By Tony Sayegh and Ellen Ratner
Published April 18, 2011
The two of us met while sparring about politics on air during a “Fox News.com Live” political panel. We established common ground in the commercial breaks. Tony is a Republican and Ellen is a Democrat — an honest Democrat.
The unifying issue that brought us together: South Sudan and the need to provide political and humanitarian support to the Christians and Traditionalists taken in the war. Usually, when we are together, our purpose is to analyze and inform based on our diametrically opposite political opinions. On this trip, we gladly checked our partisanship at the airport in Nairobi, Kenya, where our journey together to the South Sudan officially began.
The people of South Sudan have voted by a margin of 99% for a referendum that established their independence from the Arab-Muslim rulers in the capital of Khartoum.
Now, an immense amount of healing and nation building must get underway in earnest. As South Sudan is scheduled to join the community of nations as the world’s newest country on July 9, the vast majority of the country lives in abject poverty, and those are the lucky ones. In one of the grossest demonstrations of human rights violations in this century, tens of thousands of their people remain in captivity in the North.
The efforts to secure freedom for these slaves and the repatriation of those whose release has been achieved commands our attention, especially as many of us prepare to celebrate the ultimate slave liberation story of “Passover.”
On our recent visit to the region, we traveled with Rabbi Joseph Polack, from Hillel House at Boston University. Knowing that we were going to greet and administer aid to hundreds of freed slaves, the rabbi joined us to share the Passover story with these modern day Israelites. It may have been the first time a Seder meal was held for people so recently freed from bondage.
The Passover story is meant to tell the story of freedom from oppression in ancient Egypt so that future generations can remember and celebrate their own freedom. Few people sitting down to a Passover Seder this week will consider that slavery is alive in well in some parts of the world and that it is estimated that at least over 30,000 people remain in slavery in Northern Sudan. These people remain even after Christian Solidarity International facilitated the liberation of almost over hundred thousand slaves over a sixteen year period, much of it in the middle of a war that did not end until 2005.
As part of a mission led by Christian Solidarity International, we gave survival kits to slaves that had walked fourteen days from the North to the South, with an Arab slave retriever trying to remedy the unjust treatment of Christian people rounded up into slavery. We documented their stories and their wounds and made sure that they were provided rudimentary health care.
After 22 years of bloody civil war, a homeland for the South Sudanese has been secured, and with it strong opportunities for the United States to have a key ally in strategic a part of the world where few friends exist.
It cannot be forgotten that North Sudan served as a breeding ground for Al Qaeda and one time home for Usama bin Laden. Somalia, which also sits strategically in the region wrapping itself on the western coast of the Red Sea, is a contemporary hot bed of nefarious activity, much of which is targeted at the U.S. and our interests.
South Sudan can be both a tactical partner and true friend. It is both a moral and strategic imperative.
Tony Sayegh, is a Republican strategist and communications consultant who appears regularly as a political analyst and commentator on the Fox News Channel and weekly on “Fox News.com Live.” You can e-mail Tony at email@example.com. Ellen Ratner is Washington Bureau Chief for Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.