The star of the award-winning pro-life film “Bella” recently visited Darfur refugees as part of a humanitarian and Gospel outreach mission where he saw first-hand the plight of Darfurians.
“I wanted to go to see for myself what was happening in Darfur and to encourage the victims that they have not been forgotten by God’s people,” said actor Eduardo Verastegui, who is also founder of Manto de Guadealupe (MdG) - an organization that provides housing for the impoverished in developing countries.
“Of course, what ended up happening was that I was the one who was blessed and encouraged by seeing the joy of the Lord on so many beautiful faces,” he said.
Verastegui was a former Mexican soap-opera star who, after re-committing his life to Jesus Christ, transformed into a conscientious actor who only accepts roles that are God-pleasing.
His hit 2006 independent film “Bella” is about a pregnant single woman who was considering abortion. But after interacting with Verastegui’s character, she decides to keep the baby, which his character in the end adopts. The pro-life film won the “People’s Choice Award” at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival.
The Mexican actor, along with “Bella” co-executive producer Jason Jones, and Persecution Project Foundation (PPF) president Brad Phillips traveled to Sudan on March 14-21. They visited refugees living in Northern Aweil, on the Darfur border and inspected 26 new water wells built by PPF as well as distributed $2 million in food, medicine and other aid.
PPF is an organization that collects and distributes news about Christian persecution, with a particular focus on Africa. It also works to strengthen and support the persecuted church.
“Most celebrities stick to the ‘safe zones,’ usually in Chad or other places away from the front lines,” Phillips commented. “But Eduardo wanted to go to the front lines and help. We are blessed to have him on our team.”
Verastegui hopes that more Christians will inform themselves about the genocide in Darfur and pour out love and compassion for the victims.
“This is one way God feeds us - by giving us opportunities to feed others,” he said. “We draw closer to God when we help the oppressed and take up the cause of the weak and helpless. We must be Christ’s hands and feet to our family in Darfur. I’m so glad PPF invited me to work with them.”
Sudan, already torn by decades of civil war, was further thrown into turmoil when the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant in early March for its sitting President Omar al-Bashir for crimes against humanity in Darfur.
The government has refused, however, to hand over its president and instead has retaliated against the international community by expelling 13 large international aid groups operating in Darfur.
Verastegui, Jones and the PPF team visited Darfur after Khartoum had expelled the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and in spite of the U.S. State Department’s warning of unsafe travel to Sudan.
But Jason Jones, executive producer of “Bella” said, “What PPF has done here is amazing.”
“With the ICC indictment of Omar el Bashir leading to increased threats to NGOs helping Darfur refugees, the PPF mission here is like an oasis surrounded by a desert of violence and pain,” Jones said. “Here, life is celebrated. Life is thriving. And God is being glorified.”
Since 2003, more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million people, displaced from their homes in the western region of Darfur. The Arab central government, headed by al-Bashir, is accused of unleashing Arab nomads known as janjaweed militia on Darfur civilians after they rebelled against the Khartoum government.