The Catholic University of America

Nov. 10, 2010

Manute Bol Honored as a Moral, Spiritual Giant


Rev. Tom Prichard, executive director of Sudan Sunrise, speaks at the tribute to Manute Bol.

During his nine-year career (1985-94) in the NBA, the late Manute Bol was known as a physical giant, a player who stood more than 7 feet 6 inches tall and blocked more shots per minute than anybody in league history.  

But at a tribute Nov. 9 before several hundred people at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, Bol was remembered as more of a moral and spiritual giant for his native people of Sudan.
“He was the Muhammad Ali or Nelson Mandela of his time,” said John Zogby, senior fellow with Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies and CEO of Zogby International, who spoke at the tribute. Zogby first met Bol in Washington in the summer of 2009. “He had aesthetic, ethical and religious qualities that were unmatched," Zogby said.
Bol worked for peace and education in Sudan, a northeastern African nation which endured civil wars from 1983 to 2005, leaving more than 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced. His goal was to build 41 co-ed and multi-faith schools in the country, an effort to reconcile the peoples of the Muslim-dominated north and the Christian-dominated south.
“The old Muslim generation believes that their religion is better than the others, and the people running Sudan are radical Muslims,” said Rudwan Dawod, a Muslim and former president of the Darfur Student Association at Juba University in northern Sudan, who spoke at the tribute. “But Manute taught that all religions are the same. He was a Catholic, but he believed that one religion wasn’t better than another.”
Bol’s dream was realized posthumously. After he died on June 19, the first school opened and serves 300 students of elementary school age, said Zogby.

Manute Bol with some of the children he helped in Sudan.

A former herder of cattle in the arid plains of southern Sudan, Bol was also recalled by two other speakers as a bold and courageous activist on behalf of the people of southern Sudan, who were subject to violent raids from northern soldiers.
Lubo Mija said he was stranded in a refugee camp in 1991 when Bol arrived one day. “He witnessed our starvation. He said we’ll rescue you. Two days later, food was dropped from airplanes. Honestly, he saved our lives,” said Lubo, one of the tens of thousands of “lost boys” in Sudan whose parents were killed in the civil war.  
Robert McFarlane, a former national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan, recalled an event he attended in Washington in 2008 with Bol and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
“Manute asked Gorbachev, ‘Why aren’t you using your voice to curtail Russian arms supplies to the north?’” McFarlane said. “Well, Gorbachev blew him off, but eventually he came around. People today in Moscow say that Gorbachev is responsible for helping stop Russia’s unrestricted support of the [radical Muslim] Khartoum government.”
McFarlane said Bol was a courageous person whose example should live on long after his death at the age of 47.
The event was co-sponsored by four Catholic University entities -- the Department of Athletics, the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, Office of Campus Ministry and the School of Architecture and Planning's Sustainable Design Program -- as well as by the National Council for Independent Visitors, Sudan Sunrise and Zogby International.


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