Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Emerging from Violence

The signing of a peace agreement does not, alas, erase the effects of violence bred during decades of civil war. St. Bakhita School in Narus, Sudan, was attacked more than once from the air. Some of its students lost limbs from shrapnel; damage to the buildings is still visible. Cement-lined bomb shelters carved deep into the earth outside the classrooms bear silent witness to the threat of bombardment that hung over the students for many years. Since the peace agreement in 2005 ended active conflict in southern Sudan, life is slowly improving.
School is now a safe place for these girls--safer than home, where they may be exposed to abusive relationships from demobilized soldiers, family members who have turned to alcohol, or random violence. School offers them not only a current haven, but the hope of a future where they--that is, females--will actually have a voice. Mercy Beyond Borders feels privileged to support the students and faculty of St Bakhita School for Girls. $100 keeps a girl in school for a full year. $50 purchases a goat whose milk and offspring improve the diet of the boarders. Join us in this effort if you can! Donate via PayPal at, or MBB, 1885 De La Cruz Blvd #101, Santa Clara CA 95050.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Marginalization of Women

Why is Africa so mired in poverty? Surely it's because of the scourge of AIDS, the enmity that tribalism fosters, the corruption endemic to governments there.... All of that is true, of course, but I would add another reason, less often cited: the marginalization of women in many African cultures.

In Africa, women hold up more than half the sky. They do much more than half the work. They rise long before dawn to fetch water. They till the soil with hand tools. They raise and cook the food for their families. They bear children in situations where death-by-childbirth is all too common. They hold families together when the males are either away from home (at war, or seeking employment) or dysfunctional at home (abusive, alcoholic). Yet women's gifts are neither recognized nor honored. They have no voice. In Sudan, for example, girls are literally the property of men, deemed valuable only insofar as they can bring in a dowry of cattle when the parents marry them off--cattle which are then used by the parents to buy wives for the all-important sons.

Cultures change slowly, but education is the key. That's why Mercy Beyond Borders is supporting the education of girls in south Sudan. Once women are literate, aware of their potential, and developing their gifts, there will be less poverty and more hope in Africa! Slowly, slowly, when women are less marginalized, life will improve for everyone.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Geography of Sudan

Sudan is not only the largest country in Africa (roughly the size of western Europe) but also one of the least developed.
Sudan is really two countries: its northern half lies just below Egypt and shares Egypt's geography--vast, dry deserts flanking a narrow fertile swath created by the mighty Nile. Its peoples either live along the Nile or survive as nomads with their camels.
Sudan's southern half, however, contains mountains and plains, land made arable by heavy rainy seasons, and the world's biggest swamp (the "Sudd"). Its peoples include both farmers and herders who move with their cattle and goats. What little infrastructure existed in Southern Sudan was largely obliterated by the North's bombs during generations of civil war. That North-South ended with a peace agreement in 2005. But the war did not really end. It merely moved to the southwestern part of Sudan, known as DARFUR.

Increasing desertification is pushing the Sahara farther and farther south, and causing the northern camel herders to forage deeper into south Sudan to find water and pasture. The government in Khartoum has armed these herders--now known as "Janjaweed"--providing horses, machine guns, and air cover for them to destroy villages in their path. The devastation wreaked throughout southern Sudan for the past quarter-century is now being wreaked throughout Darfur. Omar Bashir, President of Sudan, has been cited for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

Mercy Beyond Borders is currently working in Southern Sudan with women and children displaced during the civil war, including some from Darfur.