Your First Reaction is to Ignore...

January 18, 2008
By
Your first reaction is to ignore his resemblance to many of America’s civil rights activists, as one would listen to his ideas for equality. Jok Madut Jok dreams big, you see. His latest muse is the 11,000 people that have been abducted in 20 years of slave-raiding in Sudan, “people forgotten,” he says. But what’s worse is to “forget” an issue, you first must understand it, and so far many are not even there. That, says Jok, is something he wants to put right.

According to Jok the first step is “for each person to have a clear understanding of the issue.” So that has become the Loyola Marymount professor’s Holy Grail during his visits to schools across the country: for all students, teachers, parents, and congressmen (who he really wants you write to) to no longer be in the dark to the ugly plague affecting Sudan.


The corporate enterprise of slavery, he has said, has buyers, sellers, and middlemen. Sudan’s underlying threat is being entertained by the Arab-dominated Khartoum government. The state military has captured countless women and children from the south and sold them into slavery in the north, a fate which has those capture becoming: concubines, domestic servants, or even soldiers trained to fight against their own people. “Sudan is the only place where chattel slavery is not just surviving but experiencing a great revival,” says historian John Eibner.


And when Jok goes against the grain in speculating the beginnings of slavery, he draws conclusions from his “insider’s perspective” rather than those in their Ivory Tower; Jok, after all, is a member of the Dinka, a tribal group targeted by Arab slave traders. Rather than stressing civil war, he points to “the historic hostilities between the Islamic world to the north and, to the south, the Black African peoples, many of whom are Christian converts” as slavery’s true cause.
But even if thousands are saved from slavery, there will be more dangers and more death in Africa. Jok’s most profound influence has been to change expectations. His belief that every life should have equal value, backed by his personal mantra “it is not possible for any human society to be hopeless,” has not only given hope in the abolishment of slavery in Sudan but also into his other priority: Darfur. He demands from the United Nations and the United States the same effort that is given towards issues which hit home, as well as taking away the classic excuse for failure: not enough money. Because—like all his endeavors—he’s not asking for your money, just your time.





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