Tuesday, November 14, 2006
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., University Club at ASU Tempe Campus
Journalist Gabriel Meyer – “War and Faith in Sudan”
Gabriel Meyer is an award-winning novelist, poet and journalist. A resident of Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter in the 1980s, he won Catholic Press Association (CPA) awards for his coverage of the first Palestinian intifada in 1989. He also traveled widely in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt and Turkey, covering the plight of the region’s ethnic and religious minorities. Assigned to write on Yugoslavia for the National Catholic Register in 1990, he lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina and chronicled the region’s descent into civil war. Meyer returned frequently to the Balkans during the Bosnian war, writing principally on the plight of war orphans and the politics of aid. His dispatches from Sarajevo on the last day of the war (October 1995) were nominated for several journalism awards. Meyer published two novels in 1994, both with Middle Eastern settings: In the Shade of the Terebinth and The Gospel of Joseph. In 1997, Meyer interviewed legendary human rights champion Bishop Macram Max Gassis of Sudan, and traveled with him to the war-torn Nuba Mountains in central Sudan the following year. Subsequent trips to Sudan in 1999 – 2001 provided the basis for a feature-length documentary, “The Hidden Gift: War & Faith in Sudan,” on Bishop Gassis’s work among the Nuba and other “forgotten” peoples of Sudan’s civil war, which Meyer wrote and narrated. The film premiered at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. His book of essays, War & Faith in Sudan (Eerdmans), was released in fall 2005. Meyer lives in Los Angeles where, in addition to free-lance writing, he serves as President of the historic Ruskin Art Club. He is also a longtime member of the Keats-Shelley-Byron Memorial Association in Rome.
Excerpt from War and Faith in Sudan, by Gabriel Meyer, with photography by James Nicholls: “I have always believed that it is one of the functions of journalism to bring to light what is hidden, to tell not the story that everyone is telling, but the one that no one is, to seek out the “invisible” realities that, all too often, can’t be seen from our customary vantage points and with our typical points of reference — victimizations that fall through the cracks of things, the very invisibility of which give their perpetrators a free hand. That was my first reason for going to the remote Nuba Mountains of central Sudan, where a military junta had been conducting a ruthless war of liquidation against a civilian population for years with impunity. The second reason for going, or, rather, for going back, had to do with something that I heard there. It was, I think, my first interview, as it happened, with a commander of the insurgent forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the Nuba Mountains. I knew that the SPLA’s war against government troops in the region had bogged down and I had been told that they were looking for more sophisticated weapons systems to fight Khartoum’s bombers — “stinger” missiles, for example, from discreet U.S. suppliers. I asked the young commander a question that I thought might launch us into that discussion. “So, what’s the most important thing your soldiers need out here in the Nuba Mountains?” I said, getting my notebook out. “The most important thing?” he asked back through translators, with a wistfulness I hadn’t expected from a military man. “The most important thing my soldiers need,” he said, “is to learn to fight and not to hate.”