A Personal View

An Interview with Salle & Rumthus Daniel

In 2010 Brian and Carol Babcock interviewed one of H&S’s Sudanese families. Here is the edited text of that interview.

Liasor and parents
Rumthus, Liasor, Salle

Current Family Description:

Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Salle & Rumthus Daniel,
Children: Liasor, Talita, Jamal, & Mike Dima

  • Liasor means Lazarus
  • Liasor, Talita, Jamal are all part of the Heart & Soul Worship playing base, violin, and drums respectively
  • Liasor is a sophomore at St John Fisher College and plays on the soccer team. (Update: He is now a graduate student at the University of Denver and will graduate in 2015)
  • In 2009 Salle completed his AA degree at Bryant & Stratton College and is looking forward to finishing a Bachelor’s degree in the near future
  1. Tell us something of your family, where you grew up, and the circumstance that brought you to the US? 
  • Salle was born between two tribes in the Sudan, one of which was Uduk
  • Rumthus was born in Chali Central City in the Blue Nile State (Click to see maps)
  • The Uduk people came from the Blue Nile part of Sudan in the middle of present day Sudan.
  • Salle had no schooling in the Sudan until 1987, the year he left Sudan for Ethiopia, and got married. His home and church were all destroyed behind him.
  • In 1987 he entered military training and there got his first instruction in formal education—his “ABC’s”
  • In 1989, after six months of training as an Artillery Officer, he began English language training
  • In 1996, he went back to school and took a job providing security for the governor of the state and maintained the documents and other State records.
  • Both Salle and Rumthus come from Christian families.  Salle’s stepfather was a priest. Rumthus’ father was a student of the first Sudanese missionary.
  • Salle left his mother as was the custom and went to live with his uncle. He was baptized in 1988 and Rumthus was baptized in 1986.
  • While in the military, it was difficult to be active in the Church and he was separated from Rumthus and his family.
  • Once out of the service and in a resettlement camp in Ethiopia, he was joined by Rumthus in 1997.
  • He has raised his family in the Church since coming to Rochester.
  1. Tell us something of Sudan and where you and your family lived.
  • Our tribe is one of 16 tribes in Blue Nile State. It is the only Protestant tribe. Sudan is Muslim. The Muslims used to be mostly in the North. Now, they are in the entire State.
  • The Blue Nile State is one of 26 states in Sudan.
  • The Uduks are divided into 6-7 groups. Members of the same tribes speak different dialects. Same words would be pronounced differently, similar to regional “accents” in the U.S. This makes it a challenge to understand each other even though they are speaking the same language.
  • Before 1930, there were only 60 men in the Uduk tribe.
  1. Have long have you lived in the US?
  • March 3, 2010 marks the tenth year they have lived in the USA
  1. What has it been like to find work to support your family?
  • Heart and Soul Community Church sponsored our family and got me (Salle) my first job as a Break Aid Teacher at IBERO.
  • Shirley Shafer was a major factor in helping Salle find work and in creating work opportunities for many of the Sudanese families. For a while they started a business with the women spinning and sewing in the church to make items to sell.
  • All of Salle’s personal records were lost or destroyed in Sudan, so he had to start from scratch in school working on his GED, which he earned in 2003.
  • He worked various jobs in industry, some one right after the other each week, to try to make ends meet for his family. He recognized early on that he would need a degree to get a good job.
  • Rumthus did not speak any English when they arrived in the USA. She was able to get temporary work in binding and work that Shirley Shafer set up at the church.
  • In 2005, Salle moved to Atlanta, GA for 7 months and had two better paying jobs, one in quality control at a meat packing plant for $15/hour that hired some 75 Sudanese. He worked from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. and then at a second job from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a two-hour drive time in between.
  • At the end of this time the family learned that Liasor would be offered a full scholarship in NY, so Salle moved back to Rochester rather than moving the family to GA.
  • Salle has held a number of temporary and other jobs in the last 5 years, losing one when his car broke down and he had no means of getting to Victor to work.
  • In 2006, he started college at Bryant and Stratton feeling that to wait any longer would be increasingly more difficult for him to study and learn as he got older.
  1. Why did you leave Sudan?
    • There was civil war going on in Sudan from 1956 after independence from Britain and Egypt (Englo Egyptian). Click here to read more on the specific conflict in the late 1987 that forced so many of the Uduk people and others out of Sudan and into Ethiopia).
    • The people left Chali and went to Ethiopia. Many have returned since the UN brokered a Peace Agreement in 2005, perhaps 750,000. There are many refugees from other places who are not Uduk, still there.
  1. How many Sudanese Refugees are in the USA at this Time?
  • I’m not certain. Perhaps as many as 3 million, all over the country. Omaha, Nebraska has 7,000. Others with many include Michigan; NY state (1-2,000); CA; TN; Atlanta, GA; and others. They come from different States in Sudan, not just the Blue Nile.  
  1. What were the most difficult aspects of beginning a new life in a different country and culture?
  • Transportation was one. When you get a job and have no car, you have a fifty-fifty chance to get to work on time.
  • Finding work, getting credit, finding affordable housing or buying a house were others.
  1. What are your hopes, dreams, and concerns for your family?
  • My dreams are personal, based on what I have believed in.
  • I have to get my undergraduate degree and go back home to help my people.
  1. What do you miss about your own homeland?
  • I miss the happy life that I used have as a free man, owning land without paying nobody.

