Thursday at the federal courthouse in Gulfport 50 people from 19 countries raised their right hand and took the oath to become American citizens. Among those at the naturalization ceremony, Bul Mabil, a refugee from Sudan where millions of people were killed in a civil war.
Bul Mabil promised to protect and serve the United States
"I'm really feeling good because this is the moment that I have been waiting for," said Mabil.
As he took the oath, he thought of the contrast between his new homeland and the one he left behind.
"I came from a county where human rights are not respected," said Mabil. "That is what brought me to this country because America is the land of the free."
Mabil is a native of Sudan where a 20-year civil war killed 2 million people and left another 4 million refugees. Mabil was one of the 27.000 children dubbed the "Lost Boys" who had to walk 1,000 miles to Ethiopia
"This war in Sudan has affected so many people in Sudan," he said. "It has uprooted so many people. At an early age, people like myself we left Sudan at the age of five. I had to walk a long distance to be able to seek safety."
Here in the United States, Mabil has earned a college degree from Millsaps and a scholarship to start Columbia University law school this fall. Still he wanted to help others by volunteering at Camp Coast Care which remodels homes in Pass Christian and Long Beach.
He said "Right after I graduated I decided to give back to the society to help those who are really in need. I thought coming to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help victims of Hurricane Katrina would be a great thing to do. "
Mabil says he's waited a long time to become a citizen.
"Now I have the hope, but when I was in Sudan I didn't have the hope," Mabil said. "I never knew that I would be alive until I was able to come to this great country."
He says he has a vision that one day the people of Sudan will be able to have the same rights in that country that he will enjoy here as an American citizen.