South Sudan (MNN) — Conflict in the Middle East and the U.S. "fiscal cliff" top headlines on a consistent basis. When's the last time you heard anything about Sudan?
"Sudan is not very high on the list of priorities in our world today," says Jerry Dykstra with Open Doors USA. "I think it's being overlooked by what's happening in the Middle East: Iran and Iraq and Syria.
"It's up to us as Christians to keep Sudan high on people's lists. Otherwise they're going to fade away and there'll be more atrocities committed than have been so far this year."
Dykstra says thousands are struggling to survive as Sudan and South Sudan continue to fight over the oil-rich border region of Abyei. It's one of six border regions that most people deem necessary for securing long-standing peace between the two countries.
"It's a very dangerous area with fighting taking place on both sides of the border," says Dykstra, "and it…[is facing] a potential humanitarian crisis."
Conflict destroyed many villages in Abyei and drove thousands of people from their homes. In May 2011, northern militia and 5,000 Sudanese Army troops demolished about 90% of Abyei town.
After government troops withdrew from the region this summer, people began returning home — only to find that almost every single building in their village was destroyed. With few water sources remaining and tight restrictions on relief groups, refugees are increasingly turning to local churches for help.
And the Body of Christ is responding.
"[If it weren't] for the Church," says Dykstra, "it'd be really, really bad."
Church leaders representing Roman Catholic, Episcopal Church of Sudan and Pentecostal congregations formed an Inter-Church Committee (ICC) to coordinate relief aid. The ICC provides food, water, shelter and education, as well as peace-building initiatives and trauma-healing, but they say needs are growing.
ICC leaders estimate that up to 20,000 people have arrived in the Abyei area thus far, and with more arriving every day, supplies are running dangerously low.
"Pray for humanitarian groups…that they can get the supplies there–the water, the food, cooking oil, and such," states Dykstra.
In late September, the conflicting nations approved treaties on trade, oil, and security.
"Yet there's no agreement on the Abeyi situation," Dykstra points out.
Sudan and South Sudan have until December 5 to reach consensus on the state of Abyei, a deadline set forth by the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Could we be looking at the possibility of an all-out war if these countries don't reach an agreement?
"I think the chances of more people being caught in the firestorm would be higher and higher, so I would say yes," answers Dykstra.
Pray for peace and stability in the region. Ask your friends to pray for South Sudan, too.
"When they became a new country a year and a half ago, we knew that [it would be hard] to make it as a country, and that is proving true," says Dykstra. "They have so many obstacles, so we have to keep them high on our prayer list."