Recently, I have been haunted by children I've never met, from a tribe I know very little about, in a country I've never visited.
Last week, I learned about the children of the Karo tribe in Ethopia. The people of the Karo tribe in rural south-western Ethiopia have a culture rich in tradition. However, the tribe lives in fear of evil spirits who they believe bring ill fortune to their villages. They use the word “Mingi” to describe persons they consider cursed or otherwise imperfect. Those deemed Mingi face severe consequences, as the Karo believe the presence of these children on their land curses the tribe.
There are many different ways in which a thing may be considered “Mingi”; but there are a few that are more common and have severe consequences, such as pregnancy outside of marriage. A second example of Mingi refers to married couples who conceive before announcing their intention to the rest of the tribe. The parents must notify the tribe they are trying to conceive; otherwise any pregnancy is considered illegitimate. Another example is when a child’s top teeth come in before the bottom teeth. Their solution to this perceived threat is to drown Mingi in the river.
Late last year, a Christian team of photojournalists traveled to Ethiopia. They met with Lale, a Karo tribesman who attended a Youth with a Mission training school in Hernhut, Germany. Lale informed the team of the Mingi belief and of his vision to convince the tribal elders to surrender these children to an orphanage he would oversee. This action would save lives while he in turn, would focus on the diplomatic process of convincing the local tribes that the Mingi belief is baseless.
Lale and the group members had an initial conversation with tribal leaders regarding Mingi. They asked leaders if they are willing to explore options, and if their group could help relocate the children sentenced to death far from the Karo land.
One of the team members began to cover the story of a mother with a Mingi child. They promised to return in January before the child was born. In January, 2009, they returned with additional students for a photo journalism workshop to find that the mother gave birth early and they had already killed the child. The team vowed to return to save Mingi children via the river or car.
In January, the first child, Bale, was saved from her demise for having “Mingi” teeth. In February, the orphanage was legalized with the Ethiopia government. The orphanage is named “Drawn from Water” because the group utilizes the same river that the children were normally drowned in to rescue them.
The group relocated an additional 5 children from neighboring tribes. Later that month, the group rescued two additional children from within the tribal community, but an additional two children died because they could not be reached in time.
The story of the Karo tribe seems so distant from the world of iPods, 24-7 media connections and online grocery services. So, why am I telling you about it? First, the need is urgent. Not only is this an actual matter of life and death, but the events described above happened this year. This is a real-time opportunity to help. Second, the orphanage is supported by people that I personally know and trust. Donations to Drawn from Water go directly to rescue and care for these children. Finally, as a parent I can only imagine to horror of realizing that I had allowed my own child to be killed for a lie. One possibility is that the Drawn from Water orphanage may only exist for the time it takes for the tribe to hear the Truth and recognize that these children are a blessing and not a curse. Children who would have been killed could one day be reunited with their parents. This is amazing grace defined.
Recently, I have been haunted by children I've never met, from a tribe I know very little about, in a country I've never visited. Inevitably, when I think about these children for any length of time, their faces change and I see Evan staring back at me.
For more information about Drawn from Water and how you can help, visit the following websites: