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Jewish World Review July 31, 2000 / 28 Tamuz, 5760

Nat Hentoff

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Attention Jesse Jackson: Sudanese children are still branded and enslaved -- ONE MEMBER of the press that has not ignored massive slavery and genocide in Sudan is the Catholic weekly, Our Sunday Visitor. In a June 18 article, David Morrison writes of the Nuba people - consisting of more than 30 indigenous tribes - in Central Sudan. He notes that since 1985, about 275,000 of them have died in the civil war driven by the National Islamic Front government in the North.

The ethnic cleansing of the oil fields under these black Christians, animists - and Muslims who refuse to obey the National Islamic Front - has resulted, Morrison adds, in "another 200,000 who remain locked away, under appalling conditions in government 'peace camps,' scattered across northern Sudan. Often they remain incarcerated in these places until they die."

Charlie Gillis of the Canadian National Post has written, in horrifying detail, of these 'peace camps,' but I have seen hardly any mention of them in the American press.

David Morrison of Our Sunday Visitor also speaks of a documentary film, "The Hidden Gift," which was made with the support of the Windhover Foundation. The film shows what has happened, and what continues to be inflicted on the Nuba people.

"We meet children," he writes, "who bear brands and marks on their bodies indicating their former status as property of northern Sudanese masters."

Many of these black children are still slaves, beaten and exploited by their masters - and forcibly converted to the Muslim religion.

If "The Hidden Gift" were to be shown on American national television, it would be logical to have Jesse Jackson, Clinton's official ambassador of democracy to Africa, introduce it and comment on it. But the Reverend Jackson remains resolutely silent on slavery in Sudan. And when he has accompanied Clinton on trips to Africa, including Clinton's trip to apologize to the people of Rwanda for failing to do anything to stop the genocide there, Jackson, along with the president, has been silent about the atrocities occurring in Sudan.

Recently, I spoke again to Pastor Chuck Singleton of the Loveland Church in Los Angeles. He heads to list of African-American pastors across the nation who signed an urgent plea to the Congressional Black Caucus to get the president to finally act on the killings and abductions in Sudan. (I cited their letter in a previous column.)

Pastor Chuck Singleton is a close friend of Jesse Jackson, and has accompanied him on some of his missions to rescue political prisoners on behalf of the American government. For over a year, Singleton has been telling me that Jackson would surely soon be speaking out about the terrorism against blacks by the governing National Islamic Front in Sudan.

"I'm still pushing it with him," Pastor Singleton told me in June. "I still have a degree of trust that he will respond. And I will tell him what he ought to say:

"Slavery is wrong. Everybody should be free. This is so simple and basic to the teachings of the Bible and the American tradition of freedom. Jesse must spur justice and righteousness on."

Chuck Singleton and I have a bond of spiritual sustenance in the music of jazz, the essence of which is freedom. As we were talking, I told him I had heard some months before that he had been one of the main speakers at a rally in Los Angeles protesting slavery in Sudan. Also present was a speaker from Project Islam Hope. Another anti-slavery activist had told me that Jesse Jackson's Los Angeles representative of the Rainbow Coalition had been invited to attend the rally.

She said that she would come, but called the next morning to say she could not participate because she had talked to Jesse Jackson and he had told her not to come. Pastor Chuck Singleton told me he was familiar with the story.

This June, Barbara Vogel, a fourth-grade teacher in Denver, came to Washington with members of her class who have for a long time been raising money that has successfully liberated slaves in Sudan. Their example has caused many other schoolchildren in this nation to become abolitionists. The Denver children wanted to meet the president and urge him to help, but he declined.

The children did meet with Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is hardly known as a champion of civil rights in this country, but when he heard what the children had to say, Jesse Helms wept - and promised that this fall his committee would hold a full-scale hearing on slavery and genocide in Sudan.

Jesse Jackson apparently has no tears for these enslaved black Africans.

JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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