On Sunday, a man who once ran from child slavery will be running for gold in the London 2012 Olympics.
In the devastation of the Sudanese civil war, Guor Marial lost 28 family members to violence and disease and found himself forced into a labor camp. At age 8, he ran to escape and finally entered the United States at the age of 15 as a refugee. Since then, he has become a standout runner talented enough to qualify for the 2012 Olympic marathon.
One problem: Marial doesn’t yet have the U.S. citizenship necessary to compete for the United States and his country of origin, the newly-formed South Sudan, didn’t field an Olympic team. The International Olympic Committee found a solution, approving Marial to run under the rings of the Olympic flag.
As Marial competes wearing the Olympic rings, an inclusive symbol designed to represent every nation in the world, it seems a fitting standard for a man whose life spans several nations.
Whether it be for safety, for freedom, for new opportunities, or for family, people are on the move. And Marial understands the power of his participation for migrants and all those whose communities transcend international borders:
I’m running for the support of the United States, that people of the United States will support me, who helped me, who show me this sport, who brought me here. I’m running for the refugees and I’m running for the South Sudanese, especially.
LIRS is blessed to resettle thousands of Sudanese refugees into American communities. Guor Marial’s extraordinary journey exemplifies the power of perseverance and the spirit of welcome. Visit the LIRS Action Center to advocate in support of policies working to further this spirit of welcome in the United States.