This article was first published in The Review
By Jessica Ermak
November 15, 2010
At the age of 7, Francis Bok was sent to the local market in his hometown in Sudan to sell eggs and peanuts. He never made it home. "I saw the blood running like water to a river," Bok says. Slave traders had raided the market and slaughtered his mother and sister while his back was turned. Bok was then forced into slavery.
Bok, now a free man and fervent abolitionist, spoke to a crowd in Sharp hall on Thursday in an event sponsored by the InterVarsity Christian as part of Justice Week. The goal of the week was to raise awareness for international and national human trafficking.
In captivity, Bok says for 10 years he tended to his captor's cattle, all the while wishing for freedom." I used to lie awake at night and wonder who was going to come and save me," he says. Two million people were murdered during the violence in Sudan, Bok says. Many of those who were not killed were abducted into slavery.
After three attempts, Bok was able to escape in 1996 and fled to Cairo. There he received UN refugee status and immigrated to America in 1999. Bok says he attributes God to sustaining him during his enslavement, as well as personal strength. He hopes that others still in captivity will one day share his happy fate.
"I'm waiting for the sea to open, for my people to be free," Bok says. Bok says he is not interesting in complaining about his situation. Since his immigration, he has had the opportunity to share his story with a number of people, including the late Coretta Scott King and former President George W. Bush. His voice masks any exhaustion as it reverberates throughout the lecture hall reaching his overflowing audience."My people are dying as we speak now," he says. "We are fighting for our dignity, for basic freedoms, to be recognized and loved.
Volunteer and human rights lobbyist Thomas Dodd opened the lecture by estimating the number of slaves worldwide at 27 million people, three times more than during the transatlantic slave trade. Until 1996, Bok was among those millions. Bok has lived a life divided. He has enjoyed his freedom and the opportunities America has presented, but a part of him is always with his people, and that is why is campaigning for change, he says.
An upcoming referendum will give southern Sudan an opportunity to separate into an independent, democratic nation. Sudan is currently ruled by Omar Hassan al-Bashir who came to power in a military coup after the second Sudanese Civil War in 1989. Al-Bashir has since been indicted by the International Crime Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, Bok says.
He says he envisions a new democratic Sudan, free of religious intolerance. On Jan. 9, he plans to cast his absentee ballot from Washington, D.C., one of only three polling centers from which Sudanese residents can vote. He encourages students who are interested in supporting southern Sudan in its upcoming election to lobby Congress in favor of an emergency bill in defense of Sudan and to raise awareness to the issue through word of mouth.
"What good is your freedom if you don't share it?" Bok says.
His speech marked the end of the second day of Justice Week. Other events during the week included the showing of "At the End of Slavery," a movie about Sudanese slaves and a fast for hunger. In addition, student lobbyists called their senators to urge them to support the Child Protection Compact Act. Two-hundred-eighty-six calls were made that afternoon, he says. "I spoke enough," Bok says. "Now it's your turn."