Dr Tom Catena
At six o'clock each morning an American doctor makes his way through the dark to a simple chapel where he spends half an hour, rosary in hand, enlisting God's support for the day ahead. He is Dr Tom Catena, and he is the only surgeon in the only hospital serving a million people in a remote corner of Sudan.
Catena's story would be remarkable enough as it is, treating leprosy, malaria and other tropical diseases in the Nuba Mountains. But Catena's patients arrive with grotesque shrapnel wounds, bombed by their own government. Since 2011, the Khartoum regime has been trying to ethnically cleanse the black African tribes of the region. The surgeon sees as many as 400 patients a day, survivors of a brutal and relentless campaign of aerial bombardment.
Catena works at the Mother of Mercy Hospital, a facility built and supported by the Catholic Church. He is on call twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week, in working conditions defying belief. His duties are regularly interrupted by the low drone of aircraft engines. The walking wounded rush to fox holes as the barrel bombs rain down on them, hoping they will not be victims of a direct hit.
The Heart of Nuba is a documentary telling Catena's remarkable personal story, at the same time as providing an insight into the challenging conditions in a part of the world that rarely makes the headlines. The Khartoum regime has systematically denied access to journalists, humanitarian aid groups or human rights investigators. Consequently, the Nuba people continue to endure "Rwanda in slow motion" in a media vacuum.
The difficulties of reaching the Mother of Mercy Hospital, the danger of filming there, and the risk of being discovered by the security services or bombed by the Sudanese air force, mean the making of the documentary is an achievement in itself. Yet, it avoids the numbing effect of endless scenes of meaningless violence. The shrapnel injuries are distressing, but the patients' courage, and Catena's rock solid religious faith are inspiring.
The Heart of Nuba is being shown around the world to coincide with the UN day of genocide awareness and prevention, on December 9th. It has been shown in the UK Parliament and the US Congress.
If your church group is interested in showing the film, please visit http://theheartofnuba.com/