Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lopez Lomong: Lost Boy Finds Home

    Track star and U.S. flag bearer Lopez Lomong has a story to tell, and inspiring one at that. Lomong was born in Southern Sudan in the midst of the Second Sudanese Civil War. At age six, Lomong was abducted while attending mass and pronounced dead by his family weeks later. Lomong, not dead but almost, escaped captivity and returned to his village. Lopez was one of the storied "Lost Boys" of Sudan, hiding during the days and wandering during nights. Lopez finally found himself in a refugee camp in Kenya, before Catholic Charities brought him to the US.

    Lomong was forced into being a Child Soldier, which UN deemed a War Crime, yet he ran from his captors. In an interview with ESPN, he said, ""We could hear the soldiers talking and laughing, lighting cigarettes," he said. "The more they talked, the more we realized we could get out. We went through a hole in the fence and started running."" Lopez (which isn't his given name, by the way) is still running, although this time it isn't from the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

    Lomong believes in the American Dream, and in a new start in a new country. "I came all the way here, so I have to run," he says "This is a peaceful country, a land of opportunity, so I believe my hard work will pay off one day. If I think like that, I run a little bit faster." Lopez has his new start, and his hard work is paying off. One year after becoming a naturalized US citizen, Lomong qualified for this year's Olympics in Beijing.

    During the procession of the Olympic Flame into Beijing, there were many protests over the genocide in Darfur and Sudan. The protests were put down violently by the Chinese Government, although Lomong himself is a glaring reminder of the unthinkable violence and turmoil in Sudan. China's Communist Government supports the Government of Sudan, a fact that must be weighing constantly on Lomong's conscious. In his interview with ESPN, he voices this concern: "I'll say it's not a good thing for China to sponsor the government of Sudan and kill innocent people."

    According to the interview, "The slaughter has been carried out by the Janjaweed horseback militia, a band of Arab nomads recruited and financed by the Khartoum government, which receives cash, arms and political protection from China." Lomong could be angry, he could be vengeful towards China because of all they've done to his homeland. Through all this commotion, Lopez has kept a cool head. Every month, he sends $200 over to his family in Sudan. Consequently, both him and his family thought each other were dead.

    What can we learn from Lopez Lomong's story? His is a story of tremendous courage, maturity, and determination. I was taught, when writing articles, to keep your opinion out of it; though I think I'm going to break my own rules here. What's happening in Darfur is wrong, and it takes remarkable courage to speak out in the face of adversity like Lomong continues to do. Kidnapped at the age of six, Lomong had to grow up fast. Yes, we can all learn something from the story of Lopez Lomong-not only a word class athlete, but a world class individual as well.