In 1987, a group of Murahaleen (Arab slave raiders) rode in on horseback and invaded the Dinka village of Aweil in Bahr el Gazal. They killed everyone they could catch, except for the women and children. These they kept alive for the slave markets in the north. Santino Garang, a young seven-year-old Dinka boy, watched as his family and relatives were slaughtered. He and all the children from his village were kidnapped and taken north to be sold in the slave markets. Slavery was legalized in 1989 by the National Islamic Front and continues to be openly practiced in the Sudan…with mostly Christians being bought and sold by their Muslim captors.
Santino was given an Arab name to replace his Dinka name, but his master (Ibrahim) only referred to him by the pejorative “Abid,” which means “black slave.” For ten years, Joseph languished under the cruel whip of his master.
During his enslavement, Joseph lived in conditions unfit for a dog — surviving on garbage and leftover scraps from his master’s table. He was often beaten, tortured, and abused by his Arab master. African slaves, especially Christians, are viewed as lower than animals.
Joseph was raised Christian. His desire to worship was mocked by his master, who told him every day for10 years that he had no business worshiping, since he was of no more value than a donkey. Joseph was charged with fetching water and tending his master’s camels. He performed his daily tasks honestly, in spite of his master’s cruelty. One Sunday morning, he heard singing. The singing of hymns and worship were food for his lonely soul. His heart got the best of him. He followed the melodies to their source and sat in the Christian service — a church service like those he remembered as a boy.
His comfort and joy were to be short lived. When he returned home to his master, several camels had escaped and were unaccounted for. Joseph searched frantically for the camels. But before he could find them, his master flew into a fit of rage and swore he would kill Joseph and do to him what had been done to Jesus…he would CRUCIFY HIM.
After brutally beating Joseph on the head and all over his body, Ibrahim laid him out on a wooden plank. He then nailed Joseph to the plank by driving nine-inch nails through his hands, knees and feet. He then poured acid on Joseph’s legs to inflict even greater pain and finally left him for dead. Joseph lay crucified to a wooden board for seven days.
How did he survive?
The master’s young son heard Joseph moaning and crying for help and had pity on him. Risking his father’s wrath, he secretly brought Joseph food and water for the next week. Joseph slipped in and out of consciousness and delirium. Finally, the slave owner’s son pulled out the nails and carried him to a medical clinic. Frankly, it is a miracle he survived.
In case you are wondering, no criminal charges were brought against Joseph’s master, because he acted within his “rights” under currently-practiced “sharia” law. To say that Christians are second class citizens in much of the Islamic world (not just the Sudan) is a cruel understatement.
After his return from the “hospital,” Ibrahim saw little value in Joseph’s life; he was crippled from the nails being driven through his knees. Joseph was “redeemed” by Christian slave redeemers who arranged his return to Bahr el Gazal.
When he arrived back in the village from which he was kidnapped ten years previous, he was warmly welcomed. The village elders decided he must have a new name in order to mark the beginning of a new life. He was given the biblical name Joseph, because, like Joseph in the Old Testament, he had been sold into slavery.
Joseph is one of a small number of people in the 21st Century who know what it means to be crucified because of his Christian faith. But the reality is that hundreds of thousands of our fellow Christians in the Sudan have been enslaved, driven from their homes, hunted, and murdered by devoted followers of Islam. This war of Islamic cruelty has raged for centuries in the Sudan.
Less than a year after meeting Joseph, I returned again to his village. With me on the trip was Dr. Richard Bransford of Bethany Crippled Children Center in Kijabi, Kenya. I asked him to come and examine Joseph. Thanks be to God that after a thorough examination, Dr. Bransford determined that no surgery would be necessary to correct the injuries caused by Joseph’s crucifixion.
But far more important than his physical healing was the incredible emotional and spiritual healing that had taken place. Joseph’s entire countenance had changed. His head was lifted up. He made eye contact. He spoke and smiled and laughed.
Joseph told me that God had enabled him to completely forgive Ibrahim!
Those who knew Joseph before hardly recognize him today because of his contagious smile and the joy that is now his constant companion.