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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Former Sudanese slave speaks on campus

Published: October 26, 2007
Section: News

Francis Bok, a Sudanese refugee, spoke Tuesday night at a lecture entitled Escape from Slavery, hosted by The David Project and STAND. Bok, who was enslaved for 10 years, shared his experiences, joined by the insights of Dr. Charles Jacobs, president of the David Project and co-founder of the American Anti-slavery Group. About 30 people attended the event.

The lecture mainly addressed slavery and the conflict in Sudan as well as why the issue is given comparatively little attention in the United States. Jacobs pointed out that issues like Sudan and Tibet receive much less attention compared to issues like apartheid. Before introducing Bok, he presented his own explanation of this phenomenon. When decent white people see evil done by people like themselves, they are animated. When they see evil done by people who are not like them, they are blushed and embarrassed.

Boks story outlined his journey from abduction at the age of seven to his escape at the age of 17. In 1986, while at the marketplace, Bok was abducted by Sudanese militia. Bok said, I cannot tell you how many people I saw shot dead [that night], I saw blood running like water in a small river.

Bok was taken to Northern Sudan where he served for ten years as a slave. He recalled the cruelty of his masters wife, who often threatened to kill him. I was taught never to say no thats what my master told me, he said.

After two attempts at escape when he was 14, Bok was able to escape in 1996 to Khartoum, Sudan, and later to Cairo, where he reported his case to the UN. He was transported to North Dakota in 1999. Since his move to the U.S., Bok has joined forces with Jacobs, sharing his story across the country.

After the lecture Jacobs commented, youre not going to defeat a jihad with rock concerts and wristbandswhat is America actually going to sacrifice itself for?

Daniel Millenson 09, the President of the student anti-genocide coalition, STAND, at Brandeis, was more optimistic about the efforts of activists. Millenson said, I think that its easy to get discouraged about the whole situation, but I would emphasize that there is a lot of good that activists have done. Southern Sudan has been largely helped by their work.

The lecture inspired those present to take action and get involved. Sarit Luban 11 expressed that, Of course, it was overwhelming to hear his story, but it also reminded me strongly how important it is that I get involved there are so many heart-breaking, mind-blowing, awful things going on in the world at any given moment, and things like that are not going to solve themselves.

Susan Landau 10, who helped coordinate the event, said as people were [Bok] told me he was inspired by the active, informed and interested people at Brandeis, and that the questions and debates …impressed him greatly. During his lecture, Bok even expressed that someday, he hoped to become a part of the Brandeis community as a student himself.