Horror of Greed
Did you know there is an ongoing genocide perpetrated by President Omar Al-Bashir upon the mountain people of southeastern Sudan? This relatively unreported atrocity persists for the 1 million residents of the Nuba Mountains. Their territory is bombed multiple times daily by their government’s supersonic fighter planes with the express purpose of killing the civilian population. Why? Because their indicted war criminal president desires the rich soil and natural resources available on their land.
Entering into this horrific massacre is an American medical doctor, Thomas Catena, a native of Amsterdam, New York and graduate of Brown University. While doing medical work in Kenya he came to the Nuba Mountains to help out for one year at the Catholic Church’s Mother of Mercy Hospital. He is the only doctor for the entire territory, roughly the size of Austria. Nine years later he continues to give his life for the love of the Nuba people.
Film and television writer, producer and director, Ken Carlson, heard about his old classmate from Brown and the work he was doing in Sudan, but only recently started examining Catena’s missionary work. This led him on a journey to make an amazing documentary, The Heart of Nuba, executively produced by Maria Shriver.
In a world of disturbing news, this film shows there is hope for humanity. Dr. Tom is a devout Catholic, rising before dawn every morning to go to the hospital’s simple chapel to pray his rosary and morning prayers. He says, “This is the only thing that helps me get through the day.” It is his life source, his inspiration, and his strength. Along with three Catholic religious Sisters and local volunteers, Dr. Tom is changing the lives of these people. He says, “They deserve to live just like everyone else.” He has dedicated his life to serving the poor, the oppressed and the sick that come to him, 400 patients daily and is available around the clock, living in a small hut near the hospital.
Al-Bashir’s sanctions prevent humanitarian aid from reaching these people, many of whom are refugees from other parts of war-torn Sudan hiding in the mountain’s caves. Besides caring for those who come to him with fractures, dysentery, cancer, or numerous other ailments, Catena also cares for many war-wounds, removing shrapnel from and amputating limbs of victims of the government’s bombings. Medical supplies are extremely limited and foxholes provide the only shelter from the insanity.
Joy Amid Suffering
The film points out that in this territory Muslims, Christians, Jews and Africans of various traditional beliefs have lived together in harmony for centuries. They are a community of joy that celebrates together God’s blessings in music, food and dance. Their joy expresses well how simplicity breeds gratitude.
Sr. Angelina Nyakuru, the matron of the Mother of Mercy Hospital, says that Dr. Tom is a Godsend. In a place without electricity and running water, he brings relief to the suffering of thousands. He even helps to train some of the local residents to take on roles at the hospital. Others have been sent to study medicine outside the country so they can return to take on the operations of the hospital.
When Jesus says, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31), we may think of it as being kind to the person who annoys us or offering a homeless person food. Rarely do we consider letting go of everything—family, money, security, and career—to help those who are in desperate need. Not everyone is called to be a missionary, but all Christians are called to live authentically, that is, to live without pretense, to give without counting the cost, to love without expecting a return. Dr. Tom gives his life for love of the Nuba people because he believes they deserve to live just like every other human being on the planet, they deserve a life of peace. That is living authentic discipleship.
Look for this film when it is released and you will find yourself moved by the beauty of humanity, the beauty of love. Film has the power to change hearts and to challenge political leaders. At this moment, because this film was sent to Omar Al-Bashir, there has been a cease-fire of the bombings on the Nuba Mountains and the hospital in particular. In a place where peace is fragile, Dr. Tom, the Sisters and the people of Nuba continue to be a source of healing and strength for the war-torn country of Sudan.