As Ryan Boyette, founder of Nuba Reports, met with two reporters in his home, he heard the sound of a descending plane headed in their direction.
“I remember telling the reporters, ‘I think this plane is going to bomb us.’ They were like, ‘No, there’s no way they know where your house is,’” Boyette said. “It came again, under the clouds and lines up for my house. The next thing I heard – wha-wha-wha-BOOM! Six bombs were dropped in a line over my house, but God protected us.”
Shrapnel from the first two bombs flew over their heads as Boyette and the reporters quickly laid on the ground inside the home. Boyette’s wife, Jazira, who was next door, hid behind a boulder.
“She was seven months pregnant with our son and she was laying behind a big rock. The third bomb hit about 30 meters, about 30 yards, from her. A piece of shrapnel hit the rock she was laying behind and ricocheted off of it,” Boyette said. “Three more bombs were dropped after that … Of course, we were so happy that everyone was ok, and we ran immediately because we were worried that the plane would circle back.”
Sharing the experiences of the people in the Nuba Mountains, Boyette strives to inform other countries on the factors of genocide and the importance of genocide prevention and recovery.
Boyette spoke to students in the honors colloquium, Becoming Evil, about his experiences working with local reporters to cover mass atrocities in the Nuba mountains of Sudan. Trisha Posey, professor of history, and Kevin Simpson, professor of psychology, invited Boyette, emphasizing the course’s focus on the intersection of history, psychology, and faith in the study of genocides.
Emily Adamson, a junior student in the colloquium, believes it is important to learn about difficult subjects like genocide because it is a rare topic of conversation. “I hear about some current events occurring in America, but I don’t usually hear about news from other countries,” Adamson said. “In my mind, genocide is associated with World War II and I usually forget that there are many other cases that have happened even during my lifetime. It’s important for college students to see that there is wrong happening in the world because awareness is half of the battle.”
Boyette was waiting for placement with United States Customs and Federal Bureau of Investigations when he first learned about the war in Sudan. “I had gone through … year-long background checks, took a polygraph … Then my sister sent me an article that had two paragraphs about the conflict in Sudan and the persecution of Christians. From that moment, I started reading. I was very frustrated. Why was I reading only two paragraphs on a 20-year war that I’d never even heard of? … I just really felt God calling me there,” Boyette said.
Taking a job with Samaritan’s Purse, Boyette entered Sudan in 2003 during a five-year window of peace to help rebuild attacked churches. One pastor Boyette met suffered capture and torture. “He was tied up naked, tied his hands to his feet, and he was laid face-up on top of a sheet of metal that had been out in the sun and … it was 115 degrees,” Boyette said. “This guy laid out there all day along with his friend. His friend died that day and his hands and feet were melted together. He could not walk again and when I met him, he had not walked for over 25 years.”
Cultural, geographical and religious differences set up multiple rifts, reaching a peak in fighting between the southern-based Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the northern-based Sudanese government during the first war. “In 1982, the Sudan government declared a jihad on its own people,” Boyette said. “It was a war of attrition … They would block areas where people were getting food. They would wear them down and wear them down, but the people of South Sudan just kept fighting.”
With the support of the United States government, SPLM and the Sudanese government came to a peace agreement, which split Sudan and betrayed the loyalty of the Nuba people, who fought on behalf of the South and were now part of North Sudan. “There was supposed to be a state election … to allow these people to have some say in their government. Well, as soon as the country split, Omar Bashir, the dictator-president, … started speaking about destroying the cockroaches, meaning the Nuba people and the people from this area … He started speaking about ‘I’m not going to let these cockroaches live. We will chase them to their mountain tops.’”
In June 2011, the second war started, and Samaritan’s Purse called Boyette, urging him and his family to leave Sudan. “I felt that it was very hypocritical that we’re willing in times of peace to talk to people and tell them about the hope we have in Jesus Christ and the love of Jesus Christ, but in times of suffering, we’re willing to just get on a plane and just leave people and say I hope you make it out on the other side alive,” Boyette said. “I didn’t feel that was right, so I told Samaritan’s Purse from that day that I resigned, and I started a media team.”
Boyette and his team of journalists capture images, videos, and eye-witness accounts, which they sent to international media and governments. Boyette believes God has used this organization to cease bombings and fighting in Nuba for the past two years.
While the Sudanese government denied bombings in meetings with the U.S., Nuba Reports supplied evidence of the devastation. “The Sudan government realized that they could not continue bombing if we were going to keep sending information. They did try to stop us. That’s why they bombed my house. But in the end, when God protected us and they couldn’t stop us, they realized that they had to stop what they were doing. So, for two years now there hasn’t been fighting,” Boyette said. “[However, ] I don’t think the Sudan government has [had] a change of heart, but it has stopped.”
Boyette’s next mission, titled To Move Mountains, is to build schools in these war-torn areas. “The people of Nuba see education as freedom. They see it as a way of getting out of their oppression … They will say, ‘All the soldiers who fight against our government, they’re not going to win the war for us. Education is,’” Boyette said.
The faith and resilience of the Nuba people has inspired Boyette. “They will pray for Omar Bashir every day. They will pray for the dictator that’s bombing them,” Boyette said. “My prayers would be like ‘kill that guy.’ They’re praying that he finds Christ and it’s a huge encouragement to me.”