Proving existence of slavery in Sudan was...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Proving existence of slavery in Sudan was a public service

"Witness to Slavery," the series of article by Gilbert A. Lewthwaite and Gregory Kane (June 16-18), compellingly describes the tragedy of human bondage in the Sudan.

Mr. Kane and Mr. Lewthwaite provide a great service to Sun readers by exposing one of the enduring hardships of warfare in the Sudan.

Sudan, the poorest country in Africa, has become a chronic disaster. Thousands of people displaced by the war depend on humanitarian assistance for survival. And international donors, public and private, furnish nearly all of the food they eat.

But with no end to the conflict in sight, Catholic Relief Services and other private relief and development agencies have recognized the importance of working toward rehabilitation along with providing disaster relief.

Such programs -- funded by the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and generous private donations -- include small-scale agriculture initiatives, income generating activities and much-needed services through primary health care projects.

The Sudanese face multiple difficulties, one of the most serious of which is the near complete lack of social services or infrastructure. There is no primary health care, no hospitals, no formal education, no markets and few roads.

The challenges faced by the impoverished people of southern Sudan -- famine, drought, lack of basic social services and poverty -- are exacerbated by war's atrocities.

As Mr. Lewthwaite and Mr. Kane describe, slavery is sadly but one of many legacies of that war.

Bishop John H. Ricard

Baltimore

The writer, a bishop in the Baltimore archdiocese, is president and board chairman of Catholic Relief Services.

Thank you for publishing the most insightful articles by Gilbert A. Lewthwaite and Gregory Kane on slavery in the Sudan. I am absolutely horrified that this is going on in 1996, our wonderful United Nations notwithstanding.

These revelations should also, finally, put an end to Minister Louis Farrakhan's contention that there is no slavery in Africa.

The sad truth, whether he likes it or not, is that this is exactly how slaves came to be sold here -- warring tribes would sell their enemies to Arab slave-traders acting as middlemen.

They sold them to ship companies to transport here, where they were sold once more. No Jewish people were involved, not then, not now.

Exactly whom would Minister Farrakhan sue for compensation -- those tribesmen who caught his ancestors and sold them? The Arab slave-traders? The ship companies? The slave traders here? The slave owners?

Slavery in whatever form -- there are men who make their wives and children slaves; those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol; those who spread vicious lies about others to enslave the minds of followers -- is a dreadful evil that poisons all our lives, regardless who we are and what our history may be.

That you had this horror researched and published its monstrous truth earns you high praise and deep respect.

Emmy Mogilensky

Baltimore

Your current expose of slavery in the Sudan reminds me of an article published in the Providence Journal on April 7 by Sheik Rashid, head of the Islam Anti-Defamation League of New England, who spoke of black slavery but ignored that Arabs to this day are in the business of selling blacks into slavery.

I find it ironic that Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam remain silent. I find it further ironic that the Nation of Islam thinks it is necessary to have an anti-defamation league when it is they who spread hatred about others.

Bernard Gastel

Rochester, N.Y.

I found the series about slavery in Sudan fascinating and enlightening reading. Gilbert Lewthwaite and Gregory Kane should be congratulated on brilliant, sensitive writing. Also, the photographs were stark and illuminating.

Molly Bruce Jacobs

Stevenson

The recent three-part series on the pervasive presence of slavery in Sudan is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. Despite the protestations of Louis Farrakhan to the contrary, the enslavement of blacks continues in many areas of Africa with the obvious cooperation of the governments of those countries.

However, I have been disturbed by the absence of any other national newspapers printing the findings of your reporters. Certainly, with the absolute proof and the importance of the story, this should have been front-page news throughout the country.

Your newspaper should be congratulated for this expose. The two reporters involved have done an immeasurable public service for the cause of freedom throughout the globe. It is hoped that with public attention the offending governments will change their practices of not condoning but participating in this unspeakable atrocity.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

Thank you for your important and well-written investigative reports on slavery in Sudan.

