A Jesuit's Daily Journal Chronicles Service in Chad

Monday, February 25, 2008

Many people write in daily journals, preferring to keep their thoughts, comments and personal reflections private. However, Patrick Samway, S.J., professor of English, recently published a journal he kept while assisting Sudanese refugees several years ago in the hopes that readers would learn about the "genocidal war in Darfur," as he refers to it, and the experiences he had, sometimes quite personal, in setting up and running three primary schools in the Chadian desert.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) invited Fr. Samway to travel to Chad, Africa, to help thousands of traumatized Sudanese refugees who had fled across the border to escape devastating persecution. The JRS – under the aegis of Secours Catholique et Developpement (SECADEV), a Chadian Catholic humanitarian organization – was looking for a Jesuit educator who was fluent in French and who had basic survival skills. Since he was willing and had the necessary prerequisites, Fr. Samway accepted the invitation.

"My underlying motive in going to Chad, of course, was the plight of these refugees, many of whose heartrending stories have been recounted on TV and in books, newspapers and magazines throughout the world," Fr. Samway said. "In my heart of hearts, I simply could not remain indifferent to their individual and collective tragedies."

In early September 2004, Fr. Samway began his journey in Abeche, Chad, the base from which he traveled to the refugee camps at Touloum, Kounoungou, and Farchana. From his first day in Chad, Fr. Samway wrote for one hour each day in his journal, never missing a day in the nine months he spent there. His writings, which turned into an extensive chronicle of daily events and inner reflections, were published recently as Educating Darfur Refugees: A Jesuit's Efforts in Chad (University of Scranton Press, 2007).

"It's a journal about what I was doing and who I am. It does not have a specific goal in mind, but records what I saw, sensed, read and was in the process of discovering," explained Fr. Samway.

The book focuses on his work within SECADEV, which included setting up tent-classrooms, locating Sudanese teachers, providing pedagogical sessions to these teachers, fundraising, pleading for schoolbooks for the 5,000+ refugee students, and eventually overseeing the construction of 65 brick classrooms. The book's introduction explains the history of the current political situation in Darfur.

"The journal focuses not on the specific revelation of atrocities that have been graphically reported elsewhere, but on my life as I lived it," he said.

--Sarah Whelehon '07 (M.A.)

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