Winner of the Books for a Better Life/Suze Orman First Book Award
May 1986: Seven-year-old Francis Bok was selling his mother's eggs and peanuts near his village in southern Sudan when Arab raiders on horseback burst into the quiet marketplace, murdering men and gathering the women and young children into a group. Strapped to horses and donkeys, Francis and others were taken north into lives of slavery under wealthy Muslim farmers.
For ten years, Francis lived in a shed near the goats and cattle that were his responsibility. After two failed attempts to fleeeach bringing severe beatings and death threatsFrancis finally escaped at age seventeen. He persevered through prison and refugee camps for three more years, winning the attention of United Nations officials who granted passage to America.
Now a student and an antislavery activist, Francis Bok has made it his life mission to combat world slavery. His is the first voice to speak to an estimated 27 million people held against their will in nearly every nation, including our own. Escape from Slavery is at once a riveting adventure, a story of desperation and triumph, and a window revealing a world that few have survived to tell.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
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About the Author
Francis Bok is an Associate at the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group. He speaks throughout the United States and has been featured in the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, the Wall Street Journal, Essence, and on Black Entertainment Television. He lives in Boston.
Edward Tivnan has collaborated on and is the author of several books. He was a reporter and staff writer for Time magazine and helped create ABC's 20/20. He lives in upstate New York.
Read an Excerpt
Escape from Slavery
The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivityâ"and My Journey to Freedom in America
By Francis Bok, Edward Tivnan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2003 Francis Bok
All rights reserved.
I have told the story many times about that day in 1986, when my mother sent me to the market to sell eggs and peanuts: the day I became a slave. But, as I begin to tell my story here, I realize that I have never before discussed how happy my life was just hours before it changed forever. Too many bad memories left no space for the good ones. Yet, before the misery, loneliness, and constant fear that my childhood became, before the ten years when my only friends were Giemma Abdullah's goats and cows, I remember my father's farm in southern Sudan, where every day seemed full of family, friends, and love. I was only seven years old in 1986, and now that I am in my twenties I have many questions about those days, which that little boy in far-off Africa cannot answer. But even as a mere seven-year-old, I was aware that my life was good and might get better.
It was not so for everyone in our village, and I felt sorry for the poor who lived there. Sometimes people would come to our farm to beg for milk and cheese. We had plenty of both; we had chickens, goats, sheep, and cows; we had beautiful green trees with ripe yellow mangoes that we could pick off and eat, and coconuts as big as your head. My family grew peanuts and other kinds of beans. We were surrounded by green fields of sorghum where I would play with my sisters, Amin, who was twelve, and baby Achol, who could barely walk. We lived in two large houses — one for the men, the other for the women — made from mud and topped by straw roofs shaped like upside down cones. Even the cattle had their own hut with a roof of straw to keep them warm in the winter and to protect them from the rain. Our farm was full of life — animals, plants, families — and there a little boy could do almost anything that he wanted.
I did not go to school. No one in my family had any formal education; I don't think I knew what a school was or what happened there. I had heard the word "school," but all it meant to me was a place that some kids from the village had been sent to in Juba, the capital city of southern Sudan, near the borders of Zaire and Uganda. In Gourion, my village, there was no school, and like most little Dinka boys, I spent my days in a pair of shorts, nothing but underwear really, no shirt, barefoot, playing with my sisters and friends.
We played alweth: We would run off and hide in the fields, leaving one of us to find the others. And when he found someone, he would chase them and try to touch them — hide-and-seek, Dinka style. We also had our own kind of baseball or cricket, called madallah. All we needed was a stick and a chunk of rubber the size of a hockey puck, made either from the heel of an old shoe or from an old car tire. Then we made teams — four on a side — and someone threw the puck and another hit it, and someone else tried to hit it back, as hard as possible. The point was to keep the rubber in the air. Whoever missed it, lost. Madallah is a game of energy and power, and I loved playing this game.
If I was lucky, my eighteen-year-old brother John — I called him by his Dinka name Buk — would let me watch him and his friends at their games. In the evening, when it was cooler, the big kids played jeddi. Ten boys, five to a side. Each boy would bend a leg at the knee and hold it by the ankle, jumping around on one leg within a big circle. The aim was to get one person on your side past the others by blocking and preventing them from pushing him over. My little friends and I also played jeddi. If we got a good game going, other kids would come to watch and want to play. That would increase the excitement of the game, and all of us would try even harder to impress the audience.
