Sudan: a forgotten war, one year on

As a devastating war continues in their country, Sudanese Jesus-followers are sharing the hope of Christ. Will you help?

Advisory: this article contains some distressing first-hand accounts of war.

“Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.”

Psalms 10:12 (NIV)

“It’s very, very difficult to even listen to the stories,” says Tom*, OM’s area leader for the Middle East and North Africa – himself no stranger to how hard life can be in some of the world’s more volatile locations.

“It took me two or three days just to be able to sleep again and feel back to normal, after hearing all that our brothers and sisters are experiencing,” Tom recalls, “It’s heart-breaking. On a daily basis, people there are living with killing, with sexual assault… One man told me he was in a public space in Khartoum, where there was a body lying on the ground with flies all over it. People were just drinking tea in the coffee shop nearby. It’s as if human life isn’t worth anything anymore. People are becoming desensitised to the point that nobody even takes care of that person. That’s the reality they live in.”

The third-largest country in Africa has known internal conflict in the last 30 years, but was unprepared for what began on 15 April 2023. The power struggle between the two main factions of the military regime, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), was instigated in the capital, Khartoum, and has spread throughout the country. Both rival generals are said to be well-resourced from beyond Sudan; each side has destroyed infrastructure and inflicted heavy civilian casualties.

S*, a civil engineer, had just taken his daughter to kindergarten and was at a petrol station when the onset rocked the city:

“We saw smoke in the air and we heard heavy artillery. There was no warning. This was very strange for us; we’d heard about wars in the Nuba mountains and other places, but this was right in the capital.

“It became even more frightening when the RSF and SAF started fighting near where I live, and we had to lie on the ground with our faces down. There was fighting from everywhere. I thought, ‘That’s it – we’re going to die.’”

S and his extended family abandoned their homes and haven’t returned in a year. They only took a small bag, believing the government message that everything would be back to normal in a few days. He says he can’t send anyone to check on his house, because they’d be at risk of attack.

“There is no distinction made between a civilian or an armed combatant. What is happening in Sudan is really inhuman. I would like to say to the outside world that Sudanese people are your brothers. We are also humans, like you. We should not allow other people to do what they're doing.”

Those are the thoughts of A*, an economist and former business owner who oversees a national network of 130 Sudanese Jesus-followers sharing the love of Christ through personal relationships. They did this alongside their regular jobs, until life as they knew it evaporated in the climate of war. One year on, a home, car, income, affordable food, clean water, access to healthcare and education seem like memories – fading further into the past.

Still, the team sees this as the time to press on living out the hope of the gospel in a country that is more than 90 per cent Muslim:

“Even though there is war in Sudan, the door of ministry has opened even more, and for us as a team, we made a commitment that we are not going to stop – and we want even to increase our ministry,” says A, with conviction.

“We should not only spread the Word of God during peace time, but we believe that we have to share the Word of God even during war – because we cannot just be with God when it is nice and good, and when there are hardships, we just quit.”

“I'm really proud of the brothers and sisters there,” says Tom, “Because it's not a given that believers, in such a situation, wouldn’t just look out for their own safety, but they’re caring for their country and how they can reach out to others and help them, both physically and spiritually. Many, many people have come to the Lord – actually, there are tons of amazing stories – and OM in the wider region wants to do all we can to support them in these opportunities for the gospel.”

“The war is an opportunity for reaching unreached people with the gospel,” agrees S, “Because people fled… different tribes, different people groups fled from place to place. Everyone wants a safe place to stay, and of course, if they find someone who can help them during this ordeal, they are more open.

“When we started giving some humanitarian aid, Muslims were saying, ‘These Christians who are helping us, they don't discriminate between a Muslim, a Christian, an atheist – they are just giving for everyone,’ so this is a good testimony for us.”

Both warring sides are accused by the international community of blocking access to humanitarian aid, which 25 million people – half of Sudan’s population – need, urgently. The United Nations describes it as the largest, fastest displacement crisis in the world today and warns of deadly knock-on effects, including food insecurity, malnutrition, lack of healthcare, and child protection issues. Nineteen million children have been out of school since April 2023. The UN’s children’s agency, UNICEF, has said: ‘The impact this will have on their future cannot be overstated.’

‘Stolen future’

“My children were sitting exams,” says S. “They did not even finish the exams. Those who are internally displaced, there is nowhere to accommodate them where they fled, so they are living in schools. Most of the teachers fled because there is no salary for them.”

“In the future this will impact Sudan, because education is the basis, the foundation for their future,” A adds, “Some of the kids have got into drugs, alcohol, crime…”

“The future is dark and bleak, because there is no education,” S picks up, “I feel the children are really robbed of their future.”

Human rights advocates report that boys as young as 10 are being recruited as soldiers. Young people and women are most at risk of exploitation in the conflict. They routinely witness violence, according to A:

“The children and women have seen painful scenes in front of their eyes; people dying in front of them, and this has been very traumatising for women and for children. We ask you to pray for this.”

“Do pray for the protection of the brothers and the sisters there, please,” asks Tom, “And pray especially for their emotional health. They're telling me, for example, that they see more and more people walking the streets who talk to themselves and appear to have lost it, psychologically.”

Few support services are available, but OM has run trauma counselling to help some of the team process what they are experiencing and equip them to minister to others. Funds are needed so Tom can arrange further debriefings for more Sudanese partners:

“For me, that is a key thing to serve them as much as we can, and that is quite costly. I'm 100 per cent positive that this is a worthwhile investment. This is how we stand together as brothers and sisters and keep them together in mind, body and spirit.”

In famine, a farm

The outlook is not hopeful, humanly speaking. Analysts expect untended lands and the prohibitive logistics and expense of getting supplies from other countries to lead to widespread hunger this year.

“Famine is looming in Sudan,” explains A, “Many children are dying due to malnutrition, and also older people. We have started an agricultural project, which we hope to expand. The crops that we are going to farm are sesame, maize, cotton. We also have a vision to grow all kinds of fruit.

“There are people with whom we have shared the Word of God and they have accepted Jesus Christ, but they are expelled from their homes, so this farming project will provide work for them and opportunities to disciple them in their new faith.”

“There are a few fruitful regions in the country that are still reasonably safe and where they can do agricultural projects,” Tom understands, “To some extent, these could sustain the brothers and sisters and enable them to serve others in relief and with food; and even as they interact with them, serve them with the gospel.

“We need to raise around $30,000 USD each month to support 130 people, plus enable them, to some degree, to help others around them. Then beyond that, the next step of the agricultural project will cost around $30,000. Another major request is a need for Bibles and audio Bibles; those are their main needs at this time.”

Still, S has hope: “We have to trust in the Lord, because there is nothing above the will of God. He is present in all situations, and He has His own way of working. This is one of the things that encourages us to stay in Sudan.”

Tom says he is amazed by the resilience of his friends and the work they continue to do in such desperate times in their country. “As this is a war that seems to be off the radar, not only of the Western world, but also of the Christian world,” he says, “I see my role, to some degree, as waving the flag, sharing the stories and asking for support: in prayer, first, and finances, second.

“I would like to encourage everyone who is with us in spirit to do exactly the same; please share what is going on: the danger, the dire situation and the open doors, the prayer requests, the fruit that is coming in – and pray for a major, major movement towards Jesus Christ in Sudan.”

*names protected for security

Help share the promise of hope and a future. Could you partner with OM to support our brothers and sisters and their ministry in Sudan?

Please give via www.om.org/int/sudan

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