Thursday, August 16, 2007

For Obang

I had dinner tonight with a friend whose English I have to struggle to understand and whose story I can barely comprehend. Obang is his name and Ethiopia is his home country. He's been here in Rochester for 8 years, 12 in the States, I think. Long story short, his people are being persecuted and killed off by his government. Many of his people, the Anuak, have fled to go to Sudan. Talk about a place of refuge. Many are in Kenya, like his fiance.

But before I get too serious here, Obang made some good food tonight. I'm not even going to try to spell it, but it was this spongy bread/tortilla thing you use to scoop up a stew-like mixture of meat and veggies. He told me where to buy the yummy sponge-bread, and you can be sure I'm going to get some real soon.

Obang didn't go to school when he was little. He never went until he was 12 or 13 because the government physically blocked the way and set up insurmountable barriers. He has recently started to learn to write his native language through a church in the Cities that hosts tutoring on Sundays. There are only about 100,000 Anuaks to start with, and roughly 400-500 live here in Minnesota.

He doesn't really know for sure how old he is now. By my estimates, he's got to be close to 30, but looks much younger. His skin is the darkest of dark, which make his white teeth stand out so much you have a hard time not staring at them. But you have an excuse because if you stare at his lips you will catch more words. Somehow he and his brother came over here before this pre-genocide started. His brother got sick and needed a kidney transplant. Obang gave him one of his.

The main incidence of genocidal killings started in Dec. 2003. Several other skirmishs and persecutions have happened since. And now Obang has a fire in his body to help his people and raise awareness about what's going on there. He's networking with everyone he can over here to get support, money, and awareness to do something. He and another person want to raise enough money to go to Africa and find some responsible, dependable people who will accept whatever funds/supplies Obang and his stateside community can muster up and do good things with it. Education is his first priority. There are not many schools, and they don't have supplies anyway. Today he went to the Kiwanis group and they gave him $42. It's a start. Besides education, they don't have adequate food and water either.

With all the atrocities occuring in Sudan, the crisis in Ethiopia has been overshadowed. But it's real and it's affecting my brothers and sisters. And it's causing Obang to lose a lot of sleep.

If you want to read a little more, check this out