October 16, 2007
As Mary Ann Dantuono, Associate Director of the Vincentian
Center for Church and Society at St. John’s University, stated “we
have saved for last our discussion of human freedom as the critical
foundation of a just and moral society.” Dantuono was referring to
the final speaker of the biennial Vincentian Chair of Social
Justice Conference, Simon Aban Deng (Sudanese refugee and child
slave who is the founder of the “Sudan Freedom Walk”). His
emotional speech about his plight and captivity poignantly closed a
thought-provoking day of workshops, speakers and moderators
discussing social justice and poverty facing our society today. The
full-day conference was held this past Saturday at the University’s
The growing problems of devastation in the Sudan have worsened
recently Deng noted, as the high rate of rape, people being taken
into slavery (most of which are young children) and villages being
burned and destroyed rises at an alarming rate.
“By inviting me here today you have given me a chance to be the
voice of the voiceless,” said Deng, opening his speech before a
crowd of more than 250 at the University’s Bent Hall Auditorium.
“There are tragedies being committed to this day in the Sudan and
other parts of Africa.”
Deng was kidnapped as a nine-year old child by Arab troops and
given to a family as a gift. He was separated from his family and
had no where to turn for the better part of three years. It was
that time of reflection and inner-strength that drove him to never
give up hope although he faced insurmountable odds. “I had no
friends and no one to talk to. My friends were my patience and
hope,” noted Deng.
Deng’s escape would happen due to a chance reunion with a fellow
Sudanese from his tribe, while out one day with the family that
enslaved him. That friend would go out of his way to help free him
from the burden of slavery and eventually reunited him with his
loved ones. Yet his heart was empty and he couldn’t live in denial
by remaining quiet and forsaking those who continue to suffer in
“I’ve come forward to tell my story, even though it’s been
difficult, so that this atrocity would have the attention it
deserves. I ask you, my fellow human beings, to get involved and be
the voice, because the actions that you take today will be the
actions that save a life tomorrow,” noted Deng.
Today, Deng travels the country, inspiring audiences with his
passionate plea for action on behalf of the hundreds of thousands
of victims of Sudanese slavery and genocide. He has established an
organization called “I Abolish” which chronicles him and his
colleague’s mission and their tagline “slavery is not history.” The
organization’s web site can be found on the Internet at www.iabolish.com.
Deng has addressed students at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and St.
John’s University and has met with President Bush and Southern
Sudanese president Salva Kiir. In March 2006, Deng also embarked on
the Sudan Freedom Walk, a 300-mile trek from NY to DC to call for
an end to slavery and genocide in Sudan.
For more information contact Dominic Scianna, Director of Media
Relations at St. John’s University by calling (718) 990-6185 or
e-mail inquiries to email@example.com. For
information on the Vincentian Center for Church and Society call