Nuba Mountains, March 2012. Zeinab walks briskly, although the strength is diminishing, with a few months old baby in her arm and two children in tow. The earth is scorched by a pitiless sun, no rain for five months and to arrive to the next rainy season it will take at least two more months. In addition to the child Zeinab carries balanced on the head a large basket containing a blanket, a few tools, nuts, dried vegetables and durra enough to eat for a couple of weeks, maybe three, and a plastic container with a few cups of water left in it. The boy and the girl – five and three year old – who follow her, are slowing down, and Zeinab has to stop frequently to allow them to keep pace.
They are tired and want to stop, but they cannot, Zeinab knows that there are around government patrols who shoot on sight. For three days they were hidden in a cave, but then she decided to head over to the border, still a dozen miles down south, to find safety and something to eat, and especially to drink.
Suddenly three military vehicles appear. The trees are too sparse, Zeinab and the children cannot hide. The soldiers shoot like in a game, laughing, having fun, and Zeinab and the children are paralyzed by fear. The two children, despite being more distant, are almost immediately shot dead. Zeinab keeps the baby strongly in her arms, she knows she can not do anything except to die embracing him. The commander – pity or hurry to go somewhere else – cries “Stop, it’s enough, we have no time to lose.”
Zeinab puts the the baby down and composes the bodies of the two dead children under a tree, as if to protect them from the sun, and cover them with stones, in a last gesture of affection. It is a long and tiring work, but can not allow the bodies of her children to become food for the wild animals.
The following evening she arrives at the refugee camp of Yida. Exhausted, she eats and drinks in small sips, while feeding the child in the same way. She knows that after suffering hunger and thirst they must take every food and drink slowly. Apparently she does not feel anything, the words him of consolation from the camp staff and from the other refugees do not touch her, she is in another world, all the attention lovingly focused on her son. When the baby seems satisfied, always keeping him in her arms, she speaks to him, saying: “Kallo, we forgive. Your brothers are with God, and do not want more hatred and more deaths. ” Then she gives allows herself to cry, quietly and without tears.
An Easter story? Yes, because it is a story that shows that hatred and death cannot overcome the force of love and forgiveness. Only love and forgiveness can generate new life. I heard it from a Kenyan health worker who has returned to Nairobi from Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, on the border with Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, under the control of Khartoum government. He told me that in recent weeks has seen much suffering caused by war, but nothing has touched him as the words he heard murmured by Zeinab to baby Kallo.