Republic of Sudan
Area: 2,503,890 sq km Africa’s largest country. Desert in the north, merging into grasslands and mountains in the centre and tropical bush in the south. Straddling the Nile Rivers. Nuba Mountains in the centre.
Population: 43,192,438 Annual Growth: 2.22%
HDI Rank: 150 of 182 (UN Human Development Reports 2009)
Peoples: 246 (56% unreached)
Official language: Arabic and English
Largest Religion: Muslim
Challenges for Prayer
Sudanese Christian leaders have achieved so much against great odds. Many even lost their lives in serving Jesus. Few have opportunity for formal theological education. The sheer number of young converts overwhelms the number of trained pastors. There are many points for prayer:
a) Theological training institutions. Trained pastors are a great need due to rapid church growth. All major denominations have Bible colleges and/or seminaries; altogether there are around 50 in the country. Large numbers of Sudanese also undertake theological studies abroad. Besides solid biblical teaching and discipleship methods, pastors and Christian leaders need to acquire skills in AIDS ministry, conflict resolution, trauma counselling and reconciliation ministry. Pray for the provision of facilities, staff and students adequate to shape the future of Sudanese Christianity.
b) Informal training programmes are essential; there are simply not enough formal institutions to meet the need for pastors, evangelists, disciplers, lay leaders and other workers. The larger denominations and some mission organizations are developing programmes to this end. Training emerging young leaders to be biblically sound while retaining their spiritual zeal requires a discerning touch.
c) Income for pastors. Due to the economic situation, congregations usually cannot support their own pastors. This often means vocational training for Christian leaders and ministers, so they can earn their own living in a context where poverty and joblessness are already common.
Ministry challenges for the Church:
a) Muslim majority. The population in the north is largely Sunni Muslim, though among them are 200,000 or more Coptic Christians and up to four million southerners displaced by war.
- Increasing numbers of Muslims are turning to Jesus, in some cases, even entire villages. They are often disillusioned by Islam and attracted to Jesus. The openness among many is remarkable, and believers from Muslim backgrounds number in the tens of thousands. But millions remain virtually unreached by the gospel.
- Southern Sudanese Christians’ attitudes toward Muslims need prayer. Most are willing to forgive the Arabized Muslims who devastated their land and committed atrocities. But loving them enough to reach out in witness and trusting them as Christian brothers is, for many, understandably a step too far. Pray that the Holy Spirit might work in the hearts of those who struggle in this area.
b) Khartoum is a booming conurbation of approximately seven million inhabitants, including the vast shantytowns on the outskirts, which consist mostly of displaced Nuba Mountain, Darfurian and southerner populations. Poverty and deprivation are widespread, and Christians are often subjected to harassment, destruction of church buildings and discriminatory taxes and laws. Khartoum actually has a higher Christian presence than any other northern city, but remains dominated by Islam.
c) The Nuba Mountain peoples, an island of mostly Christian peoples in a sea of Islam, suffered harshly under the government’s heavy hand. Whole tribes have turned to Christ (Episcopal Church, Sudanese Church of Christ); a few others have become Muslim. There are still a number of unreached groups among the 79 peoples here. Most of the population fled during the military’s genocidal campaign, but many are now returning, despite the continued threat of renewed persecution.
d) The SPLA, the southern (and formerly rebel) army, bravely resisted the predations of the north, but are guilty of atrocities themselves. Groups such as Frontline Fellowship and Far Reach Ministries train chaplains for this army. Many thousands of soldiers in this army have become Christians through the work of these chaplains. Pray for the maturing and growth of this movement.
e) Children and young people. Nearly half of Sudan’s population are under age 18; almost all have grown up in a context of suffering and trauma. Pray for:
- Education. An entire generation has almost no schooling, with potentially disastrous future implications. The education sector is being rebuilt. Training teachers is a great need (9,000 needed in the south alone), but getting kids into school is just as important. CMS helps Christians with an “Under Tree School” programme. Hope for the Future and Aid to the Church in Need are two of many agencies providing Sudanese Christian children with education. Only 22% of children are enrolled in school – partly due to compulsory fees introduced in 1999 – and only 1% of girls in Sudan finish school. ACES, the Association of Christian Educators in Sudan, is a united Christian voice on issues of education.
- Child soldiers. There are possibly as many as 9,000 still in Sudan. Many were forced to serve in the SPLA, the cultic Lord’s Resistance Army or as pro-government militias. Since the war ended in the south, most are now in Darfur.
- Street children – over 70,000 just in the northern part alone. Orphaned street kids in the war-battered south are uncounted. Almost all of Khartoum’s more than 30,000 street kids were born elsewhere and are nearly all boys. Pray for Christian ministry to these vulnerable children. Operation Mercy, SOS Children, Kids Alive International and Living Water work with children at risk, but many more such ministries are needed.