I concur with your recommendation that various kinds of outside economic pressure be placed on the Sudan government to stop slavery in its country (Sun editorial, June 18). Giving three days of front page coverage to this serious problem is a welcome change from the fixation among print and television journalists on the horse-race aspects (how far is Dole behind this week?) of our presidential election. It's good to see the substance of a political issue get the rare nod over politics as competitive sport.

One man who seems to lack much substance -- or character -- is Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, Sudan's ambassador to the United States. In an interview with the Sun reporters who proved that slavery exists in Sudan by buying (then freeing) two children there, the ambassador defends the Sudan government's refusal let human rights organizations investigate slavery there by complaining of an international conspiracy to tarnish the country's image.

If the ambassador was so sure that slavery does not exist in his country, one would think he would be eager for his government to prove the accusers wrong by allowing for such investigations. If he truly believes that the investigators may be biased against ,, his country, what would he say if they asked him to accompany them on their investigations?

Of course, the ambassador doesn't really think there's any conspiracy against Sudan. He knows slavery exists in his country.

His accusation of international conspiracy is but a vain attempt to deflect blame from the Sudan government and to keep the abhorrent practice of slavery hidden from outside observers.

Tom Mackey

Baldwin

Although I enjoyed the articles by Gilbert A. Lewthwaite and Gregory Kane in The Sun concerning slavery in Sudan, two wrongs don't make a right.

No matter what goes on or went on a century and centuries ago in Africa, for America to try to justify what's been going on in this country for 400 years is not right.

Prove Minister Farrakhan wrong by righting the wrongs of America and everyone will rejoice. I say again: two wrongs don't make a right.

Bob Fountain Jr.

Baltimore

The Sun deserves an enormous amount of credit and praise for the recently published series on slavery in Sudan. It was truly breakthrough reporting.

Especially fascinating was the way in which the different styles, perspectives and experiences of Kane and Lewthwaite were woven together. I was pleased that Kane was given additional space in sidebars to expand on his observations.

Slavery in Sudan has been over the years a well-known and widely discussed issue in many circles but sadly up until The Sun's series it was largely ignored by mainstream media.

Now there is no longer room for debate or conjecture over whether there is or is not slavery in that part of the world. It's been proven beyond a doubt because Sun writers took considerable risk, saw it, photographed and recorded the events.

Harrison Stone

Baltimore

Much has been said about the state of journalism in America today. Unfortunately, in an era when crusading journalism is too often sacrificed for bottom-line revenues, and more than ever reporting reflects corporate influence, there is much to lament.

The Sun's series on slavery in Sudan, however, should encourage us all. The challenge proposed by Minister Louis Farrakhan to prove that human atrocity does exist was answered by Sun writers Kane and Lewthwaite with exceptional courage and tenacity.

At its best, journalism exposes and probes, challenges and empowers. Tabloid trash may cloud our culture in seemingly ubiquitous doses, but Kane and Lewthwaite have proved there is reason to believe in our Fourth Estate.

Nice work.

John Gehring

Baltimore

When a student loses control of himself and hits teachers and administrators, he or she should be handcuffed. Anyone who disagrees has obviously never been involved in trying to maintain discipline and order in today's classrooms.

Howard R. Hoffman

Owings Mills

Union Square not like in the movies

Hopefully, after they have finished sprucing up Union Square Park and have paid homage to buildings and property, the "Washington Square" film crew will also understand that they have worked in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Baltimore.

In the census tracts immediately surrounding the park in every direction, people live in dire poverty. Half the people have no work. There are more than 1,000 abandoned buildings. Too many families are doubled-up and live in conditions unfit for habitation. Others live on the street. It is not uncommon for people to exist without gas and electricity, without plumbing, and even without water.

Upon leaving the park, the film crew should extend an appropriate thank you to the neighborhood for the use of its facilities. Nothing big, just some necessities.

First, the film people could request that the city turn on the drinking fountain in the park so that everyone, particularly the homeless, could quench a Baltimore summer thirst.

Second, they could unlock the bathroom doors so that people would be afforded the dignity of a restroom.

We thank the Hollywood people for helping us point out the lack of necessities that should be part of every park.

