Sudan turmoil continues; here’s what it means for Christians

By May 17, 2019

Sudan (MNN) — Military and civilian talks fell apart in Sudan this week. An agreement was reportedly in sight, but then the ruling military council suspended talks on Thursday.

Since the ouster of long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir in April, military and civil leaders have discussed how to transition power into civilian hands. Read our coverage of developments here.

Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton says the situation remains fluid. “There is a lot going on. And, certainly, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” he says. “People are still protesting. The military is saying, ‘Listen, we have compromised.’

“There [are] still a lot of decisions to be made, and certainly a need for us to pray for Sudan as it continues to go through this process.”

Whatever happened to Bashir?

(Photo Omar Hassan al-Bashir courtesy of Wikipedia)

Sudan is a nation in flux. Along with uncertainty surrounding top-level discussions and ongoing demonstrations in the streets, questions surround the fate of Sudan’s former ruler.

On Monday, Sudan’s public prosecutor announced charges against Bashir for his role in protestor deaths. Approximately 90 people were killed in demonstrations that began in December of 2018 and led to Bashir’s ouster last month.

Previously, Sudan’s military made it clear they would not send their former leader to the International Criminal Court, where he faces long-standing charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. More about that here.

Could the latest charges be an indication of change? Will Bashir finally be held accountable?

“That is a million-dollar question,” Nettleton says, explaining how different factors will contribute to the potential outcome. On one hand, a trial overseen by civilian rulers holds potential for justice.

“If his (Bashir’s) trial happens under civilian rule – particularly if it’s led by some of the same people who have led the protests against him over the last several months – it seems likely that he will face accountability.”

On the other hand, a Bashir trial under military rule is doubtful. “Many of the military leaders were put in place by Omar al Bashir,” Nettleton notes. “How fervent will they be in their desire to hold him accountable?

“There [are] a lot of decisions being made that will affect how his trial is handled. And, we won’t know the results of that for several weeks or months, and possibly even years.”

What does it mean for Christians?

It’s not likely that decisions about Bashir’s fate and Sudan’s new government will usher in a new era of freedom for Sudanese believers.

“This is still a majority Muslim country… [and] the military is still saying that any laws that are made – even by this new civilian government – need to be based on Sharia,” Nettleton says.

A family seeks shelter from bombings among the rocks.
(Photo, caption courtesy of VOM USA)

Bashir established Sharia throughout northern Sudan when he seized power in 1989. Encyclopedia Britannica defines Sharia as “the religious law of Islam.” Sharia poses a major threat to believers wherever it’s implemented, as Nettleton describes here in a 2014 interview.

“One of the things that we have heard from our Christian contacts inside Sudan is they are not necessarily expecting dramatic changes in how the Church is treated.”

Nonetheless, believers are still praying for their country. Will you join them?

“In the in the course of the protests, Christians gathered around the military headquarters… not to protest but to pray,” Nettleton says. “To pray for peace, to pray for God’s will to be done. Let’s pray that that spirit continues.”

You can also support persecuted Christians by sending physical aid. According to a VOM Special Report on Sudan, the ministry provides approximately $2 million in aid each year to Sudanese believers. Supplies include Bibles, medical care, blankets, and clean water.

Send aid to Sudanese Christians through VOM.



Header image: Shell casings litter the ground in the Nuba Mountains, one of the conflict areas targeted by Bashir’s military. Caption and photo courtesy of VOM USA.

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