With the eyes of the world focused on Gaza and Israel, and with so much energy expended globally on protests and arguments (along with counter-protests and counter-arguments), the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Sudan, fuelled by war and violence, is largely being ignored.
There are several reasons why I believe this is so. Many Christians are focused on Gaza because their theology (and often, specifically, their eschatology) causes them to be disproportionately attentive to Israel. Many Muslims ignore the wars, violence, disasters, and injustice befalling other Muslim nations (the Sahel, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan-Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Rohingya in Myanmar, Uyghurs in China to name a few) due to a disproportionate sense of outrage related to Israel and Palestine. For many, a post- or anti-imperialist narrative colours their view on conflict, and allows them to disregard the many human tragedies that don’t snap to that grid. For countless others, Africa is unfairly regarded as a lost cause when it comes to development and good governance, and therefore not given the attention and regard it is due. And all of us have thresholds of news saturation and of compassion. After a certain point, we can only feel so much empathy for faraway people amidst the relentless reporting on human suffering.
But given that today is a day Operation World dedicates to pray for Sudan, it seems appropriate to highlight some of what is unfolding there.
The military coup in Sudan has not yielded a transition of power, but an emergence of what is effectively civil war between two military factions, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The two generals of the respective forces each intend to become Sudan’s leader. The SAF is in essence Sudan’s military, while the RSF emerged from the Janjaweed paramilitary which was created to fight against rebels in what is now South Sudan and to fight in the Darfur War. They committed atrocities in both conflicts.
Amidst these conflicts, over 50% of Sudanese find themselves in need of humanitarian aid – food, water, clothing, basic medical care, etc. For 14 million children in Sudan, the need for humanitarian assistance is urgent. But very little is able to come in since there is no effective governance in the country.
More than 10,000 Sudanese have been killed by their own militaries. Nearly 6 million Sudanese have been displaced, over 1.2 of them having fled the country altogether. That’s triple the entire population of Gaza (whose own population have virtually no way to flee their terrible situation).
Of course, all of the attendant horrors of such conflict are also present – diseases such as cholera, acute malnutrition, severe trauma and PTSD, sexual violence against women and children, and more.
Further, the climate in Sudan for the work and witness of the body of Christ has declined precipitously. There was a season, during Sudan’s civilian government, when the situation had improved. But now, persecution of Christians is once again increasing and sponsored by state actors. Churches and Christian buildings have been bombed. The ability of Christians to minister – even to supply aid and assistance – has been severely curtailed amidst the current conflict.
Psalm 82:1-4 (NIV)
1 God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the “gods”:
2 How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
3 Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
HOW TO PRAY?
Our responses to such disasters and tragedies must be informed by Scripture. We want to pray, in effect, God’s Kingdom come and His will be done in Sudan as in heaven. What would that look like?
1. Pray for a ceasefire. Saudi Arabia, interestingly, is chairing peace talks to end the current conflict. May they be used to bring a cessation of war. “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” (Psa 46:9)
2. Pray for the generals who are propelling this violence to repent or be removed. Pray “that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Tim 2:26)
3. Pray for the protection of civilian lives. Most Sudanese want a restoration of the civilian government which was overthrown by the armed forces. The Sudanese people have not chosen this conflict. Pray that no more innocent lives would be taken, “for God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)
4. Pray that necessary humanitarian aid would make its way into Sudan and to those who need it the most. There are too many instances where the world fails to supply from its vast wealth even the most basic life-saving assistance to the most desperate. There are also too many instances where such aid gets diverted from those who need it and into the hands of the military or militias who use it to control, extort, and oppress.
5. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in Sudan. They are a small minority of the population, in contrast to virtually all of Sudan’s neighbours. May God supply all their needs according to His riches in glory. May they somehow find their faith strengthened during this time of tribulation. May God supply boldness to be Christ’s witnesses even during war and persecution. And may they shine like stars, such that their love, compassion, and kindness wins many to the Lord even during these upheavals.
6. Pray that the Lord would thwart the enemy’s purpose to steal, kill, and destroy Sudan and the Sudanese people, in ways that only God – who sits astride time and space – can foresee. May the Lord turn what is meant for evil into great blessing for Sudan. May we one day look back and see that the tragedies of 2023 for Sudan were actually the beginnings of great blessing and mass movements of people to Christ.
7. Pray for Sudan’s unreached people groups (UPGs). Sudan has the highest number of UPGs in all of Africa. It is no surprise that the enemy wants Sudan to be in turmoil, inaccessible, and actively persecuting Christians. He does not want to surrender a single one of Sudan’s 141 UPGs to their Saviour and Lord. Pray that this conflict would, by God’s providence, be a catalyst for historic breakthroughs in reaching these unreached peoples.
(Thanks to John Friesen for providing much of the research for this post)