Brendan Walsh

Baltimore

Downtown relic ought to be kept

The city is intent on tearing down seven historic buildings in the 300 block of East Baltimore Street for a parking garage to keep Alex. Brown downtown. Fair enough. It would be a tough blow to the city to lose the company.

But before demolition begins, the city ought to dismantle the graceful arched facade of the old Horn & Horn restaurant and reinstall it at the Baltimore City Life Museums.

There it could join the cast iron facade of the G. Fava Co. and the White Tower Restaurant -- two other fine relics of the city's past.

Daniel Gunther

Baltimore

Religious freedom law misinterpreted

Your recent articles regarding the lawsuit over the future of Cumberland's historic monastery have erred in their discussion of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The First Amendment provides, in relevant part, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The first of these religion clauses is the establishment clause, which provides for the separation of church and state.

The second, known as the free exercise clause, is what is at issue in RFRA and the litigation over the monastery.

RFRA was enacted by the Congress in response to a Supreme Court decision in a free exercise case that made it more difficult for someone to claim that his or her religious beliefs would be violated by the government.

If there was merely a rational basis for the state's action, held the court, the First Amendment was not violated. RFRA provides instead that the government may substantially burden a

person's exercise of his or her religious belief only if it is furthering a compelling state interest by the least restrictive means.

It is incorrect, therefore, for you to have written on two occasions that this case is part of the national debate over the separation of church and state.

Samuel I. Rosenberg

Baltimore

The writer is a state delegate representing the 42nd District of Baltimore City and county.

The day Ella made the world right

When I was in high school, I made it my business to play hooky on those Tuesdays when someone special was at the Royal Theater because good seats were available. Ella Fitzgerald was the headliner one week. This was in the period before she met Norman Granz, recorded for Verve Records and regained her rightful place in music.

A fool happened to be in the audience that day and he talked throughout the show until Ella walked onstage.

Halfway through her first number, she stopped, told the interrupter, in so many words, that she was down, but not that far down, to be disturbed by him, and that either he could shut up or she would leave the stage.

He regained his sanity, Ella swung into "Smooth Sailing," and all was right with the world.

McNair Taylor

Baltimore

Charen column paints unfair image of gays

Mona Charen paints a picture of the gay community that strikes fear in a mother's heart ("The two faces of gay activism," June 10).

I imagine that fear, for many, is that gay people are anti-family. XTC As a mother of a gay son I have a different fear. My family is not threatened by homosexuality; it is threatened by the hateful rhetoric that would divide us.

Please don't be misled by Ms. Charen's alarmist column. I have had to voyage beyond these myths. My son is not a member of the "sexual underground." He is a valued member of my family.

Same-gender couples seek to marry for the same reason heterosexual couples do. Marriage provides an important safety net for couples -- the ability to share health and insurance policies, the ability to establish next of kin for hospital visits and medical decisions and the ability to file joint tax returns. Marriage is also an important way to recognize a life-long commitment to the person you love.

Ms. Charen is right that ending the ban on same-gender marriage will not, in and of itself, help gay and straight people understand one another. We will understand one another when we move beyond the stereotypes and beyond our fear of difference. We can't afford to do any less.

Eleanor M. Binder

Baltimore

Sun reporting on Israel and Arabs

In his front-page article of June 24, Sun reporter Doug Struck paints a distorted picture of the recent Arab summit.

Classifying Israel's response as "harsh" and "blunt," he attempts to portray the new Israeli government as the arch-enemy of Middle East peace.

Furthermore, he states that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "has said he will refuse to negotiate those issues," referring to withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian sovereignty and the status of Jerusalem.

An accurate reading of the new prime minister's "Guidelines for the Government of Israel" finds that although the government opposes the aforementioned issues, its very first stated goal reiterates a commitment to "achieving peace with all our neighbors, while safeguarding national and personal security."

Similarly, the Israeli leader has offered to hold talks with Syria, "without preconditions."

While Mr. Netanyahu may oppose certain Arab wishes, nowhere does he "refuse to negotiate."

Rabbi Joel H. Zaiman

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Pub Date: 6/29/96

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