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On a Sunday morning in 1987, 13-year-old Kur Mach Kur sat in church in Makol Cuai, a small village in southern Sudan, when armed Muslim raiders burst in during the pastor's sermon. The raiders demanded that the preacher renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. The pastor refused, and as Kur watched, the raiders shot and then dismembered the man who moments before had been teaching from the Bible.

A few months later, as Kur kept watch over the family's cattle outside the village, the marauders returned. On this Sunday morning raid, they did not stop with the pastor. The intruders moved through the sanctuary, promising jobs and comfort to those who agreed to become Muslims and relocate to Khartoum, Sudan's capital. Kur's mother recoiled at the offer—and as a result she was fatally shot. The gunmen set fire to the church and homes across the village.

So began the harrowing odyssey for Kur and thousands of other Sudanese "lost boys" who have experienced similar horror. With most of their parents murdered or taken captive for slave labor to northern Sudan, these youth (many of them Christian) have lived in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. But the United Nations changed their status recently, allowing them to resettle in other countries, become citizens, and attempt to make new lives for themselves.

Lost Childhood

Kur is making his new life in the Seattle suburb of Kent, living in a two-bedroom apartment with three younger cousins from the same village. Cal Uomoto, director of the World Relief refugee program in Seattle, laments that the resettlement of these Sudanese youth "should have happened years ago." One reason for the delay, according to Uomoto, is that the United Nations took too long to approve permanent refugee status ...

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In the Magazine

July 8, 2001

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