PERU — Gabriel Bol Deng believes his suffering has shaped him into the man he has become.
His journey from Africa to the United States and back again was not an easy one.
Deng is one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan.”
When he was a child, his parents told him his attitude, whether good or bad, would control his life.
“My life was really good before the civil war,” he told the more than 60 people gathered in the auditorium of Peru Central High School recently.
Although he lived in a small hut with no running water or electricity, he was happy with his mother, father and eight siblings.
“What my mom used to say is that you don’t need a lot of material wealth to be happy, that you are happy if you are blessed with a family ... a family that cares for you.”
But his village was attacked by North Sudan militiamen in 1987.
At the time of the raid, 10-year-old Deng was in a field, tending his family’s cows.
Four militiamen with guns appeared “out of nowhere,” he said.
“The first thing I did was to duck down and cover myself with the (high) grass.”
Once the men were gone, Deng ran back to his village.
“I saw a huge swarm of fire,” he said. “A lot of people were slaughtered. They were throwing them into abandoned houses.
“I had to run without knowing what happened to my family.”
Before long, a man found Deng and hoisted him up onto his shoulders, and the two traveled together for a few minutes until the man was shot in the back.
“I played dead. I crossed my eyes and held my breath, pretending I was a dead child.”
‘DETERMINED TO SURVIVE’
When it was safe to move, Deng ran into the forest and, the next day, found a group of people who were also made homeless by the violence.