Frustrated with President Barack Obama's policies on Sudan, I made a decision forty days ago. To give up food and adhere to a strict fast, consisting of lemon water with cinnamon and raw honey. Each day began with a concoction of blackstrap molasses, apple cider vinegar and cayenne. Most days also included a little kale broth, never more than a quarter cup on any given day. Managing hydration was a careful orchestration.
After feeling so strong last year, when I dedicated forty days to the women of Congo, I was surprised how much tougher my body took it this time. Fighting anemia and exhaustion meant carefully managing my energy. I learned all the extra cushion and junk in my trunk was not a defense against 40 days without food.
Other revelations came fast and furious. Spiritual health is crucial to happiness. The love from my parents, my daughter, friends, and colleagues makes all things possible. Beautiful, surprising moments blessed the experience.
There was one unshakable reality: President Obama's policy was and is not likely to change. Issuing statements about an indicted war criminal's actions as "troubling" isn't a policy. It's issuing a statement. That is not leadership, any more than Clinton's was during the Rwandan genocide.
But Sudan is changing. Peaceful protesters have taken to the streets. Students in Khartoum, average citizens, and marginalized people are standing up across the country and around the world. Regime change is now on the menu for consideration. An uprising of the human spirit, the desire for freedom, and individual liberty is there. In their hearts. It is irrepressible.
Tear gas and bullets will not defeat their will to live as free people. Bashir's government sponsored starvation and war atrocities, the detention of citizens and journalists will end. His brand of evil, however brutal, is unsustainable. Twenty-three years in power is enough.
On May 26th, I attended the Sudan Marginalized Forum's conference in Richmond, Virginia. The lifetime of feeling connected to a continent I have never visited, to the people of that continent, was made real that day. The warm greetings, the hospitality, the appetite for justice was palpable. Speakers represented different regions, different ethnicities, faiths, and languages.
I met Hawa Salih, a young Darfuri woman, so poised and exquisite she took my breath away. She had just been named an International Woman of Courage by the US State Department. Like her, the principals at this conference were courageous. So far away from home, yet so connected to it, they were and are titans of personal courage.
As a survivor of brutal gang rape, over the course of several days, I have seen evil. I have felt the presence of God's grace carry me through darkness. To sit with Hawa Salih, with Darfuris, with people from the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, Nubia, Abyei, and all across the vastness of Sudan and South Sudan humbled me.
Spiritual strength was revealed in its universality. Freedom must reign. The peaceful protests in Sudan come from a kind of strength that academic exercises and policy analysis cannot quantify. As #SudanRevolts, technology will be the heralding trumpet that delivers names for the history books and rings the liberty bell.