One of my favorite activities was making little cows. The Sudanese measure wealth in terms of how many cows you have, and little boys like me created our own herds out of the clay from the ground. My brother was very good at this, and he taught me how to take a handful of mud and sculpt it into a miniature cow. My friends and I spent hours sitting in the village under a tree making animals, sometimes goats and sheep, but mainly cows. Days passed unnoticed; in the morning I would begin molding the clay and suddenly it was time to go home to eat. Each of us made a shelter for our cattle, which we were allowed to leave right there in the village in a special place until the next sculpting session.
But what I liked to do most was follow my father around the farm. If he was digging in the fields, I began digging. If he was pulling sorghum grasses from the ground, I tried to pull them, too.
"Go play with your friends!" he would say. But I wanted to help my father, and he seemed to be pleased that I liked to work at his side. I felt my father's love every day. He had eight children, four older than this eager seven-year-old running in his shadow. But he always talked to me, encouraged me. He often would hug me and hoist me up on his shoulders and let me ride him on his visits to his friends in the village. "What do you want, Piol?" he asked me every night, and "What do you need, Piol?" every morning. That he had named me "Piol" was an honor. It was a favorite name in his family, the Dinka word for "rain." Francis was my Christian name, but in my village I was Piol Bol (my father's name) Buk (his father's name).
One day my father called me by a new name, muycharko, which means "twelve men." I asked him, "Why do you call me muycharko?"
He laughed at my question. Then he explained that out of all his children I was the one who wanted to work the hardest, the child who always got what he wanted, the one who would never give up.
"You are like twelve men," he said. "I think you will be a successful man. I think you will be able to do something important when you grow up."
I felt my father's words flow into my body and fill me with happiness. I had never heard my father say such a thing to any of his other children. My father thought I could be a great man, so I dreamed of being a great man with a big farm and many cattle.
I had heard people in the village refer to my father as ajak, which in the Dinka language means "rich man." We had hundreds and hundreds of cows, sheep, and goats. The story was that, to marry my mother he had to pay eighty cattle as a dowry to her family. He also had another wife for whom he paid more than a hundred cattle. We kept a hundred and fifty or so in the large hut near our houses, and a thousand head more grazed in the grasslands a long walk away from the family compound. (My father's other wife Marial and their four children lived nearby and tended his other herd. I visited them often and Marial was a second mother to me.)
My father often went to Juba to buy and sell livestock. He also had traveled to other countries in Africa, places with strange, beautiful names like Kenya and Uganda, where they did not speak the Dinka language. I, too, dreamed of traveling to those places — and others. I would be ajak like my father Bol Buk, who owned what seemed to me the best farm in Gourion, a village of the Dinka people near the River Lol, in the state of Aweil, in the Bahr al-Ghazal region of southwestern Sudan, about sixty miles south of what the maps call the Bahr al-Arab River (the Dinka call it the Kiir), the border between the north and south of Sudan.
When my mother told me that she had instructed the other kids in the village to bring me along on their trip to the nearby market town of Nyamlell, I saw it as the first step to becoming the important man my father thought I could be. This would not be my first visit to Nyamlell. My father had taken me to the Nyamlell market to trade animals and sorghum, and my mother often walked there on market days, balancing a huge tin of milk or cheese on her head. A few times she had brought me along to help her sell our extra milk and cheese and buy other things that the family needed.
Our family also attended a Catholic Church there, the same church I was baptized in. I never knew why my father was a Christian, or when he became one; perhaps his family had joined the church generations before, during the British colonial era in Sudan. Christian missionaries had been encouraged to travel through the south to help the people, and representatives of various denominations built churches and schools, preaching the gospel to the Dinka. Today, about twenty percent of the people of southern Sudan call themselves Christians, adopting the version of Christianity of the local missionaries who happened to move to their area. My parents were probably baptized into the Roman Catholic Church because the closest church to our village was the Catholic one in Nyamlell. I have no idea why they chose the name "Francis" for me, though I am now aware that there are several famous saints with that name. Our family did not go to services every week. Attending mass, I will confess, was not my favorite activity as a seven-year- old. I quickly got bored with the ceremony, and my father would let me leave to play outside with the other little kids.
