Before leaving for Africa, I signed a liability release that said, "risks include, but are not limited to, the risk of death, incarceration, torture, bodily injury exposure to war, terrorism, hazardous diseases." I didn't mention this to my mother, who when I was studying to be a photojournalist would say, "Just don't go off to some war zone."
But I wanted to tell a story that few others were telling. In Sudan, an Islamic fundamentalist regime wages war against the predominantly Christian and animist South. The regimeaided by the investments of multinational petroleum corporationshas been attempting to convert the region to Islam and drive civilians from oil-rich lands. Seventeen years of civil war have killed 2 million people. More than 4 million have been made homeless.
Our team of seven, all but myself from a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania, felt compelled to respond to horror stories of religious persecution and slavery in Sudan. A member of their congregation was now the Africa director for Safe Harbor International, the Christian relief organization that would host us. We hoped our emergency medical aid and the testimonies we'd take home would somehow make a difference.
We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, and waited for clearance from the Ugandan government to fly to a base in Uganda and then to Sudan.
The clearance never came.