NEWS:American Buys Sudan Slaves' Freedom

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Subject: NEWS:American Buys Sudan Slaves' Freedom
From: Jyothi Kanics (jkanics@igc.org)
Date: Tue Jun 01 1999 - 17:11:56 EDT


I would like to hear from list members if they agree with Charles Jacob or
share the concerns/criticism of UNICEF...
List Facilitator

Wednesday May 26 1:58 AM ET

American Buys Sudan Slaves' Freedom

                     By LESLIE MILLER Associated Press Writer

                     BOSTON (AP) - Charles Jacobs was working as a management
                     consultant in 1993 when he read an article that
changed the focus of his
                     life.

                     Now he helps to buy slaves.

                     Jacobs heads a group that purchases freedom for slaves
sold in northern
Africa for about $50 a person. The practice has been criticized by UNICEF
and other groups as
encouraging slavery by creating a market. But Jacobs scoffs at such
suggestions.

``How many people have a chance to do something that's important?'' he asked.

Human rights organizations say millions of slaves are sold around the world
- as prostitutes in
Thailand, charcoal workers in Brazil, brick kiln operators in Pakistan and
bonded farmers in India.

After Jacobs read about the practice, he was inspired to proselytize
against slavery. He co-founded
the American Anti-Slavery Group in Somerville, Mass., which raises
awareness about the issue and
funds for Christian Solidarity International, a relief organization in
Switzerland.

Christian Solidarity actually does the dangerous hands-on work of buying
slaves from middlemen.
The group says it has freed at least 800 since 1995.

So far, the American Anti-Slavery Group has raised $35,000 to buy slaves in
war-torn Sudan.
Human rights activists say civil war has led Arab Muslim northerners there
to capture and enslave
black villagers who practice Christianity and traditional tribal religions.

Christian Solidarity conducts clandestine bush flights to southern Sudan to
redeem the slaves. Once
they are free, the former slaves are usually given a medical check, then
returned back home.

The story of Abuk Deng Akuei is typical of those recounted by American
Anti-Slavery: A Christian
girl in her early teens, Akuei was captured by an Arab militia that raided
her Sudanese village in
1997. She was sold to a man who beat her, raped her, forcibly circumcised
her and made her work
in the fields and sleep with his cows and goats.

She was returned by Christian Solidarity.

Although the goals of Christian Solidarity and American Anti-Slavery Group
may be noble, their
work has its critics.

UNICEF said the newly-freed slaves usually aren't monitored after their
release, so there is no
guarantee they won't be enslaved again. And the organization said paying
for slaves doesn't address
the underlying cause of slavery in the Sudan - the ongoing civil war.

Jacobs said UNICEF's attacks on redeeming slaves for money are helping draw
attention to his
cause.

The consultant-turned-abolitionist, who is scheduled to testify Thursday
before Congress on slavery
in Northern Africa, said the movement is gathering the support of elected
officials and black
churches in America. American Anti-Slavery has chapters in New York,
Washington, D.C., Miami,
Kansas City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Pomona, Calif., and Seattle, he said.

Schoolchildren are also raising money to buy slaves their freedom.

Last year, Barbara Vogel's fourth-grade class at the Highline Elementary
School in Aurora, Colo.,
began a fund-raising campaign that has raised more than $50,000.

At least 100 schools around the country have since joined the effort: a
junior high in Deep River,
Conn., held a dance; an eighth-grade class in Boothbay Harbor, Maine,
auctioned off art;
sixth-grade students in Miami, including many Haitian immigrants, sold candy.

``This is both sweet and sad,'' said Jacobs. ``You have these white kids
and black kids and they
know slavery is bad - after all, we're the nation that tore itself apart
over it.''


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