On Pesach, we should remember the slaves the rest of the world has forgotten
A decade ago today, APT president Dr. Charles Jacobs was in South Sudan to witness the liberation of black slaves on Pesach. With him was Rabbi Joseph Polak, then the director of Hillel at Boston University.
All of the slaves had been kidnapped as part of the Arab north’s nearly 22-year jihad against the Christians and animists of the south.
The slaves, most of them from the Dinka tribe, were captured in brutal slave raids in which the adult men were murdered and the women and children abducted. In captivity, they were subjected to horrendous treatment, with the boys made goat-herds (and themselves killed once they became too tall and strong to be controlled) and the girls concubines. Most were forcibly converted to Islam, and many girls and women were subjected to clitoridectomy in accordance with Shari‘ah.
The human rights group Christian Solidarity International would raise money from donors in the U.S. and Europe and use it to buy back the slaves’ freedom by way of a Muslim clan with whom the Christian Dinka tribe had a cattle grazing arrangement.
On March 23, 2011, Jacobs and Rabbi Polak participated in the ceremonial redemption of 175 black Sudanese slaves. Rabbi Polak told those who had been freed the story of Passover, gave them matzah to eat, and sang with them the song Dayenu. He told them that God had seen their tears and heard their prayers, and said that “you must be a very special people… because G-d listened to your cries.”
This Pesach, we must remember that slavery is not history. Today, there are tens of millions of slaves across the globe, and hundreds of thousands of black slaves owned by Arabs and Muslims across North Africa. As Jews, it is our duty never to forget this, and to pray that with G-d’s help the slaves are freed.
Watch the video, “Passover for Sudan’s Slaves,” here.