Sudanese author shares memories of his flight from persecution

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Students of Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria welcomed author John Bul Dau last month to speak on his book, God Grew Tired of Us. The work is an autobiography recounting Dau's trek across Ethiopia and Kenya with a band of other children following the onset of Sudan's civil war in 1987.

Dau's visit was part of Ireton's "One Book, One Community" program, begun last year, in which the entire community - students, parents and teachers - read a selected book. The selection of the book is a yearlong process in which a faculty committee, headed by school librarian Jacqueline Thompson, combs through books that relate to current events and support the school's charism of Salesian spirituality. The connection to current events in Dau's book is all too clear, specifically with regard to the Syrian refugee crisis and ongoing wars in developing countries. The connection to Salesian spirituality can be found in the humble and persevering character of Dau himself.

During his presentation to the student body, Dao reflected on the events he described in his book. He started by creating a nostalgic picture of his humble home in South Sudan with a lack of modern technology, yet abundant community of love and support. Then he shifted the story to his journey with the "Lost Boys of Sudan," a band of similarly situated children who were forced to grow up in order to adapt to their perilous situation. After much hardship, Dau was given the chance to come to the United States, where he received his formal education and set out to create three nonprofit organizations aimed at giving back to the people of South Sudan.

Dau talked more about the trials he faced as a Lost Boy, stating, "There were occasions where I questioned if God was with us, but then I quickly reminded myself that these are times of trials and I was not going to fail these trials." He also emphasized the positive aspect of suffering, creating the analogy that, "a spoon is shiny and luxurious but was once bad looking and dirty metal. The blacksmith (the Lost Boys) molded it into what we like today."

Dau's visit concluded with a book signing where students also had a chance to meet Dau in person. He reportedly marked every signature with the words, "Never give up."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015