Gabriel Meyer traveled to the ends of the earth and back, but it wasn't until the journalist visited the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan that he found a foreign land not of this world.

 

Meyer discovered in Africa a people and place unlike any he had encountered. So isolated was the location and so different were the Nuba - a people who maintain incredible hope under desperate conditions - that the encounter educated his mind and effected his emotions tremendously.

 

"I realized that while I had been in some unusual places, southern Egypt for example, I had never been anyplace this remote," said Meyer, whose writing experience as a war correspondent also has taken him to the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem and Bosnia. "No roads. No electricity. With people living much as they did 1,000 years ago." With one horrific exception. The Nuba of 1006 did not face the kind of fear and persecution that tormented them during the 22-year civil war between the Islamic government forces and insurgent armies in central and southern Sudan that ended on Jan. 9, 2005.

 

Meyer made the first of six trips to central Sudan in 1998. What kept bringing him back, through 2004, was a conversation he never saw coming.

 

"The most extraordinary thing, outside the exotic landscape and whole context of the situation, was when I first interviewed a commander of one of the small militias that had rebelled against the government," Meyer said, explaining that the government expected the Nuba to join it in a holy war against southern Sudan. "I could see from the ragtag weapons they had  ... that I would be told to send a message (for supplies)."

 

Instead, the commander delivered a far different message.

 

"When I asked him what was the most important thing your soldiers need out here, he said, 'The most important thing they need is to learn to fight and not to hate. Fight the enemy if you must, but why catch his disease?'"

 

Meyer describes that quote as the "goose bump moment" when he first realized he had stumbled upon something outside the norm.

 

"That's when I knew we were dealing with something very unusual here, that the Nuba had a kind of spirituality built into their culture that I had not seen in most other places," said Meyer, who used the commander's comments as the inspiration for War and Faith in Sudan, a memoir of his time spent there.