Unstoppable spirit

Sept. 7-13, 2006
Unstoppable spirit
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) submitted
Refugee leads efforts to raise funds in Sudan

His homeland had been locked in civil war for decades. Until an uneasy truce was arrived at in 2005, the northern region of Sudan, with the support of the government in Khartoum, waged war on the southern region. More recently, the situation in the Darfur region has emerged as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The conflicts that have rocked the Sudan, however, have most often been relegated to the margins of the international community’s conscience.

Garang Danial Amet wants to change that.
The patient transporter employed by St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse recently embarked on a campaign to raise $129,500 for a clinic in Southern Sudan.

The clinic, which Amet hopes will be located in Northern Bahr El Ehazal in the Southern Sudan, will be named in honor of St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of the troubled East African nation. St. Josephine Bakhita was canonized Oct. 1, 2000, 53 years after her death. The clinic in her name will provide basic emergency services for a community that is largely without running water or electricity.

“It’s very hard on them because everything has been destroyed by the war,” Amet said. Amet’s fundraising effort was launched with the support of both the hospital and the Diocese of Syracuse. “We’re giving [the project] a lot of moral support,” said Sister Rose Anne Renna, OSF, the vice president for Mission Services at St. Joseph’s.

Sister Rose Anne was impressed with Amet’s passion and his conviction when it came to his homeland. “He’s a beautiful, gentle man,” she said. “You see that on his face and you don’t see that very often. He carries the sufferings and the hardships of his people.”

Fransiscan Friar Phil Kelly has known Amet since he helped organize the Lost Boys Foundation. “He’s a very impressive, very persuasive and very focused 23-year-old,” Friar Phil said. Amet was reared amid war and, as long as he remained in the Sudan, that was all he would know. Born into a large, traditional family that primarily raised cattle, at three years old, Amet was forced to flee with his uncle when the civil war began. He spent the early years of his childhood as a refugee in Ethiopia before returning to the Sudan at age 12 when he volunteered to fight alongside the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army. At the end of one year with the rebel army he was shot. He then went on to a refugee camp in the Southern Sudan run by the Sisters of Charity. He attended a school run by the sisters but he went on to rejoin rebel movement. He was shot once more at age 15 and a paralyzed leg forced him to go to a specialized hospital in Kenya. After recovering from his wound he attended school until another opportunity opened up that would allow him to come to the U.S.

“I fought because no one could help me,” he said. “I had to defend myself and my life.”
Finally he was able to assume a normal life when he emigrated to the U.S.
“It’s a green pasture..it’s a place where I can live and survive and go to school,” said Amet, who not only works full time at the hospital but also attends Onondaga Community College. At OCC, Amet studies emergency management. He hopes to find a niche at FEMA.

Although he doesn’t use a gun anymore, Amet has never stopped fighting for his people in the Sudan. Along with his efforts toward building the clinic, Amet has met twice with Congressman James Walsh (R-NY) in an attempt to bring awareness of the situation in the Sudan to the U.S. government. “He and I sat down recently and he said to me, ‘Sister, if you ever visited my country you would never forget about it,’” Sister Rose Anne said. “’You would think about it every day.’ It’s that kind of pain that drives him. He’s very dedicated and very passionate.”

Amet said that his heart is still with the people of the Southern Sudan, but his animosity toward the government in the capital of Khartoum has never wavered.
“I’m not happy with the Khartoum government because they displaced me from my homeland,” he said. According to Amet, the Khartoum government remains determined to Islamicize the Sudan by exterminating the Christian presence.

“I’m reaching out to the Christian community [in the U.S.] because the Muslim community is trying to destroy our community. This is a religious matter,” he said. “I want to educate everybody so they understand the problem.”

Those wishing to contribute to the clinic should send checks to: St. Josephine Bakhita Clinic in the care of St. Vincent de Paul Church, 342 Vine St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13203.

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