Acts of Faith

MAJOR CHARACTERS (listed alphabetically):

DOUGLAS BRAITHWAITE—American aviator in his early thirties, formerly a UN pilot, now managing director of Knight Air Services, an independent airline flying aid into Sudan

WESLEY DARE—Texas-born mercenary and bush pilot, Douglas’s partner in Knight Air

QUINETTE HARDIN—mid-twenties evangelical Christian from Iowa, employed by the WorldWide Christian Union, a human rights group that redeems black slaves captured by Arab raiders in Sudan

IBRAHIM IDRIS—omda (chief) of the Salamat, a seminomadic Arab tribe; also a warlord commanding a detachment of murahaleen, irregular Arab cavalry used as raiders by the Khartoum government

FITZHUGH MARTIN—mixed-race Kenyan, a former UN relief worker


JOHN BARRETT—defrocked Catholic priest, field coordinator for International People’s Aid, a privately funded Canadian relief organization

LADY DIANA BRIGGS—wealthy middle-aged Anglo-Kenyan philanthropist and human rights advocate; one of IPA’s principal donors

FATHER MALACHY DELANEY—Irish missionary priest, Barrett’s old seminary classmate

KEN EISMONT—American human rights activist, executive director of the WorldWide Christian Union, Quinette Hardin’s boss

MARY ENGLISH—young Canadian aviator, Dare’s copilot in Knight Air

MICHAEL ARCHANGELO GORAENDE—lieutenant colonel in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), commander of rebel forces in Sudan’s Nuba mountains

HASSAN ADID—multimillionaire Kenyan businessman of Somali extraction, an investor in Knight Air

DR. GERHARD MANFRED—German physician who operates a hospital in the Nuba mountains for German Emergency Doctors, a nongovernmental organization

PHYLLIS RAPPAPORT—American TV correspondent, chief of CNN’s Nairobi bureau

TARA WHITCOMB—Anglo-Kenyan bush pilot in the mold of Beryl Markham; managing director of Pathways Ltd., an independent relief airline and Knight Air’s chief competitor

Also a host of walk-ons: ULRIKA, a nurse; BASHIR, an Arab slave-trader; NIMROD, Dare’s Kenyan loadmaster; SULEIMAN, a Nuban guerrilla; TIM FANCHER and ROB HANDY, American missionaries; PEARL GORAENDE, Colonel Goraende’s daughter; TONY BOLLICHEK, an Australian bush pilot; and others.

Note: This book is a work of fiction. It should not be taken as an accurate representation of the events that inspired it. None of its characters, whether modeled on real people or created wholly out of the writer’s imagination, are intended to resemble any persons, living or dead.

Introductory Rites

ON A HOT night in Lokichokio, as a generator thumps in the distance and katydids cling like thin winged leaves to the lightbulb overhead, he tells his visitor that there is no difference between God and the Devil in Africa. Whoever understands that in his blood and bones and guts, where true understanding resides, will swim in its treacherous currents; whoever doesn’t will drown.

This observation has come from out of nowhere, during a lull in the conversation, and the visitor’s first impulse is to brush it off as some random thought that has popped into Fitzhugh’s beer-fogged brain and then out of his mouth; but because she is new to Africa, it occurs to her that he might be giving some advice, or a warning, and that she ought to pay attention.

She is a dark-haired American journalist in her late twenties, and a magazine assignment has brought her to Lokichokio, a town as squalid as it is remote, hidden away in the barren, bandit-haunted plains of northwestern Kenya, some thirty miles from southern Sudan. Years ago that accident of geography lifted Lokichokio out of obscurity and transformed it from a market town for local Turkana tribesmen into a headquarters for the armies of international beneficence. Just beyond its shabby shops and warrens of stick and straw huts, acres of warehouses, depots, and fenced compounds stretch away from an airfield where cargo planes land and take off every day, shattering the desert stillness. The planes fly for the United Nations and private relief agencies enlisted under its pale blue banner, delivering humanitarian aid into Sudan, where a civil war between the Muslim Arabs of the north and the Christian and pagan blacks of the south conspires with periodic droughts to create misery on a scale colossal even by African standards.

UN publicists have told the journalist that this mighty exercise is the largest relief operation since the Berlin airlift in 1948, but there is a peculiar wrinkle in it, and that wrinkle is what has drawn her to this backwater. The Islamic fundamentalists who rule Sudan from Khartoum have imposed an aid blockade on those parts of the south controlled by the Infidel’s military forces—the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. UN planes are prohibited from entering these so-called no-go zones, Khartoum arguing that their cargoes would fall into rebel hands, though the actual reason is to starve the southerners into submission. The inhabitants of the no-go zones might well have perished long ago, if certain aid agencies had not decided to break the rules. Declining to serve under the UN, they operate