Sudan (MNN) — Millions of people in Sudan are facing the most violent and oppressive government in the world. Since 1989, there have been 26 civil wars, four genocides, and 2.5 million who’ve lost their lives to the aforementioned problems. Trouble spots include Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile (the Nuba Mountains), and Eastern Sudan.
President Omar al-Bashir has stated his goal was to create a new Sudan defined by the Arab identity under severe Islamic law. That was reiterated when South Sudan separated from the North in 2011.
All through this time, the persecution of Christians in Sudan has been systematic and suggestive of ethnic cleansing. For those reasons, Sudan has been designated a “Country of Particular Concern” by the U.S. State Department since 1999. Open Doors’ World Watch List, a listing of the top 50 countries known for the persecution of Christians, notes Sudan as the 9th worst offender in the world.
What does it look like to be a Christian in Sudan? For many, it looks like being in exile.
One Christian, whom we’ll call “D” for security purposes, explains why he’s no longer living in his homeland. “The main reason, for me, for not being in Sudan is because of the suffering and persecution I faced there. I came to faith in Christ in 1995. Just a couple of years later, in 1997, I was arrested by the Sudanese Islamic Authority.”
Because he converted from Islam to Christianity, he was guilty of apostasy. What’s more, “D” also shared his faith with other Muslims, primarily students, which meant he was also blaspheming. Sudan is one of 12 countries in the world that carry both apostasy and blasphemy laws on the books. Both call for the death penalty.
For “D”, it meant years of trouble. “This story of persecution continues from 1997 up until 2001. I have been in prison six times; was tortured so many times by the Sudanese Islamic Authority. That forced me to look for a new refuge, and that’s why I’m no longer in my mother country.”
Yet he says the Body of Christ continues to grow among the Sudanese. About 15 or 20 years ago, he says, the number of Muslim converts in Sudan were probably 100 to 150, according to some reports. “Today, the churches in Sudan and the Sudanese churches in the Diaspora are full of Muslim converts.”
His story isn’t unique, and many who decide to follow Jesus expect what comes with it. ”Persecution became part of our DNA in Sudan and many other Muslim countries. It is something that every day we face, because of the ways God is acting in our lives during the times of suffering.”
“D” has lived out the paradox of persecution, as have many of the other Christians who’ve fled Sudan. Instead of looking at the dark side, he wants to look at the beautiful, bright side of it. “Whenever we go through times of suffering or persecution, we see God is much closer to us than when we are in a time of happiness. For me, personally, I see persecution is always a joyful time because it is a time I see God is revealing Himself to me.”
He shared his story with MNN because getting it in front of other believers in the West can result in action in the ‘pray, give, go’ liturgy. It’s important, says “D”, because, “The West has forgotten, not just the suffering Church in Sudan, but also the suffering human beings in Sudan in general — in the Nuba Mountains, in Darfur. I pray that people will start to come back again and to look [at] the disasters that are happening in these areas and try to bring relief and help and pray for the safety of those who are persecuted there.”
Prayer is a first line defense — for boldness, for provision, for wisdom. As these exiled believers live out their faith, “D” urges, “Let us pray earnestly for the God of the harvest to send more workers. Pray for the authorities in Sudan, that God will reveal Himself to them, and that some or many of them will come to know Him and end the persecution we are facing.”
Then, pray that those workers would richly communicate the breadth of the true, good, and beautiful Gospel. Ask God to help the marginalized and persecuted Christians to forgive, love, and pray for their persecutors.
As far as “going” is concerned, stay informed; share the stories of the Sudanese Church under fire so more people know what’s going on and how to pray. Advocate where there are opportunities to join your voice to a larger voice. Finally, consider giving to ministries that advocate on the persecuted Church’s behalf.