On market day, Nyamlell was filled with people, a whirl of sounds and smells that did not exist on our farm. Nyamlell made my skin tingle. Today I would be on my own. I knew my mother was giving me a big honor, and I wanted to prove that she was right to trust me to sell her hard-cooked eggs and peanuts. I would show her — and my father — that I was a great trader in the making.
The other kids turned up, about ten of them, including my eleven-year-old friend Piol Kvol, and two twelve-year-old girls named Nyabol and Abuk, both of whom my mother trusted to supervise me. I was wearing my shirt to reflect my responsibility. She handed Kvol the pole with two tins of eggs and peanuts attached to it and gave me my instructions.
"When you sell something," she warned, "give the money to the older children so you do not lose it." She also set the rules: The trip to Nyamlell was about business, not fooling around in the marketplace with new playmates. I must listen to the big girls, Nyabol and Abuk.
"Yes, yes," I said and grabbed the carrying pole from Kvol. They were my goods to sell, and if I was big enough to go to the market without my parents, I was strong enough to carry two tins of hard-cooked eggs and peanuts. I adjusted the pole to my shoulder for the right balance, and we set off on our adventure, the children from Gourion marching to Nyamlell on official business.
We walked toward the sun along a dusty road, across the river called Lol, and soon we could see on the hill up ahead the buildings and trees of Nyamlell. I adjusted my pole for the final stretch to the market where I would get a good price for my mother's eggs and peanuts. After all, I was Piol Bol Buk, also known as muycharko — "twelve men."
When we arrived at the marketplace, people were already set up under the shade of the trees and a dozen or so lean-tos made from burlap and sticks. It was still the dry season, when the sun is very hot in my country. The marketplace smelled rich — the fresh meat hanging by the stalls, the fish, the fruits, the vegetables, the fresh tobacco leaves on sale, all those odors mixed with the sweat of the people. (Every time I smell tobacco, I am back in Nyamlell on market day.) Flies buzzed around the meat and fish and pestered the little half-naked kids running around the area, laughing and pushing each other. But there was no playing for me, just selling. I was excited to get my trading career started.
The big kids picked a spot under a tree. It was late afternoon. In my country, we do not care about the time. No one had a watch. When the sun went down, it was time to go home. Even a seven-year-old knew that. There was plenty of light in the sky, and I had several hours ahead of me to sell my eggs and peanuts under the shady trees of Nyamlell. People approached the Gourion kids to check out our goods. They asked for prices, and when we told them, they tried to negotiate.
"Why are these eggs so expensive?" they complained. I did not know. Kvol and Nyabol had been told how much we could sell our food for, and they helped me make sure my customers did not get too much of a bargain.
The sun moved down in the sky. I made some sales, and gave the money to Kvol, just as my mother had said. I was selling more eggs than peanuts, but the people kept coming into the marketplace, hundreds of people, and I was sure they would buy all my food. Maybe I would also have time to play with the kids from the other villages who were running around the stalls.
Then something changed. People began walking faster, talking to each other rather than looking at the food. They seemed excited; some were pointing toward the river. I continued to sell my eggs and peanuts, but something was going on. I could not help listening to what the people were saying:
"Smoke" I heard, and "in the villages." Something had happened in the villages. The trees in the marketplace blocked our view of the river and plains below Nyamlell, but people now arrived from the part of town with a clear view of the villages to the west. What they saw worried them.
"There was big smoke," I heard someone say. All the children were listening, and more people came running into the market with news.
"Too much smoke for it to be only one house burning," one person said. Another added, "There was a storm of smoke rising from one village."
A storm of smoke?I wondered what that meant.
"Maybe the murahaliin came," I heard someone say. "They came and burned the houses." I was not sure what they meant. Murahaliin? I had heard people in my village talk of these "militia" from the north, dangerous men with guns who killed people and stole their cattle. There had been some kind of "war." But these were people I did not know, and I had never seen these murahaliin. I was seven years old, enjoying my first trip to the market on my own, selling my mother's hard-cooked eggs and peanuts.
But people had stopped buying. They were no longer looking at what we were selling. The adults understood what the others were talking about, the people who saw "the storm of smoke" rising from the direction we had just come from, from the village of Gourion, my village, where my family was.
The customers began to rush from the marketplace. The other sellers began gathering their things. Before the children from Gourion could decide what to do, we heard strange noises, bursts of loud sounds — tut-tut-tut-tut, tut-tut-tut-tut!
