Sudan's Church Grows Despite War & Famine

CURRENT FEATURE STORY
by the Editors at ReligionToday.com
February 19, 1999

Famine and war are no match for Sudan's Christians. Life in the southern region of the country is filled with adversity (see link #1 below), but the church presses on, evangelizing and ministering to the needy.

..."Ongoing persecution, war, and hunger make Sudan the country facing the greatest calamity in the world today," the international evangelization group AD 2000 and Beyond (see link #2 below) says. However, "Sudanese Christians are living out their faith and the churches are growing in the face of intense persecution." About 75% of the population in the south is Christian, up from 10% in 1955, a missionary to the country said.

...A seemingly endless civil war and persistent famine are destroying the country. More than 1.9 million people reportedly have died in the 15-year war and tens of thousands have starved to death. The Islamic regime in Khartoum has tried to subjugate and destroy the Christian and animist south, AD 2000 said. Muslim troops reportedly have attacked and burned churches, killed unarmed civilians, and enslaved woman and children.

...The situation continues to worsen. Hundreds of Christian villagers were taken hostage by government forces this month in attacks on villages in Bahr al-Ghazal. "On Feb. 4, in the Warawar area alone, 409 women and children were abducted and taken to northern Sudan as slaves," Christian Solidarity International (see link #3 below) said. Troops attacked 12 villages, breaking a United Nations cease-fire agreement, Reuters said.

...The famine "is more alarming than at any time since last summer when hundreds of skeletal figures were dying of starvation every week," World Relief (see link #4 below) President Clive Calver said. "Much hinges on the crop recently harvested, and most estimates are that it is not nearly adequate." He said fighting in the Bahr al-Ghazal area is forcing people to flee the area, where World Relief operates an emergency feeding area.

..."The war, persecution, and famine have not deterred the church from bringing hope to this tragic country," AD 2000 said. There is a spiritual awakening in the south, and entire villages are turning to Christ, Jim Jacobson of Christian Freedom International (see link #5 below) said. He has visited the country three times in the past year and heard several reports of revivals.

...Pastors are undeterred by the intimidating circumstances and are planning to evangelize unreached areas of the country. Sudan's Christian leaders have made "the stunning realization that it is time to be a missionary church," AD 2000 said. In September, more than 80 Christian leaders from every denomination launched a national initiative to bring the message of Christ to tribal groups that have never heard it before.

..."We as the Body of Christ in this land must work together in a national initiative to plant churches," the ministers said in a joint declaration. "

...[G]eneral and parachurch ministries are important, [but] not enough. We must have specific efforts aimed at specific ethno-linguistic groups...This is going to require research, prayer, and the sending of missionaries."

...The outreach could be "an historic turning point" in Sudan, AD 2000 said. Each church agreed to "adopt" at least one tribal group. Churches will select, train, and support missionary teams that will live with tribes and start churches. Every denomination aims to send missionaries to at least one tribal group by the year 2000.

...Churches are facilitating a peace process between warring tribes in the south. Thousands of people reportedly have died, hundreds of thousands of cattle have been stolen or killed, and rich farmland destroyed in a seven-year war between the Dinka and Nuer tribes. The conflict has left the mostly Christian tribes vulnerable to attacks by Islamic troops. Muslim cavalry and foot soldiers "carved a swath of destruction through the region" already ravaged by famine, AD 2000 said.

...The New Sudan Council of Churches is bringing tribal leaders together to discuss peace. Tribal leaders met on neutral territory in June to discuss for the first time possibilities of ending the conflict. Christian facilitators helped them recognize each other's sufferings and see the need for reconciliation. Leaders of both tribes, accompanied by members of the council, visited each other's regions for several days this month, then flew to a neutral site to discuss specific issues of peace.

...Thousands of U.S. college students prayed, marched, and sent letters to Congress Feb. 12 on behalf of Sudan. The National Campaign for Conscience for Sudan was formed at a Georgetown University symposium in November sponsored by Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom (see link #6 below). "Scripture tells us that we must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and defend the rights of the poor and needy," Grace Chiu, a Harvard graduate student, said.

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