Abuk Ajing was only fourteen when the government’s Islamic forces swept through her village in 1990. For months—years—the Sudanese government had been unleashing its troops on the villages and towns of southern Sudan, forcibly removing people from land wanted for agriculture or oil and torturing or killing those who resisted. Government forces kidnapped young women and forced others to accept Islam—or face torture, mutilation, or death.
Many of the villagers fled to safety, but Abuk was not able to escape. Soldiers grabbed her and said, “You will come with us.”
Fearing what would happen if she was taken away from all she had ever known, Abuk boldly refused. “No! I will not.”
Angered at her refusal, the soldiers demanded that she repeat the creed of Islam: “There is one God; Allah is his name, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
Most Sudanese Christians know that such a day will come: Convert to Islam—or suffer the consequences. Had Abuk’s Christian family talked about what to do? what to say? But now she was alone, surrounded by hard-faced men with guns. All she had to do was repeat those words, and maybe they would let her go.
Yet again Abuk exhibited a boldness unusual for a young girl. “No! I will not.”
The soldiers reacted savagely. Ripping off her clothes, they tied her with cords so she could not move. Helplessly, she watched as they drew their long knives and held them in one of the village fires until they were hot and glowing. Oh Jesus! she prayed, Help me to get through this torture!
Again and again the hot knives were applied to Abuk’s chest, shoulders, and back. Unbelievable pain wracked her young body. Jesus, help me to endure! When the soldiers tired of their handiwork, they beat the helpless girl until she fell unconscious and then left her for dead.
Scars of Suffering
Ten years later, in 2000, two American mission workers visited Abuk’s village and noticed an attractive young woman with a toddler on her hip. Her face betrayed suffering beyond her years, beyond anything the two foreign women could imagine. Would she tell them her story?
The young woman nodded and gave her guests two broken chairs outside her mud hut, while she sat on a piece of tin. The little boy in her arms hid his face, as if the white faces of the visitors looked like ghosts.
With the help of an interpreter, she began to speak. She was twenty-four years old. Her name was Abuk Ajing. At the age of fourteen …
At the end of the story, Abuk gently pulled down on the top of her dress, revealing the deforming scars the scalding knives had left on her chest. Without proper medical care, her scars are often infected. She lives with continual pain.
But she does not speak as though she wishes she had answered differently. There is determination in her eyes, a well of self-discipline in her spirit. This is what it means to be a Christian in Sudan. There comes a day when one must choose: Embrace Islam and deny Christ … or refuse to deny Christ and embrace suffering.