Suddenly, everyone was running in every direction. "The murahaliin are coming!" And wherever the people scattered, they ran into men with guns entering the marketplace. First men on horses, shooting people with bursts of fire and smoke from their rifles. Then men on foot, running and shooting and slashing at people with their long knives. Not ten men, not twenty, but many more, more than I knew how to count, maybe hundreds of men riding and running into the marketplace, shooting and hacking people to the ground with their swords.
They were not Dinka people, but those my father had called "Fuur." I had seen them in the market before, black men, but with lighter skin than ours, in their headdresses and robes, who came from the north on camels loaded with the important things we do not have in southern Sudan — salt, sugar, tea. I had also heard people call these men (I had yet to see one of their women) djellabah, for the djellabah, or hooded cloak, they wore.
"Who are those men?" I once asked my father. He explained that they also lived in our country but were different from us; they had a different religion, were Muslim rather than Christian. According to my father, there were many of these kinds of people he called Juur — Arabs — in northern Sudan, whose border was several hours by horse from our village. Today, the Arabs did not come with their tea and sugar; they had brought guns and swords and were shooting Dinka men, slashing with their swords, chopping off heads with a single swipe. I had never seen such violence before, rifles that shot so many bullets at once. On our farm, to protect our livestock we kept old rifles that shot one bullet at a time.
And I had never heard so many screams.
"Run!" yelled Nyabol. "Leave your things and run!" I raced from the marketplace — and right into a huge horse with a militiaman pointing a gun at me. I stopped; I could not move. The thing that scared me most was a big horse, and here was the biggest horse I had ever seen standing in front of me like a wall topped by a man with a rifle screaming at me in a language I could not understand.
My heart was trying to leap from my body.
Someone grabbed me from behind. Another Arab, yelling at me and waving his gun. What was he saying? My mind was not working. I was sure he was going to kill me. All around me, I saw people screaming and falling on the ground and not getting up. But he pushed me back toward the marketplace with the other kids, boys and girls, those who could barely walk along with five-year-olds and bigger kids like me, ages seven to ten. Everyone was crying and screaming for their parents. I was crying, too. What was happening to us? The older kids, including my friends Kwol, Nyabol, and Abuk, were herded into another group and the women into a third. They were all crying. The Dinka men were lying all over the marketplace.
Excerpted from Escape from Slavery by Francis Bok, Edward Tivnan. Copyright © 2003 Francis Bok. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsMap: Sudan and the Surrounding Regions,
1 The Raid,
3 That's What Happens When You Disobey,
4 Why Does No One Love Me?,
5 Abdul Rahman — The Perfect Slave,
6 Be Careful,
7 This Is Your Last Night on Earth!,
8 The Double Game,
9 An Act of Kindness — and Another,
11 The Process,
13 September 15, 1998,
14 American Journey,
15 Still "a Good Worker" — But Now a Paid One,
16 The New Abolitionists,
17 News From Sudan,
18 The Education of Francis Bok,
20 Finally, Some Good News From Sudan,
Afterword: The Continuing Struggle,
Reading Group Guide
Understanding the Book
1. Chapter 1 ("The Raid") details when and where and how Francis Bok was captured. Summarize these facts. What do we learn of the home life Bok enjoyed before his abduction? Describe his family and personal background: his parents, siblings, relatives, and friendsand their culture, livelihood, etc.
2. Define the Arabic word abeedthat is, explain the two different meanings of this term. How do these dual meanings reflect the views of certain Arabs?
3. Identify Bok's tasks, responsibilities, and burdens as a slave. Whose slave is he? Describe Bok's masters, and describe how they treat him. What is he forced to do?
4. Early in his account, Bok writes of his captors: "The one thing I could not take was being unable to understand what these people were saying." How does Giemma react when he first hears Bok addressing him in his own language? First explain Giemma's reaction, then explain what Bok learns from this scene about his own "situation." What sort of plan does Bok begin making as Chapter 4 ends?
5. In Chapter 5, Bok is given a new name. What is it? What does it mean? Who gives it to him? Is it a fitting or accurate name? Explain. What other names does Bok acquire over the course of his saga? How would you characterize the relationship between name and identity as a theme running through Escape from Slavery?
6. Who is Bejuk? Where does Bok meet him? What language do they speak when meeting for the second time? And why is talking in this language so dangerous?
