Sudan (MNN) — Easter Sunday, April 8, held the kind of
finality of a death sentence for many Christians in Sudan.
It was the deadline for Christians from South Sudan to
either leave or be stripped of their rights. Since the secession from the North, the Khartoum government began
registering Southern Sudanese as foreigners.
Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, confirms
that a majority of them were stripped of their identity cards and other
documents, and most don't have the money to pay the hefty registration fees. That leaves many in limbo. "There's been
no process, there's been no clarity to that, so it has put Christians in an
extremely precarious place because at any moment the government could begin
to act in very aggressive ways toward this group and claim this deadline as a
Moeller goes on to explain that "one of the process
problems, of course, is how do they either apply for official repatriation to
the South, or the process by which they would approach a new citizenship in North Sudan?"
South Sudanese Christians fear authorities will use the
occasion to rid the country of Christianity, according to the CDN report. Although Khartoum denies it, Moeller says
it's hard to believe religious rights are not involved. "This is a very strong concern of ours
because the idea of religious cleansing is really behind this. Many in the North, from an extremist Muslim viewpoint, are calling Christians a 'cancer' in their country. This is often the kind of language that's
used before more aggressive actions take place."
Human rights organizations have called on Khartoum to grant
them more time to either leave or apply for citizenship. However, Moeller says the effect can already be felt in
Sudan's churches. "Churches have
been, for the last several months, increasingly closing and emptying because
people are leaving. They are fleeing to the South. Many who can't or won't leave, for a variety
of reasons, still want to maintain their Christian identity, but it's becoming
increasingly difficult to do so."
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in a referendum last July 9.
The government of Sudan has begun issuing national numbers to designate
citizens of Sudan, denying the designation to Sudanese of southern origin.
Without a national number, Southern Sudanese have no citizenship rights to work
or to get an education. Moeller says, "They will officially have no rights, and if
persecution does break out more aggressively, as it has in the past against
those Christians, they could be extremely vulnerable, without any legal
However, Southern Sudanese may not be welcome in South
Sudan, either. Moeller explains, "What's next for the Christians who try
to flee to South Sudan? There's no guarantee that they would even be admitted,
because again, this is a very turbulent time where some of the issues of
repatriation haven't even been addressed yet."
What does the future hold for the Church of Sudan and South
Sudan? Chaos makes it hard to lay down
plans for any kind of ministry. Moeller
says while that won't stop the Gospel, please pray for believers trapped in the
situation. "This is the Church that
has endured great suffering and has come through that suffering with a profound
faith. They truly believe that God has a plan through all of the turmoil and
all of the persecution that they're enduring."