Freedom - A Fallen Soldier and a New Republic
This was my first July 4th as a proud and concerned military mom. My son has just sworn into the Air Force and is currently in basic training. We enjoyed the July 4th activities and were so proud to live in New Braunfels. Wednesday, I was honored to participate and witness the procession of Lance Coporal John Farias. I stood along with the many people of New Braunfels who haulted what they were doing and stood at attention for a fallen soldier. The display of respect and honor was something words cannot describe. It is contrasted with the loss and seemingly senseless death of such a young man who was so obviously loved by many. It seemed so unnecessary- so futile and one of a parent's worst fears.
On that same day, I spoke with an escaped slave from Sudan, Francis Bok. He was enslaved from the time he was 10 years old until he was17. The Sudanese government empowered bands of thugs to raid his village and to rape and kill the residents of his village. Francis being a young boy was taken as a slave. He endured 10 years of torture and a brutal servitude by a family supported and encouraged by the Sudanese government- the government of Francis’ home country. He was spoken to in Arabic, forced to attend a masque even though he was Christian and was forced to work endlessly and sleep next to the livestock he was forced to guard.
Francis attempted twice to escape, each time with brutal punishments, however when he was 17 years of age he finally made a successful attempt. After 10 years of servitude he hoped that his family was alive and he would be reunited. Francis was from a prosperous family and his father was a leader for the community. Francis has been taught that he would be very important when he grew up. He trustlingly reported what happened to him to his government and was eager to find his family. He was immediately jailed for saying that slavery existed in Sudan. There, Francis learned that both his parents had been killed on the day he was taken 10 years earlier. After several months he was released from jail. He left Sudan for Egypt and applied for and received refugee status and was resettled in the United States. Francis enrolled in school for the first time since he was 7 years old. He was different, spoke funny, and was very far behind so his American classmates made fun of him. Yet, Francis was thankful for an education, his new life and his long awaited freedom. Just before he completed school Francis invited his classmates to an event where he was the honored speaker- only then did they learn about why Francis worked so hard and strived to learn. The students then understood who Francis really was and respected him completely.
Rather than resting in his freedom Francis worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the fact the slavery exists and to solicit freedom for the victims left behind. By 2003, Francis was just over 20 years old. He had written a book, spoken before President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, been on a panel for Harvard’s Kennedy School for Government and traveled around the United States and Canada speaking about modern slavery. He pleaded for action for the victims of slavery who were still waiting to be rescued. He hoped that someday his country would be free and hoped he could return to his village.
The Republic of South Sudan will be born on July 9, 2011. I had the honor of working with Francis over the years and the pleasure this week of having him as a guest on my internet radio show TRAFFICKED on Here Women Talk Radio. This week, Francis will visit his childhood home and witness the birth of his new country while also enjoying the privileges and protections of being a U.S. citizen. The new Republic of South Sudan will be recognized by the United States and the United Nations as a legitimate government when its flag is raised on Saturday when the world’s newest nation is born.
This week with the celebration of July 4th, the return home of Lance CPL John Farias, and the birth of a new Republic born of enslaved people I understand in a very clear way what sacrifice and freedom mean. We do not fear our children being taken by government sponsored invaders, we can speak publicly about slavery, exploitation and other injustices without being jailed. Thank you to our US military and to Lance CPL Farias and his family. Nothing can make his loss understandable- however I have such a deep gratitude for what his sacrifice means to each of us in the context of Francis’ village which could not protect itself and its residents. I could not stop crying from sadness, gratefulness, and happiness. This is a week I will remember forever filled with all the emotions of freedom and the perspectives of freedom from the enslaved- the fallen- and a new Airman- freedom is costly however it is everything.