7. Looking back on where he stood with Giemma and his family at the outset of his seventh year with them, Bok writes: "While I did not know I was a slave, I certainly knew I was not free." Try to explain, or give context to, this distinction.
8. Were you surprised at Giemma's decision to spare Bok's life in Chapter 8? Explain. And why do you think Giemma decided to do so? Also, describe the "double game" Bok talks about in this chapter. Could you yourself ever "play" such a dualistic game? Explain why or why not.
9. How old is Bok when he successfully escapes from Giemma? How does he do it? Where does he go? And what happens when Bok seeks out the aid of the bolis?
10. Who is Abdah? How do he and Bok meet? What does he do for Bokand, more importantly, what do his deeds mean to Bok in a larger, more personal, or philosophical sense? How do Abdah's actions change the way Bok views Muslims? Also, describe the man Bok encounters at the end of Chapter 9. Who is he? Where is he from? How does he assist Bok on his journey? And why does he do so?
11. Define the Arabic term jabarona. Why is this an apt name for the district in Khartoum where the Dinka refugees live? Who is Garang, and why does he give Bok food and shelter? Also, what does Bok do in Jabarona that leads to his arrest?
12. What is the "process" described in Chapter 11? Explain the steps involved in this procedure. Why does Bok deem himself an attractive candidate for the process?
13. Reviewing Chapters 12 and 13, identify the key individuals and groups who helped Bok on his remarkable trek to Americahis contacts in Jabarona, on the black market, in Cairo, at the UN office, etc.
14. Where in the United States does Bok first live upon emigrating in August of 1999? Who looks after him? What does he do to earn money? Describe both the difficulties and delights that Bok experiences as a newly arrived Americanfor example, his feelings about the food, the clothes, his apartment, city life, television, etc. And why does Bok then decide, midway through Chapter 15, to move to Iowa?
15. What is the AASG? Why is Bok at first not interested in working with this organization? Who or what changes his mind? Describe the work that Bok starts doing for this group. Where does this work take him? What does it entail? And how would you characterize Bok's influence on this group?
16. On his first day at the AASG office, Bok learns some alarming facts about the continuing presence of slavery in the world today. Paraphrase these facts. Approximately how many slaves are estimated to exist worldwide? Were you surprised by this number? Explain.
17. Who is Charles Jacobs? What does he do for a living? Why does Bok admire him so? Describe the bond these two men share.
18. Toward the end of Chapter 16, Bok tells a story about meeting a girl named Christy. Who is she? What lesson does Bok take way from their brief meeting?
19. How does Bok finally learn the fate of his parents, his family? What most likely happened to them? How, at first, does Bok deal with this news? And how does he continue to deal with it, even today?
20. Chapter 18 is entitled "The Education Francis Bok." Why is getting an education so important to Bok? What does it mean to him? What doors does he believe it can open? And how do Bok's ideas about education and America itself reflect one another? Also, why do Bok's classmates at the Boston Evening Academy initially tease and belittle him? What is it that changes their view of Francis Bok?
21. At one pointwhile discussing the still-ongoing attacks by Arab raiders on the market town of Nyamlell, where he himself, at 7, was captured for enslavement in 1986Bok writes: "To me this cultural damage was almost more upsetting than the violence to people." Specify the "cultural damage" that Bok is referring to here.
22. Bok's memoir more than once appreciatively documents the actions of a man named John Eibner, as well as those of Christian Solidarity International, the organization Eibner directs. Specifically, Bok details the efforts by Eibner and CSIin Sudan and elsewhereto conduct slave "redemptions." Describe these acts of "redeeming"how and where they are done, for what cost, by what logic, etc. And why does Bok also note that such "redemptions are controversial, even among human rights groups?" Explain the controversy at hand, and explain how you view this issue. Do you applaud these acts? Do you condemn them?
23. How and when is Francis Bok able to get back in touch with his long lost brother, Buk Bol? What does our narrator learn about his older brother? What do they say to each other? Why does Bok tell his brother that "guns are not the only way"and how does Buk Bol respond to this?
24. Define the Sudan Peace Act. When was it signed into law? What does this act ensure or provide? Explain how Bok, Charles Jacobs, and others at the AASG were involved with both the creation and promotion of this act.
25. Near the conclusion of his Afterword, Bok says he hopes to someday "go back to Sudan to retrieve what I lost by growing up in the north." Why does Bok equate "real freedom" with "the ability to go back home" in the first place? Explain what has to happenwhat must changebefore Bok can return to his homeland.
