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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Is there refuge in Sudan?

Harassed, raped and killed by armed militias, the people of Sudan's Darfu region steuggle to survive

Angry winds kick up dust and sand between a dozen or so low-slung and rundown yellow buildings at Kaas in southern Darfur. Usually this outpost in western Sudan is a girls' school, but now it's crowded with people displaced from nearby villages. Every night some 50 people seek shelter in each of the small classrooms, with children and adults squeezing back-to-back between chairs, tables, cooking pots, ragged sheets and torn clothes.

The smell in the rooms is heavy with sweat and dirt. Without exception the younger kids are sick — some suffering from a bad cough; others are malnourished in varying degrees.

A young mother holds out a 15-month-old girl. The child's body looks like a small bird, with a protruding thorax and sticklike arms under a too small, almost shrunken, face and dull but outstanding eyes. Acutely malnourished and dehydrated, the girl seems translucent, which makes it difficult to look at her for more than a moment. She has not eaten for 10 days.

The people in the overcrowded compound came here in February. Now early summer, they still haven't had access to any health services. Nor have they had anything like tolerable shelters. They fled their homes in a hurry, so many lack the most basic household items. One pot may be used by as many as seven families when there is something to cook.

Ahmed M.A., a middle-aged man, is an elder and leader of the group in the school compound. He explains how their village of Keila was attacked Feb. 8 by a combined force of horse-mounted militia and government soldiers arriving in 18 vehicles. Ahmed said 600 people died during the attack — the majority in what he describes as a staged massacre performed in front of the surviving villagers.


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

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