THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: Slavery in Northern Africa

Parksville dentist hoping to raise awareness and money to help free slaves

Pastor Heidi McGinness poses with a freed slave from Sudan.

Pastor Heidi McGinness poses with a freed slave from Sudan.

When the American Civil War ended in 1865, it meant the end of slavery in the United States of America.

Many see the institution of involuntary servitude as a thing of the past, but Parksville dentist Dr. Wiegand Dyck knows that, tragically, this isn’t the case in other parts of the world.

“Slavery is still going on,” Dyck said. “It’s alive and well. It’s particularly bad in Sudan — it stands out — but slavery is a problem in several countries in northern Africa, such as Mauritania, Mali and much less in Egypt.”

He cites the example of Nyibol Deng Gang, a female survivor of slavery in South Sudan, who was abducted along with other children from a marketplace, repeatedly gang raped and beaten so savagely by her master that her kidneys were damaged. Another young lad, he said, was tasked by his master with picking hibiscus leaves.

“He got them wet and because of that, along with not saying his prayers with enough passion, he was hung upside down and had peppers rubbed into his eyes until he was totally blind,” he said.

“Another young lady said she saw two slaves of her master beheaded right in front of her because they had done something wrong and then the master looked at her and said, ‘realize what happens if you ever try to escape.'”

The plight of these innocents, he said, put the fire of righteousness in his heart and he decided to get involved in a push to stop the abuse.

To this end, he joined a group called Christian Solidarity International, which works to free enslaved people throughout the region.

That group, he said, is holding two events in Qualicum Beach and Parksville to raise both funds and awareness about the issue.

The first event is a fundraising dinner and silent auction at the Christian Fellowship Centre on Friday, May 3, at 6 p.m.

The event will feature modern-day abolitionist Pastor Heidi McGinness, who has worked to free slaves in Sudan for the past eight years.

Christian Solidarity International was founded in 1977 in Switzerland by pastor Hans Stuckelberger and has worked tirelessly to expose religious persecution and battle against the institution of slavery.

Although the event is being presented by a Christian organization, Dyck stressed it is open to people of all faiths — or lack thereof.

“If you have the heart to fight injustice, I don’t care if you are a Hindu or a Christian or an Atheist,” he said.

“Let’s get behind this and help the  enslaved people so they can exercise their human rights.”

He noted the group is still looking for high-end items to present at the silent auction.

“We are looking for things like furniture, exercise equipment, cars, jewelry and businesses that can donate to the cause,” he said. “Even if someone is not able to attend, they can always write a cheque directly.”

Tickets for Modern Slavery in the Sudan are $35 per person or $60 per couple and can be purchased   online at modernslaverysudan.evenbrite.ca, or drop by Dr. Dyck’s office at 124 Middleton Ave. in Parksville.

The event is sponsored by the Christian Fellowship Centre.

The second event is an informal presentation on Saturday, May 4 at the Quality Inn Bayside in Parksville, from 1-3:30 p.m. This is a free event.

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