SUDAN WATCH: Professor Justin Holcom inspired by Sudan chaplains

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Professor Justin Holcom inspired by Sudan chaplains

Justin Holcomb, a University of Virginia professor, has just returned from a trip where he worked with chaplains in South Sudan. An article in today's Daily Progress by Melanie Mayhew entitled "Professor inspired by Sudan chaplains" says the chaplains asked Holcomb to share their story in the hope that the international community will get involved in bringing about Sudanese peace. Here is part of it, in snippets from the article:

Despite the extreme danger, Holcomb, 31, has repeatedly returned to the Sudan to help pave the way to peace, one chaplain at a time.

He spends one-month stints training chaplains to serve as intermediaries between the northern Sudanese government, the southern Sudanese rebel army SPLM, soldiers, prisoners of war, civilians and the various military or militia organizations. The chaplains' selfless ministry transcends politics, religion, language, ethnicity - and war, he said.

Holcomb teaches the Christian chaplains biblical and theological studies and asks each chaplain to read the Koran.

During his trips to the south of Sudan, Holcomb has seen the horrifying remnants of one of Africa's longest-running wars between the Christian and animist South and the Muslim, Arab-speaking North. In one village, he saw the site of the mass murder of 10 male villagers who were butchered with machetes in front of their family and friends. The killers put the remains in a pot and force-fed them to villagers, Holcomb said.

Civilians in the Sudan deal with constant attacks, and not just from the north, Holcomb said. A Christian terrorist group, the Lord's Resistance Army, abducts southern Sudanese children and attacks women at water wells. The group's campaign of demoralization includes cutting off mothers' breasts so they can't feed their children, beating babies in front of their mothers and severing mothers' lips and ears so they can't communicate with their children, Holcomb said.

"Terror is an amazing way to control," said Holcomb, who's seen a woman with her lips reattached after one of these attacks.

"I look at American culture through a completely different lens," he said. "It causes me to interpret success differently."

"The chaplains in the SPLA are my heroes," he said. "They do the stuff with their lives that I theorize about."

Please read full story.

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