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Despite war & persecution, God is working in Sudan

KHARTOUM, Sudan (BP)–Against the backdrop of ongoing persecution of Christians in Sudan, God is using Southern Baptists to pioneer strategies to reach lost people in the North African nation.
Persecution of Christians in Sudan stems from political events in the country, which, geographically, is a crossroads between the Arab world and black Africa. The Muslim Sudanese Arabs of the north and the black Christian Sudanese of the south have been engaged in a civil war since 1983, when Arabs gained control of the government. Then the new Islamic government commissioned Sudan’s military to fight a ” holy war” — for the cause of Islam — against Christians in southern Sudan.
About 2 million people have died in the war, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees. The fighting also has displaced millions of Sudanese people, creating more than 5 million internal refugees, said Brad Phillips, director of The Persecution Project, a private organization that deals with religious liberty issues.
The Persecution Project reports that the “holy war” against Sudanese Christians includes atrocities such as poisoning wells and burning crops, causing famine. That organization claims the Sudanese military has bulldozed entire towns and buried people alive. Some of these soldiers reportedly are volunteers who don’t get paid by the government but live off what they steal from villages they raid. Sometimes, during such raids, they reportedly kidnap children and later sell them into slavery.
Meanwhile, God is working to bring the Sudanese Arabs to saving faith in Jesus Christ and to strengthen Sudanese Christian churches, according to Southern Baptist workers focusing on the Sudanese.
Translations of the “Jesus” film have been completed and are being distributed among the Sudanese; an audio version currently is being translated into 12 Sudanese languages. Christian human needs projects also are under way to help starving and sick people. Sports and English-as-a-second-language classes also provide opportunities to reach out to the Sudanese.
At the same time, Southern Baptist workers among the Sudanese are seeking to change attitudes in the United States about Sudan and to strengthen and encourage the existing Christian churches there.
These workers are trying to “get [U.S. Christians] to have just as much of a passion for Sudanese Arabs as they do for the persecuted Christians” in Sudan, said “Shawn Owens” (named changed for security reasons), a Southern Baptist International Mission Board representative for North Africa and the Middle East.
After spending time with the Sudanese Arabs, Owens has concluded that the persecution of Christians comes from the country’s government and not the people themselves. While Sudanese Arabs show feelings of prejudice, they also display tolerance toward their Christian neighbors, he said.
Owens wants Southern Baptists to look beyond the politics and the persecution in Sudan and focus instead on the people. In the 10/40 Window — the area sweeping from North Africa through the Middle East and much of Asia, where people have had little or no access to the gospel — “what we are discovering is that a lot of the reasons the lost are lost are because of our attitudes and our unwillingness to go to them.
“We have a tendency to not want to reach out to an antagonistic Muslim community and yet we need to develop that passion to reach them,” said Owens.
During November and December, many Southern Baptists will learn more about the Sudanese Arabs, an unreached people group featured in the denomination’s 1999 International Missions Study, “Loving the Lost.” To order the study — which includes a special edition of the IMB’s monthly magazine, “The Commission,” and video magazine, “On Mission With God” — e-mail the IMB Resource Center at [email protected] or call 1-800-866-3621.
The mission board also is producing other materials — brochures, videos and a CD-ROM — designed to help Southern Baptists develop a burden for lost people in Sudan.
In addition, the agency is organizing prayer walks throughout Africa during 2000, giving Southern Baptists an opportunity to go and cover the continent with prayer. For people who can’t go, “virtual prayer walks” are available on CD-ROM.
For more information on The Persecution Project, call (703) 281-9426 or see its Internet site at www.persecutionproject.org.

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  • Tammy Dunkum