Prayer needed for Sudan’s largest UPG

By May 12, 2020

Sudan (MNN) — Today ends our series about unreached people groups, or UPGs, in the Greater Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan. See the full series here.

Ken*, a Gospel worker focused on Sudan, says believers in this north African nation were severely persecuted for decades. Now, “the Church [and] believers in Sudan have been invited to the table to have conversations about the future,” Ken says.

“December 2022 is the next election and, for the next year and a half or more, we have an opportunity where the country of Sudan is saying, ‘Come help us’.”

Sudan: a summary

Shell casings litter the ground in the Nuba Mountains, one of the conflict areas targeted by Bashir’s military.
(Photo, caption courtesy of VOM USA)

Former dictator Omar al-Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for thirty years.  When he was ousted last year, “windows [of opportunity] opened up that surprised everybody,” Ken says. Church leaders were invited into planning discussions by their former persecutors. In March, officials dissolved committees that were used by Bashir’s Islamist regime to confiscate church properties and proposed a bill to remove the death penalty for apostasy.

See more Sudan headlines here.

Ken says many of the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC)’s latest moves have an underlying motive. “Politically, they want to gain favor in the world’s eyes and, quite frankly, they need the help,” he explains.

“They (Sudanese) have not had the entrepreneurial ‘see-what-needs-to-happen-and-go-create-it’ mindset for decades now. They need what is oftentimes referred to as the western world’s influence: ‘Don’t do this for us, but show us how to do it.’ Politically, that provides an opportunity.”

This political openness creates Gospel opportunities. In an unexpected twist, the coronavirus pandemic creates opportunity, too.

“The UPGs in Sudan tend not to have good jobs or steady jobs. Now, they can’t go out, they can’t get income, and they’re hungry. They’re scared, they don’t know what to do. Believers can provide food packs and reach out to UPGs in a brand new way,” Ken says.

A new collaborative effort is underway to reach five “language clusters” in Sudan. Language clusters are groups of UPGs who speak a common language. The Sudanese Arabic language cluster includes 27 people groups.

Sudan’s largest unreached people group

As described here, Sudan is a complicated place. Over 100 languages reflect diverse people groups and tribes; 130 of Sudan’s 162 people groups are unreached. More about Sudan’s UPGs here.

(Photo courtesy Prayercast)

According to field research obtained by MNN, Sudanese Arabic speakers are the country’s largest UPG:

The Sudanese Arabs originated in the Khartoum region of Sudan many centuries ago. Today, they live primarily in northern and central Sudan and in Egypt. A few groups are scattered in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Libya, and Yemen… Sudanese Arabs are Muslims. Identification with the Islamic religion is one of the primary cultural characteristics…

Pray for Sudanese Arabs here. “A lot of these people are very rural; they’re very remote [and] they don’t have (biblical) resources,” Ken notes. Researchers say Sudanese Arabs “have some Christian resources available to them, but churches are often closed, destroyed, or not allowed to be built.”

Next steps

Now that you know, how will you respond? Ken lists the following questions as ideas for prayer and discussion-starters with fellow believers:

  • What does God want to do?
  • How do we use our resources and partnerships to reach the unengaged?

“The entire world’s kind of on lockdown in various forms [due to the coronavirus pandemic] … God has forced us to take a timeout and say, ‘Think about this. What’s the best use of your time?” Ken observes.

“In the West, we want to ‘do’, and I’ve never heard God say ‘do more.’ I’ve heard Him say many times, ‘be quiet and listen.’ Let’s take a timeout and listen to God.”


*– Name changed for security purposes.



Header image courtesy of Prayercast.

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