In late October, Search for Common Ground honored rapper and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal with a Common Ground Award for his efforts to promote peaceful conflict resolution. Jal spent his childhood in the midst of the civil war in Southern Sudan, and was recruited at age seven for the Rebel army. Forced to fight on the front lines, Jal and the other child soldiers faced incomprehensible violence.
Jal was one of the lucky ones, however. He escaped along with 400 other child soldiers. Known as the Lost Boys of Sudan, these children walked through the desert for three months. Only a very few survived the ordeal, including Jal. He was rescued from a refugee camp by British aid worker Emma McCune, who smuggled him into Kenya.
Today, Jal is a well-known figure in both the rap music world and the global peace movement. Much of his music focuses on the need to resolve conflict peacefully. He has also founded Gua Africa, an organization whose mission is to work with individuals, families and communities to help them overcome the effects of war and poverty. The organization, based in Sudan and Kenya, provides education to children and young adults who would otherwise not have access to such opportunities. In 2010 he founded another organization, We Want Peace, in honor of Southern Sudan’s historic referendum on independence, which also works to further peaceful conflict resolution throughout the world.
Emmanuel Jal is a deserving honoree for this year’s Common Ground Awards. Hopefully he will serve as an inspiration to all.
***Note: Search for Common Ground is a past recipient of grants from the JAMS Foundation.
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