Sudan (MNN) — Sudan's Khartoum government says the country is officially in a state of
war with South Sudan.
The top United Nations human rights official confirmed that
statement by condemning Sudan's indiscriminate bombing raids that resulted in
civilian casualties in South Sudan.
Khartoum began the week with a wave of air raids on Southern
border areas, killing several civilians and hitting a UN peacekeeper base. South Sudan struck back with a vow to hold
their positions in a contested oil field seized from Khartoum's army.
Todd Nettleton, spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says disillusionment is growing because less than a year ago, "there was great fanfare about this. There was a peaceful transition, and yet now today we see the two countries
really on the brink of going back to what was two decades of civil war when it
was one united country."
Nettleton goes on to explain, "There is a lot at stake, but a
lot of it comes down to oil and money. There
is oil along that border region, and both countries want to lay claim to it. Both countries want to lay claim to the money that they will earn if they
could control those oil fields." These issues threaten to dissolve the 2005 peace
accord that brought an end to a two decades' old civil war. In
that conflict, some two million people died between 1983 and 2005.
Both sides are accusing each other of failing to abide by
the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which effectively ended decades
of war between the north and south.
Hundreds of thousands fled the crisis zones and sought refuge
wherever in the south and across the border to Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya. The root of the conflict: religious
persecution, economic, ethnic or tribal? Nettleton says, "When you point to the conflict and you
say, 'This is the root cause of it,' that is a vast oversimplification because
all of these different factors play into the animosity and play into the things
that are happening."
Open Doors USA says northern Christians experienced greater
vulnerability after southern Sudan seceded in a July referendum. It seems they were targeted amid isolated
military conflicts, which vaulted the country to 16th on the 2012 World Watch List
of the top 50 of the countries known for their persecution of Christians.
Territorial violence flared on border areas with South Sudan
in the provinces of Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, and "Christian
communities were disproportionately affected," according to the report.
So while not targeted persecution, there are some parts of
the conflict that include impact on the Gospel. "There is danger for all
of the people there, so the people who are Christians, the people who are doing
evangelism, are included in that. What we
have seen since the separation of the two countries, particularly in Sudan in
the northern part, is really something where the government is changing how
they deal with Christians."
As the violence moves masses of people, says Nettleton, "That
has the potential to create humanitarian needs. But it also has the potential
to have evangelism opportunities for the people who are there because we know that
when there's conflict, and when there's need, people are hungry and they are
interested in hearing the Gospel."
The Voice of the Martyrs is also on the ground through
partners. "We are involved with helping pastors, helping provide training
to pastors. We are involved in providing Bibles and getting God's Word into
people's hands. We're also involved in very basic humanitarian things."
Pray that Christians throughout Sudan will continue to
entrust themselves to Christ and preach the Gospel boldly. Pray also that peace, justice, and religious
freedom may be firmly established.