Questions and Exercises for the Class
1. Bok, our hero and narrator, refers to this memoir as "my own attempt to offer documentation of the existence of slavery in Sudan: my life, my story." But before exploring the book as an exposé of contemporary slavery, discuss what you learned from it about the geography, politics, culture, and history of Africaespecially Sudan. Revisit the map that begins this book, explaining how each of these points figures into Bok's account: Nyamlell, Khartoum, Wadi Halfa, Cairo, and the Nile.
2. Bok's memoir is a story of several cultures, peoples, societies, languages. As a class, define the following vocabulary wordsall of which appear in this book. These are Dinka terms: muycharko, ajak, murahaliin, Juur, and djellabah. These are Arabic: abuya, jedut, salaam aleikom, and aleikom al-salaam. These are Egyptian: hunga bunga and sayiheen. Also, identify and define other terms you learned herein.
3. "Today," Bok writes early on, "about twenty percent of the people of southern Sudan [are] Christians, adopting the version of Christianity of the local missionaries who happened to move to their area." (The other eighty percent believe in a traditional African religion.) The government of Sudan, by contrast, is (as Bok notes elsewhere) "a Taliban-like Islamist regime committed to ruling the entire country according [to] the Koran." Explain how this conflict manifests itself throughout Bok's memoir. Why do you think one critic said this book gives us "a glimpse into what can happen when religion is the impetus in the governing of a nation?"
4. The first speech Bok gives about his life as a slave occurs at the Southern Baptist Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Why does the pastor introducing Bok tell the children in his congregation that they especially "need to hear" Bok's words? If you were to recommend Bok's account to a certain audience, who would it be? Why?
5. Basketball, expensive sneakers, all sorts of music on the radio: Bok finds much to enjoy in American pop culture. But what about the difficulties of his Americanization? Discuss the problems Bok faced in adjusting to life here. Also discuss what you learned from this book about emigrating to (or gaining citizenship in) the U.S.
6. Ever since he started telling his life story publicly, Bok reports, from time to time, someone will call him a liar. Who are the people doing this? After conducting some outside research, prepare a report summarizing the historical context of Bok's life as both a slave and war-victim in Sudan. But also explain why this history is disputed.
7. "During my stay in the United States," writes Bok in his Afterword, "and thanks to my educationespecially my readings in American and South African history I have learned that even great walls of racism can be knocked down." As a class, explore how America and South Africa have evolved, and are still evolving, in this regardand how, Bok hopes, Sudan might someday follow them.
8. Many readers of Bok's memoir will be shocked to learn that slavery still exists today, and that several million people are currently enslaved worldwide. In Sudan, of course, the problem is especially severe, and this brings us to the central question of Bok's Afterword: "How could the rest of the world let such terrible things happen to my people?" How does Bok's friend and mentor Charles Jacobs answer this urgent query? Explain the racist undertones that Charles identifies within the international human rights community. Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book pretty much puts to bed the argument that slavery is just an American thing. Francis Bok knows that slavery is just not an American thing, it is an African thing and he witnessed it first hand by being a slave himself. A great story of triumph over tragedy.
This is a book everyone should read. Mr. Bok's story is as inspiring as it is incredible. I will never forget his father's words to his small son, words that would help him persevere through his ten years of slavery and eventually escape from his northern Sudanese captors: "You are never one, you are always two." Because of his faith in God, Mr. Bok knew he was never alone and was given the strength to risk everything by running from his captors and eventually settling in America thanks to the United Nations. Sudan is now two countries, but the conflict there is not over, and neither is the centuries-old practice of abducting children as slaves. As hard as it is to believe that slavery could still exist in the twenty-first century, Mr. Bok's story is proof that it does. The West must do all it can to stop this horrible, demeaning, and dehumanizing practice. But first we must be made aware of it. Thanks to Mr. Francis Bok, with assistance from Mr. Edward Tivnan, we now can be.
