(Cover photo by BBC World Service: File footage refugee camp.) [Story photo by Kids Alive International: Sudan boys]
Sudan (MNN) ― On Friday, thousands lined the streets of Khartoum and Omdurman demanding that the president step down as a result of the country's economic woes.
They clashed with security, which fired tear gas into the crowds in an escalating effort to clampdown on the turmoil.
The protests started June 16 at universities in the capital of Khartoum and quickly spread to other cities across Sudan. Demonstrators are calling for an of end Omar al-Bashir's nearly 23-year rule. They say recent budget cuts and tax increases are draconian enough to call for his ouster.
Could this movement be the Arab Spring moving south? No one really knows if the protests will gather the kind of momentum seen in last year's Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, but given the previous instability triggered by the secession of South Sudan, it might tip the balance.
Meanwhile, Sudanese and South Sudanese delegations are looking to resume talks this week after little progress over a buffer zone on the common border. Kids Alive International President Al Lackey says the situation remains tense because "the problem in the North right now is that they (the government) withdrew all the personal ID information from all the residents, and they (the residents) have to go back and reapply. As they do that, they have to identify what religion they are. Many of the Christians are fearful to do that at this time."
Sudan's history with Christians has been acrimonious, at best. The secession ramped up tensions, especially near the border areas. Although serving neither side exclusively, groups like Kids Alive International were caught in the middle. Lackey explains, "Like many non-profits, we were in the North and the South two or three years ago. A lot of our ministry has now moved to the South, so we're trying to plant that, develop that."
That meant personnel overseeing both projects needed to be able to cross the borders regularly. That's when the problem emerged. "They're more or less trapped because they can't use the airport. They may get out, but if they try to come back in, they could be denied."
Hostilities mean travel is difficult and the additional chaos will likely slow whatever paperwork needs to make its way through the government channels. Prayer goes a long way. Lackey says, "A lot of our focus in the South is to rescue more orphans and to care for the people that are moving in around us. It continues to grow daily." It won't be easy to do both, with the red tape disruption, but Lackey says their team is committed fully. "Our focus in the North is to maintain what we're doing and to be responsible to the children that we have."
An estimated 10% of Sudan's children are orphans. Over 1.8 million of them are now living on the streets or in refugee camps. "We bring children into small residential homes if they have no family, or if they're living in an abusive situation. They live in small homes of eight to ten kids, maybe up to 12, with house parents. And then, we educate those children and care for them all the way up until they're young adults."
Lackey goes on to say that their work doesn't stop with the rescue. "True hope is not just giving them all the things they need to exist in life. It starts with the Lord Jesus Christ, and then all those other pieces are the hope giving, and the development, and the kingdom building that we desire for each of our kids."
Protests, clashes, and chaos are creating a lot of disruption for Kids Alive International. They're still seeing new kids in need of rescue every day. It takes about $60 to really do the job right, and funding is what limits their growth the most.
Kids keep turning up in desperate need. Lackey says money helps, but prayer support has fallen off, too. "When Sudan was in the news, everybody was praying, churches were praying. But now that it has lost number one focus, people forget that there are still people in persecution, that people trapped in the North, and there's a huge exodus of people coming to the South."
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