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Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Pray for Christians in Northern Sudan
SANTA ANA, Calif. (July 12, 2011) – While many braced themselves for the historic Southern Sudan Independence celebrations on July 9, the question of what will become of the Church in the north remains uncertain.
Now that Sudan is divided into a Christian and animist southern state, a Muslim dominated Northern state, the dynamics of the Sudan we know are being changed. The overall percentage of non-Muslim Sudanese in the north is decreasing, causing anti-South sentiment to increase. So the North can become an increasingly risky place for Christians.
Although many of the Southern Christians are said to have returned to the south voluntarily, some observers have pointed out that they had departed because they could not be assured of their safety.
"We are concerned about the security of Christians in the north, because they are going to be a minority. We are trying to see if they can be protected through a law as minorities," Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol, the general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) said recently.
A major concern for the Church in the North is the fact that President Omar al-Bashir has already signaled his intention to move the north back to a pure form of Sharia or Islamic law, first installed by former President Gaafar Nimeiry in 1983.
Church leaders are concerned that if the Muslim government in the North adopts strict Sharia law, as it has promised, the church will suffer and be made targets for persecution.
“With this move there is a possibility that churches will lose their right to own land. Furthermore, those who already do might lose it,” said an Open Doors contact.
The churches say they will remain open, although many Christians are migrating south, alarmed by the president’s plan to strengthen Sharia law after secession.
In addition, Church leaders noted that some northern government officials indicated during the referendum campaign that Christians in the north would not be able to hold church services after independence.
Christians who remain in the North fear that they might be singled out. A system of Sharia law could demote them to "second class citizens”.
According to a Reuter’s news report, the churches remain resolute in the face of this uncertainty. “Even if there is just one Christian left in the north, we will be here, because the shepherd cannot leave his flock,” said Catholic Quintino Okeny Joseph, Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Khartoum.
Representing the northern SCC grouping of Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches, Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol confirmed in a comment to the Christian Telegraph that some of their parishes consisted mainly of southern people. "With the mass movement of the southerners and people from the Nuba Mountains [caught up in the ongoing violence in South Kordofan], some of the churches have been left empty," he said.
Finally, the Open Doors contact noted that after the violence has subsided in South Kordofan, the possibility of Christians relocating to the Nuba area is very likely, since the area is predominately Christian.
1. Please pray that the church will be able to stand strong in Sudan and that they will continue to be light and salt in their communities.
2. Please pray that an indigenous church in Sudan will develop out of this new situation.
3. Please pray that South Sudan and Sudan will resolve the issues of the contested areas peacefully, and that the outcome will be beneficial to both parties.
4. Across the whole of South Sudan, there are massive challenges to long-term development, stability and security, including deeply rooted poverty, high rates of illiteracy and a lack of physical infrastructure.
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.