Ker Aleu Deng in Aweil, South Sudan. (Photo by Michael Gerson)

Ker’s corneas are now white and opaque. He can see light and darkness, but little else. He suffers from nightmares — vague dreams of being attacked, or of something heavy falling. But Ker’s default attitude is cheerfulness. Led from place to place, he is uncomplaining. Unfair suffering has left no mark of brooding or anger. 

Ker’s future is undetermined. He is waiting for a Sudanese passport and an American visa to come to the United States to be examined for possible eye surgery. His mother, Angel Mangok, remains in captivity. 

However it ends, Ker’s story illustrates something important about his brand-new, long-suffering country. For most, liberty is an abstraction and slavery is a metaphor. For some, the scars of slavery are real scars; the memories of slavery are about a year old. South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, has many obvious challenges. But it already offers the world remarkable examples of resilience.