfur border. Santino was a new refugee, having just arrived from the North. I soon found out that Santino was also a slave who had recently escaped.
Although slavery is technically illegal in Sudan, it is still practiced by many people. The tragedy of Santino’s slavery is that he does not recall when he was first enslaved. When he told me this, I assumed it was because he was taken as a young child. But I was wrong. Santino told me his relatives claim he was enslaved at the age of 13. This puzzled me, because I had not heard of anyone who had no memories of their childhood.
Then I remembered reading an article about how people who have suffered terrible physical abuse sometimes block out certain things from their past. It was then that Santino’s story began to make sense. The reality of slavery in Sudan is that masters often viciously abuse their slaves in the most despicable ways.
These experiences would make one want to forget. And I am afraid this is likely the sad reality of Santino’s past. In the days leading up to the referendum in South Sudan, Santino, now in his early 20s, was encouraged to run away by some Dinka friends living in Darfur. They told him he was a Dinka, not an Arab, and should run to his native home in the South. Santino took his friends’ advice and returned home. It was then that his relatives helped him piece together his life story.
I am sharing Santino’s story so PPF supporters can pray for this young man specifically. Not only did he arrive from Darfur with few possessions, he has no past. But thanks to your partnership with PPF, Santino can have a future. Please take a moment and pray for this young man — and for all the young men and women served by the ministry of Persecution Project Foundation.