INDIANAPOLIS – Mastora Bakhiet, a native and immigrant of Darfur now living in Fort Wayne, Ind., shared her personal story and story of Sudanese government oppression during the South Indiana School of Christian Mission at the University of Indianapolis on July 20. She was accompanied by her husband, Abdulah and son, Mohammed.
Sensing impending danger, the the Bakhiet family, like many well-educated Darfurians, left Darfur in 2000 for the United Arab Emirates from where they immigrated to the United States in 2004 through a lottery system.
The Bahhiets were introduced to the school by the Rev. Joe Johns of the Fellowship Missionary Church in Fort Wayne. Johns has provided support to the Darfurian community living in northern Indiana in and around Fort Wayne.
Mastora Bakhiet, founder and executive director of the Darfur Women Peace and Development Network , a grassroots non-profit organization based in Fort Wayne, said Darfurian women face many challenges including: information and connection, family responsibilities (many times without adult males) and homeland obligation to their people.
Most recently this year, the expulsion of 13 non-government relief aid organizations from Darfur caused great concern among Darfurians. These NGOs provide hands-on relief in the form of food, water, education and health care in United Nations-run displacement camps with up to 150,000 refugees, each living in barren rural areas of Darfur and Chad.
Bakhiet has led the Darfur Women Peace and Development Network for the past two years, whose mission is to strengthen and create opportunities for Darfurian women to achieve sustainable development for women and children in both Chad and Darfur. Research show the highest humanitarian needs are among orphans, widows and women heads of household.
The network is working, according to Bakhiet, “as agents for social change to people who have endured six years of suffering and failure.
One of the personal struggle of her family living in Fort Wayne is to make enough money from minimal jobs to survive and pay the bills. Their college and university degrees mean little in the United States to qualify them for middleclass employment.
Bakhiet asked the women in the audience to get the word out of the plight of Darfurian women and to support the Darfur Women Network.
According to Johns, Americans can assist Dafurians in their struggle through support the U.N. Peacekeepers, U.S. pressure on Sudan for criminal justice and victim justice, educational reform, and prayer for the people of Darfur.
Sadly, Bakhiet and her family see little hope for the future of the Darfurian people.
Her presentation to the United Methodist Women School of Christian Mission was part of the geographic study being presented throughout the United States this year by the General Board of Global Ministries.
More than 150 women, men, youth and children attended the school at the University of Indianapolis the last week of July.