During the "invisible" civil war in Sudan two million southern Sudanese have been killed and 4.4. million displaced. Women and children not casualties of the war often ended up as slaves. One of those slaves was a seven year old Dinka boy, Francis Piol Bol Buk (Francis Bok). For the first seven years of Bok's life learned a strong work ethic that earned him the nickname "twelve men", was a quick study, and received encouragement from father. Bok was told repeatedly that he would one day do something great. Bok was insulated from the tension of centuries of tension between the North and the South. Then, on his first unsupervised trip to the market Bok world is turned upside down as "Murahaliin" descended on the market, killing the men, and sweeping up the women and children. Children who resisted were dealt with swiftly. When two sisters would not stop crying one was shot in the head and the other had her leg cut off. Bok, however, was taken into slavery. For the next ten years Bok used the lessons of his early childhood to learn Arabic, work hard enough to be indispensable, and plan his escape. This is a fascinating first-hand account of a subject of which most people have only vague knowledge (including me). While not a difficult read, Bok does an excellent job of unfolding his story through his eyes, giving a very brief of the history of the conflict, and sharing the hope that many around the world still find in America. The subject matter is heavy but there are opportunities for an occasional smile. A young Sudanese's experience with the snow of Fargo, North Dakota can help but break the tension a bit. I really appreciated Bok's reflection on the subject of slavery in American's history. I was particularly struck by Bok's statement to President George W. Bush at the signing of teh Sudan Peace Act, " I also want to remind you that you are the first president in 150 years t meet wtih a former slave-myself." (pg 269). Bok has been accused of being Anti-Muslim. While he unapologetically embrases his faith and believes his safety is due to God's providence, he also relates the assistance offered by individual Muslims once he escaped.
Mr. Bok begins his disturbing and moving testimony with the raid on his village market in his home country of Sudan by Arabs seeking to enslave the Christian black Africans of the Dinka tribe. The adults were slaughtered and the children taken for forced labor, to be the slaves of wealthy Muslim Arabs in the north. In May of 1986, at the age of only seven, he was forced into a lonely and painful servitude, separated from his family forever, during which he was subjected to beatings and unbelievable subjugation at the hands of his supremacist masters. After ten years of slavery and two failed attempts at escape he finally broke free, making his way to relative safety only to be imprisoned again for speaking the truth about his story and the horrors he witnessed. After spending seven months on a dirty prison floor he was released, warned not to speak of the issue again. Refusing to be silenced by the Sudanese government who sanctioned the widespread atrocities, with the help of God he fled to America in 1999 where he reluctantly but quickly became an iconic figure in disclosing the truth about the genocide in Sudan and fighting slavery around the world. His words depicting the little-known truth of this abomination, created by the Islamofascist movement in his home country that forcefully silences such disclosure, have touched a sensitive nerve here in the US where the reality of terror and the great threat of radical Islam has also been recently experienced. He has spoken at the White House and before the Senate, on television and radio, in front of audiences large and small, boldly telling his eye-opening story to all, facing and refuting his critics who attempt to cover up the disturbing truth of what has become known as the epitome of modern-day slavery, a horror once thought abolished forever. May his quest to one day return to a free Sudan be blessed and the mission of all anti-slavery groups be fulfilled. This book is an absolute must-read for all.
Francis Bok wrote this story in a way that made it possible to enjoy reading about such a horrific time in his life, that it almost makes you feel guilty for liking it so much. He also writes with such detail that it made me feel like I was right there watching him and wanting to help him.This book was very hard to read, but I believe it was definitely worth it. I think anyone who can really handle the truth about the evil in our world should read this book for the knowledge and enlightenment you will gain. Francis Bok is such an Amazing man I respect him so much for now dedicating his life to help others in the same situation
As I go through the internet search I come across this title of a book that I have read through and found motivational, given the fact that it was a first hand experience of the writer I find it motivational and inspiring to read through. I'm a Kenyan Luo by tribe I have a lot of interest on measures of ending the conflict in Southern Sudan, I feel so close to Sudanese people and I look forward to working as a missionary, humanitarian aid worker or whatever area and oppoertunity that God will lead me to serve the people of Sudan and alleviate their suffering. I'm inspired by the determination of Sudanese people mainly from the South to carry on with live despite hardships...
