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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Being Here: Endless Journey for Sudan Refugee

When Laurence Laew first arrived in Moscow it was just a stopping point. Another transitional place to get travel documents and move on to his intended destination -- Beirut.


But after seven months and several attempts to obtain a visa, Laew, a Christian refugee from Moslem-dominated Sudan, sees his dream of studying theology at Beirut's Mediterranean Bible College fading.


Indeed, his possibilities of resettling anywhere other than Russia are looking so hopeless that Laew is considering risking the consequences and returning to his war-torn country.


Even though he faces a strong possibility of imprisonment in Sudan, he said he may return to escape the hostile treatment he faces as an African refugee in Moscow.


Laew's journey began in 1989 when he left his home in southern Sudan to study hotel management in Cairo. The scholarship was more of a ticket out of the country than a career goal.


"Many young people from the south run away," said Laew, 24, who is from predominantly Christian southern Sudan, where Christian rebels, his brother among them, have been fighting Moslem government forces since 1984. "Life becomes terrible if you don't join the rebels. But I don't want to be a soldier. I can't kill my own people."


Shortly after arriving in Egypt, he said he received a message from the Sudanese government warning him that, should he return, he would face "serious action" for his part in organizing school demonstrations against forced conversion.


"We can't accept Islam -- we're already Christians," said Laew, who had been arrested and jailed for three months for his part in resisting the government's attempts to convert the Christian population.


But, tired of his endless journey, Laew may return to face the "serious action" his government has in store for him.


"I don't know what they'll do," said Laew, who faces almost certain imprisonment. But he said he is tired of the hostile treatment he faces in Russia, a country he finds less than receptive.


In the past seven months Laew said he has been attacked twice by Russian youths -- once just off Red Square. "It's not me alone. Many of my friends have been attacked," said Laew. "Russians have a lot of problems with black people."


For those who bother to report the crime, the police are not much help. "They can't do anything," said Laew. "They just tell you you're lucky they didn't kill you."


Aside from being physically threatened, Laew said he faces other forms of discrimination. It is nearly impossible to find any Muscovites willing to rent him a room, he said. Also, to obtain a student visa to remain in the country legally, he signed up to study Russian at Moscow State University. But at $250 per class, such study will soon become an unaffordable luxury.


"All over the world people are the same. There are rude people and friendly people. But here it's just too much," said Laew, whose journey has taken him to Egypt, Syria, and Ukraine. "People aren't friendly here."