News Sudan | 21-4-2023

Sudan crisis Q&A: “We need to pray because the future is not bright”


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The fighting that has broken out in Sudan could have severe implications for Christians not only in the country, but elsewhere across the region. That’s according to Fikuri*, an Open Doors research expert for East Africa. In this interview, he explains what’s behind the unrest, what it means for Christians and how you can pray…
In recent days, fighting has erupted in the capital Khartoum and elsewhere across the country. What has prompted this?
It's sad that our country, Sudan, is once again in more like a civil war. It's a rivalry between the two armed forces – the National Army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF is part of the security formed by former President Omar al-Bashir. It’s a remnant of the so-called Janjaweed militia (a paramilitary group) which fought in Darfur and is accused of genocide.

Timeline of events
April 2019 President Omar al-Bashir toppled, leading to power-sharing government between military and civilians

July 2020 Apostasy law abolished

September 2020 Transitional government separates religion from state, ending 30 years of Islamic rule

October 2021 Military seizes complete control of country

April 2023 Fighting breaks out between armed groups
The leaders of the two groups – acting President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for the army and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo for the RSF – were united in the October 2021 military coup, but now they have different opinions on what the formation of civilian government looks like. This has ended up in fighting, with both saying that the other party should surrender.
What impact is this having on civilians?
According to reports, around 200 people have lost their lives. Most of them are civilians. Normal life is disrupted. People do not have electricity, especially in the bigger cities like Khartoum, Omdurman and Port Sudan. 

People are also dying from a lack of medical support, because it is almost impossible to leave home for treatment. Those who have underlying medical issues are not able to go to hospital. Sources told us of people they know personally who have lost their lives because of this. Emotionally and physically, people are suffering. 

What change, if any, has there been since April 2019 when President Omar al-Bashir was toppled? 
The Sudanese people had hope for change when President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown. But to our surprise, the situation has never improved, both in terms of political and religious freedom, as well as in response to the economic problems. People in Sudan protested four years ago because they didn’t have bread. Now the same truth applies and people are more worried.

What hope is there of a solution to the conflict?
As a Christian, I would love to hope that God has His own way, to stop things and then change the situation for the good of His people. But if I think of the context, it's really discouraging. Unless the military are told to go back to their barracks and leave the administration of civilian government, the situation in Sudan will not improve soon. It's my prayer that the international community, especially countries that have a strong influence on the country, will intervene if this situation is allowed to continue.
What impact is this unrest having on Christians?

Once you leave your house, you're not sure whether you can come back alive.

One of our sources told us that his uncle has lost his life in the crossfire. Once you leave your house, you're not sure whether you can come back alive. It is difficult because people need to leave home to survive (e.g. earn money, get food). 

And our fear is that, if the current crisis enables Islamists to influence the political life and the situation in Sudan, believers are heading under another dictatorship which will be against Christian life in the country.

There was some hope that the transitional government would change things, but now we are stuck. And this war offers another opportunity for Islamists to take over and say, “You see, democracy is not working. Now, let's go back to our rules, which is Islam and Sharia (Islamic law).” And if they are able to do that, the life of Christians will be worse than in the days of Omar al-Bashir.
There were positive steps towards religious freedom following the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019. To what extent are these now under threat? 
Even though progress was made in the early days of the transition, if you see the actual daily life of believers in the country, not much changed. In 2019, Christians were among those calling for reform and they were told to be patient, that things will change over time. They were willing to be patient, but since then nothing has materialised. 

We really need to pray for Christians because the future is not bright.

Christians are fearing that Islamists may exploit this crisis, and then once in power, they can bring back all those laws and even do whatever they want. We really need to pray for Christians because the future is not bright. 
How can we pray?
The longer the conflict goes on, the more it will have really a damaging effect on the daily life of Christians. If they don’t have opportunity to work, they will begin to starve. Let’s pray for the Lord to give wisdom to the political and military commanders of Sudan, that they come to their senses and stop this war. 

Please pray for the safety of Christians who are endangered by this situation, because the war is taking place inside the cities. It will have an impact on the life of Christians. 

And please pray that the crisis will not lead to a situation that empowers or enables Islamists to take back their agenda. Sudan is a big country and most of its neighbours are fragile with their own struggles. If the situation in Sudan deteriorated badly, it will have implications for Christians around the region as well. Let's pray for Christians and for the future of the church in Sudan and in East Africa. 
Amidst this hugely challenging time, where can you see good news?

Christians in the country are committed to continue serving and reaching unreached people in the country.

When you meet Sudanese people, and especially Christians, there's a lot of encouragement. The country has been through a difficult time for decades. But Christians in the country are committed to continue serving and reaching unreached people in the country and take the good news to their Muslim neighbours. 

I recently met one convert who was thrown out by her family. Everybody was expecting that she will denounce her faith and go back to her old religion. But she said, “Despite all these challenges, I'll stick to my faith and continue to love and serve Jesus.” This kind of determination and strong faith in the Lord is a source of much encouragement.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to your brothers and sisters supporting you in prayer?

Knowing that you are by our side is always an encouragement to us.

This is a difficult time for Sudan and let’s lift it up in our prayers, that the Lord will intervene and motivate those who can contribute solutions to the crisis. Knowing that you are by our side is always an encouragement to us, so thank you so much. 

*Name changed for security reasons
Please pray
  • For reconciliation between the army and RSF, and an end to hostilities
  • For the safety of all citizens and the provision of all needs
  • That Islamists will not get a foothold in the country, and that the positive developments made in recent years will be built upon rather than undone.
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