The cruelty that Francis Bok experienced at age seven defies civilized human conception. One day in 1986, his mother Marial sent him to Nyamlell¿s market from their Southern Sudan Dinka village of Gourion to sell eggs and peanuts. His father Pial Bol Buk had recently called Francis 'Muycharko' -- ¿like twelve men.¿ He would be successful and achieve something important. Eventually, his father¿s hope proved prophetic. But in 1986 Francis could count to no more than ten and still played alweth and Madallah -- Dinka hide-and-seek and cricket. His mother sent older friends to supervise his first independent market trip. The Catholic boy nicknamed Piol, for rain, that day lost his childhood and world to the murahaliin. After torching the nearby villages and slaying their inhabitants, 20 light-skinned Juur horsemen charged into Nyamlell. They severed the heads of all Dinka men with single sword strokes, left them rolling in the blood-soaked market dust and stole Piol¿s older friends Abuk, Kwol and Nyabol. A rifleman permanently silenced a crying girl with a bullet to her head. A swordsman more ¿mercifully¿ sliced off her sister¿s leg at the thigh like the branch of a small tree. Francis tried to flee. Terror squelched his cries. He was halted at gunpoint, grabbed and slung astride a small saddle, crafted specifically (as he later recognized) to carry abducted children, and ridden far north. After President Bush signed the toughened Sudan Peace Act on October 18, 2002, Americans became increasingly aware of Islamist Sudan¿s government support for mass enslavement and genocide of Southern Sudanese Christians and animists. But few have noted that Francis Bok¿s experience--and the ongoing Arab and Muslim genocide against 2 million Southern Sudanese Dinka--are merely modern manifestations of Islamic Jihad tradition established by Islamic jurists and rulers--from the Caliphs to the Ottomans, to current-day tyrants like Sudan¿s Hasan at-Turabi. ¿Jihad,¿ wrote Rashad Ali in Khilafah Magazine in December 2001, ¿is the removal of obstacles, by force if necessary, that stand between people and Islam.¿ He terms this violent Jihad the practical means of spreading Islam, and pronounces it compulsory to all Muslims. It is also, he writes, ¿continuous and will always be so.¿ Francis Bok recognized in his treatment a kind of systematic, institutionalized cruelty. He was beaten, forced to tend and sleep with animals, fed rotting meat, and cursed as a jedut¿maggot¿even after his master pressed a Muslim name and prayers upon him. Abdul Rahman ironically means ¿servant of the compassionate one.¿ But there was not one second of compassion during Bok¿s 10 years of captivity, although he was one of the lucky ones. He many times tried to escape, and failed. His penalties were mere beatings. Other Dinka escapees routinely lost their limbs when recaptured. Giemma Abdullah threatened the same; Bok didn¿t believe him, until he saw other Dinkas, limbless. Finally, at 17, Francis Bok took the cows one morning, and from the road near their grazing area ran all the way to Mutari. After further privations and imprisonments, Bok finally hid in a truck en route to ed-Da¿ein, fled to Khartoum, to Cairo, and as a refugee, in 1999, to the U.S. He landed in the U.S. poor, illiterate, and 20. But as Bok quite naturally also admits, he was like all Jihad's victims, unaware of the institution¿s name, much less its history. During 10 long years of enslavement by Giemma Abdullah in Kerio, Bok learned soon enough that the Arabic word abeed carried three meanings--slave,¿ ¿black¿ and ¿filth.¿ Half his lifetime among Muslims taught him that they considered themselves better than Southern Sudanese infidels. But this hardly educated him on the jihad institution to which his 20th century captors and masters subjected him. He did not recognize himself as an inferior, non-Muslim dhimmi. As Bok later learned, however, the privations he suffered track those exper
Excellent read, with a lesson even more powerful than expressed in the Title. This book waste no time in capturing your heart with its passionate detail and moving message. It is filled with unimaginable hurdles that were conquered through faith and persistance. A modern day hero's tale. My heart was truly pounding as I read each chapter, especially the early chapters set in Africa.
Not only did I get to meet Muycharko in one man, Piol, but I sobbed internally reading this book. I couldnt believe how quickly I grazed through it cause as soon as you begin you cannot let go. Please read this book at a cost even if you beleive slavery should exist.
I ran into this book at a local store this weekend. I saw the word slavery and looked at the person on the front cover and was surprised that the picture was not medieval but one of a modern looking young gentleman. I went on to buy the book which I read with heightened interest within five hors. I admire Francis¿ strong will and determination for a better life for his people and his pursuit for peace in his country. I am Kenyan. A luo to be precise. Our tribe migrated from the Sudan about 500 years ago in the wake of war and famine. As I read this book, I noticed that some of the Dinka names are ours which means that I may be a descendant of a Dinka. I am therefore shocked and appalled at what is going on at my old home. I don¿t know why my country never publicized this war while I was growing up. (I was twelve in 1986). Lorraine Kombudo