Sudan (MNN) — Decision making for Sudan is finally underway. Polls will stay open for the referendum vote until Saturday. The results will determine whether Sudan will remain Africa's largest nation, or split in two.
There are pros and cons to both sides, but for one ministry, a country split could mean disaster.
"We have four projects in Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan: three homes and a school. People are very concerned about the situation," explains Matt Parker with Kids Alive International. "There's concern about the possibility of violent demonstrations, even a concern about the possibility of a return to civil war in the country."
Some of those fears have indeed been realized. Clashes at the north-south border resulted in the deaths of at least 30 people on Sunday, Day One of the referendum votes. The Associated Press reports 20 policemen killed in the violence.
An even more pressing issue for Kids Alive, however, is the ministry's presence in North Sudan.
"People are not sure how the government in North Sudan is going to respond if there is a separation. There are a lot of practical issues that are unclear. There's actually a lot of people in the north of Sudan who come from the South that are now fleeing back to the South," says Parker.
While many other ministry partners to Mission Network News are working faithfully in southern Sudan–an area generally open to the Gospel, Kids Alive works mainly in the North. The North is notoriously Muslim and drenched in Sharia law. Kids Alive's presence there has been transformative in the lives of many, but Parker fears that if the country splits, disdain for western ministries will only grow.
"There's a lot of fear among the staff and children as to what the future holds. I think it is going to be increasingly difficult for Christian organizations to be working in the north in the future," explains Parker.
If antagonism toward western ministries ramps up as suspected, Kids Alive may need to migrate with the rest of the frightened Sudanese fleeing to the South.
"We would like to continue working in North Sudan as long as we can. We have kids there that we love, that we want to continue to care for and support. So as long as we can, we will be in North Sudan caring for those kids."
If the ministry does need to relocate, however, options are at least available in the South. Parker says already southern leaders have asked the ministry to help them address the growing issue of street children. The ministry is looking to develop their work in the South regardless, but hopefully not as a result of pressure to leave the North.
Your prayers are coveted during this tense and uncertain time for Sudan.