“If you subscribe to the caricature of devout religious believers as mostly sanctimonious hypocrites, the kind who rake in cash and care about human life only when it is unborn, come visit the doctor here,” observed New York Times columnist Nickolas Kristof from the Nuba Mountains of Sudan.
“Dr. Tom Catena, 51, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, N.Y., is the only doctor at the 435-bed Mother of Mercy Hospital nestled in the Nuba Mountains in the far south of Sudan,” reports Kristoff. “For that matter, he’s the only doctor permanently based in the Nuba Mountains for a population of more than half a million people.
“Just about every day, the Sudanese government drops bombs or shells on civilians in the Nuba Mountains, part of a scorched-earth strategy to defeat an armed rebellion here. The United States and other major powers have averted their eyes, so it is left to “Dr. Tom,” as he is universally known here, to pry out shrapnel from women’s flesh and amputate limbs of children, even as he also delivers babies and removes appendixes.
“He does all this off the electrical grid, without running water, a telephone or so much as an X-ray machine — while under constant threat of bombing, for Sudan has dropped 11 bombs on his hospital grounds. The first time, Dr. Tom sheltered, terrified, in a newly dug pit for an outhouse, but the hospital is now surrounded by foxholes in which patients and the staff crouch when military aircraft approach. “We’re in a place where the government is not trying to help us,” he says. “It’s trying to kill us.”
Certainly the Nubans (who include Muslims and Christians alike) seem to revere Dr. Tom. “People in the Nuba Mountains will never forget his name,” said Lt. Col. Aburass Albino Kuku of the rebel military force. “People are praying that he never dies.”
A Muslim paramount chief named Hussein Nalukuri Cuppi offered an even more unusual tribute. “He’s Jesus Christ,” he said.
Er, pardon? The chief explained that Jesus healed the sick, made the blind see and helped the lame walk — and that is what Dr. Tom does every day. You needn’t be a conservative Catholic or evangelical Christian to celebrate that kind of selflessness. Just human.
Read Nicholas Kristof’s entire column HERE