10. Do you still have family members living in your country of birth or in a refugee camp? 

  • I have my sister, and a brother who just joined the military last year due to the lack of education that can convince him to stay home to help our mother.
  • My sister has four children. [She is] living as a single mother which so difficult to raise those four children.

11. Tell us something of the Protestant Church in Sudan.

  • Special Note: While talking about this Carol and I were watching a video that Liasor took in June. He had the opportunity to return to Sudan for the first time since leaving and visited many of his family (grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles). We were viewing a worship service in what was left of their old church building. Most of the brick buildings in their villages were leveled during the war in late 1980-82 and 1990’s. Rumthus described her village as “looking like jungle again.” There was no roof on what was once a large church built in 1949. The founding pastor, who died in 1991, translated the Bible into several languages—he spoke 10 languages. The remaining brick walls would no longer support one. Worshippers were singing as they gathered. Before and after, family members gathered in groups to say hello to their family in “America.” Liasor visited 3 large churches while there. He learned of needs for resources. [Perhaps a mission trip from U.S. to help?]
  • Catholic Missionaries were the first to come. Protestants came later. When Catholics left, in 1932 missionaries came and started building churches. One was very large. The government said they couldn’t build it in a large city because Blacks were not leaders; so they built it in the suburbs.
  • There are several churches now, in the capital city of Khartoum.
  • The main church has now been built of brick; and holds 2,000. Liasor was told more than 2,000 come and stand outside.
  • The 2,000 are a gathering of members from as many as 11 smaller church groups surrounding the city. During each service other churches send greetings, via a representative. There were no instruments, only a microphone to aid. There was an ordination service that day and four men were being ordained pastors.
  • Pastors go through a 4-year training program at a school for pastors in Ethiopia.
  • Arabic is the common language.

12. We noticed that many in the video were missing their middle teeth. Why?

  • This was a custom: removing two lower front teeth, with a knife. It is no longer done (Liasor is glad). Salle ran when the time came for his tooth extractions; he still has his!
  • One story relates that it is for the purpose of being able to give someone water when they are dying, through a straw inserted into the opening left by the two teeth.
  • In 1986, the custom was overruled, along with scar-markings on cheeks.
  • When they were 10 years old, boys used to get a mark on their head, signifying manhood.

13. Tell us about the election going on now.

  • State elections are finished.
  • Another one is coming in January 2011 to determine the future of Sudan as one country, two or three countries. The South wants to be separate country.
  • Sudanese in the USA are to go to Washington, DC on October 16 to vote. This will be difficult to get there. 57% are required to go there (DC) to vote on the South/North separation.   Blue Nile, our home state is in the middle, more north than south.
  • North wants to be left pure Arab (no Blacks). South: May take a different name.
  • “Sud” means Black People. Saudi Arabia means Black Arab people. Saud means Black.
  • The Separation is exploring 3 States. One part (Darfur) was not part of Sudan until 1916. Excluded from what South would get are Darfur, Nubba Mountains region, and Blue Nile.
  • Nubba region—99 mountains with 99 tribes, 99 languages.
  • Oil is in South. North has none. This will be a major issue in the vote. Sharing oil 50/50 (Blue Nile gets 2%, based on population, if Blue Nile goes South—4% if goes North).
  • DarArab—a new country to replace Darfur. Darfur has been the focus of conflict. People were paid to kill among themselves to avoid being killed–Muslim against Muslim.
  • If vote separates the country into two, the result takes place Jan. 9, 2011.
  • The Arabs bring industry, business, thus wealth to a region. The South is mainly agriculture.
  • Juba, is the 2nd largest city in South. There are many Arabs there. Most cities are in the North as well as hospitals.

14. How can we pray for you, your family, and your beloved home country of Sudan?

  • Pray for Peace!
  • Pray for the time of adjustment, and for security after such a division. The Blue Nile is a target, whichever way—more so if South votes to separate. Issue is the North: if they want to do something to the South, they have to use Blue Nile to get there! Who will get hurt most?
  • Pray for Hospitals and Clinics in the south. Disease is an issue. No hospital for the sick. Anything more than the basic pain relief cannot be handled. Most of the South is impoverished. The war starting in 1983 took out the good hospitals in the South. There were three different waves of attack that left it like a jungle. There is nowhere for a doctor to set up a practice. A doctor who practiced in Chali is not there anymore. In Karmuk, there are 3-4 hospitals now. The best one is expensive.
  • Pray for wells. Water comes from wells. Women and older girls go for it—they walk for miles—carrying it on their head. Need resources to build wells. A missionary agency has done one so far.
  • The South has the food supply, (gum tree plantation, sugar cane, sorghum) and the oil.   The North has the industry, manufacturing and the big cities. For instance the sugar cane factory produces 600 sacks per day. Sugar is exported to Romania, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Little is left in the Sudan.
  • Only the South is taking a vote, plus refugees in U.S. [Blue Nile refugees: To go with South, or become a 3rd country?]

Closing Note: A vision of Salle’s family is that others would step up and offer to help digs wells in his home state.

The above text comes from two interviews, one with Salle Daniel and one with Salle, his wife Rumthus, and son Liasor. Much has changed in Sudan since 2010.
Rev. Dr. Brian and Carol Babcock, Editors
The Rochester Connection

Return To “A Sudanese Rochester Connection

See: Uduk Language Choir

Liasor and parents
Rumthus & Salle Daniel and their oldest son Liasor at his graduation from St John Fisher College in 2013

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