This Day in 2007

On October 19, 2007, from my old blog, Peaceful Ponderings:

You may have never heard of Emmanuel Jal. I myself had not until just this week. If you have heard his name, it may well have been associated with his budding hip hop career in the U.S. 

But, do you know his roots? Do you know where he came from? Jal has an upsetting story behind him that, fortunately, has given way to a life of luxury. Even so, he is still hurting and his country is, too.

Jal comes from the Sudan, recently in the news because of its rampant genocide that is repeatedly ignored by the rest of the world. He used to be a brain-washed child soldier there, forced to carry an AK-47 and kill innocent people for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – an ironic name to say the least.

Luckily for Jal, he was able to escape his tragic situation, which he is now rapping about in his original hip-hop. Living the high life he could not even dream about not so long ago, starving in the Sudanese bush, Jal has a powerful responsibility on his shoulders to give back and aid the country and the people he left behind. One means for Jal is through his own non-profit foundation, Gua Africa – meaning Peace Africa in the Sudanese language of Nuer (www.guaafricaonline.com).

Through Gua Africa, Jal is attempting to link Sudanese children with sponsors who can provide money for their education. Their mission as stated on there website goes as follows: “To work with individuals, families and communities to enable them to overcome the effects of war and poverty through centres of education and learning.”

Since the organization is fairly new, the amount of current sponsors are minimal to say the least – less than 20 according to Newsweek.com (Bartholet, “‘I Can’t Believe I’m a Human Being’,” 15 Oct 2007). Jal is working to promote his foundation in the hopes that that number can be increased.

It is only through the education of the world about what the child soldiers are going through that change can happen. Many people do not realize that these children are essentially taught to become non-human, detaching themselves from people, from feeling, from conscience and from each other. Interviews by Newsweek, Jal admitted, “I’ve lost a lot of friends. Most of the friends I had kept dying, until I was scared to attach myself to a friend emotionally. Because your friend today, tomorrow he is dead. I couldn’t carry that.”

On top of shooting guns bigger than the soldiers themselves (Jal himself was using his AK-47 at the age of 9), many children are killed or victims of kidnapping and sexual abuse. According to a BBC.com article from 23 Aug 2006, “Child welfare groups estimate there are at least 100,000 child soldiers around the world, many of them in Africa” (“Sudan armies abuse children”). Over a year later and the situation continues.

Though it is difficult for many of us in the Western world to imagine such atrocities taking place, there have been several films that bring the situation home. Looking through the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), one realizes just how long these issues have been happening in Sudan. One of the first productions about the Sudan is from 1993, entitled “Disappearing World: Orphans of Passage: Sudan.” “Lost Boys of Sudan” (2003) is a documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees from Africa to America. There are also “A Great Wonder: Lost Children of Sudan” (2003), “God Grew Tired of Us: The Story of Lost Boys of Sudan” (2006) and the upcoming 2009 release, “The Lost Boys of the Sudan.” There are also similar atrocities taking place in other areas of Africa. “What’s Going On?” (2003) depicts child soldiers in Sierra Leone, as does “Hotel Rwanda” (2004) in Rwanda and “Invisible Children” (2006) in Uganda.

If music is more your thing, be sure to check out Emmanuel Jal. His first CD, “Gua,” was released in Kenya in 2005 and produced by Jal himself, who could only afford to make a few thousand copies. They sold out quickly. His second CD, “Ceasefire,” can be found on Amazon.com for $13.99. His story will soon get world-wide recognition in the form of the film “War Child.” Keep track of its release on http://www.warchildmovie.com.

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