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Christian Missionary Paints a Harrowing Picture of Life in War-Torn South Sudan

Maina Mwaura | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Published: May 19, 2023
Christian Missionary Paints a Harrowing Picture of Life in War-Torn South Sudan

Christian Missionary Paints a Harrowing Picture of Life in War-Torn South Sudan

Global Christian Relief contact in South Sudan, Kafeel Amani, recently opened up to Christian Headlines about the challenges of living in South Sudan. Amani’s name has been changed for security reasons.

Please explain the difference between North and South Sudan.

South Sudan was part of Sudan until it declared its independence on July 9, 2011, because of a referendum in which 98 percent of South Sudanese voted to have their own country. South Sudan later became the youngest nation in the world. Specifically, the North refers to Sudan in this context, where the majority of the population has some links with Arabs, though there is an existence of the black African tribes in the Nuba Mountains, Darfur, and Southern Blue Nile regions of Sudan.

The referendum was included in the peace accord that ended more than 21 years of civil war in Sudan. The peace treaty, known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), was the hope that helped separate South Sudan from Sudan.

Currently, the war in Sudan is occurring where Islam is the primary religion with radical Muslims in control. The former deposed President Omer al Bashir, who ruled the country for 30 years, introduced a stricter version of Sharia Laws (Islamic) laws that favored Muslims and Islamic culture, including Arabic.

South Sudan and Sudan share one of the longest borders in the world. As a sovereign country, South Sudan is a member of the East Africa Community, the African Union and the United Nations. Juba is the capital town of South Sudan. The current conflict in Sudan is horrible.

For many of us in the United States, it’s hard to understand how the war started. Can you describe how the war started and what’s happening now?

The war, which erupted on April 15, is a power struggle between two generals: General Abdul Fatah Al Burhan, the President of the Sovereign Council, and his deputy Muhammed Hamdan Daglo, widely known as (Himmitte) the leader of the Paramilitary Militia known as the Rapid Support Forces, who in the past committed genocide in the Darfur Region of Western Sudan.

The conflict started after Sudan Armed Forces ordered the RSF members to integrate into the regular Forces of the Sudan Armed Forces under one command, a move that Rapid Support Forces leaders rejected.

The fighting started in the capital, Khartoum, and the northern Sudan city of Marawi. Within a short time, the war extended to other states, such as Darfur in the western part of the country and El Obeid town, the capital of North Kordofan State.

The fighting has turned the capital into a war zone, forcing civilians to flee to neighboring countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Chad.

Fighting has been going on for a month now. Already, over 220,000 have fled the country. The situation remains chaotic and tense, with widespread looting of properties. All banks in the capital Khartoum have been looted. Looters have also targeted many factories and businesses. Churches and other places of worship are no exception. The infrastructure is being destroyed. As of Thursday, May 17, the death toll was reported to be 832, according to the Sudan Medical Association. The number of casualties might be higher as the number rises daily.

Dead bodies are seen everywhere, including in the streets. Hospitals are out of service, and many of them have been turned into military bases run by the Rapid Support Forces. Khartoum International Airport is still out of service after it was targeted during the first days of the war. Several aircraft were destroyed.

The paramilitary militia Rapid Support Forces are reportedly invading churches and looting vehicles and church assets. Already five Churches have been affected. Among them is the All Saints Cathedral of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. It was broken into and invaded by forces of RSF which turned the compound into a military base. Equally, the Coptic Church in Omdurman, a twin city of Khartoum, was attacked on Sunday, May 14. Four Christians, including a priest, were seriously wounded. The victims were attending Sunday services.

The attackers chased the worshipers, looted church assets and turned the building into a military base. The fighting has not yet stopped despite the negotiations taking place in Jeddah town in Saudi Arabia. These talks aim to reach a ceasefire for humanitarian purposes. However, none of the ceasefire announcements have been respected.

What is life like living in or near a country at war? What have you been hearing from other people in Southern Sudan?

Life is extremely terrible when a country is at war. There is no stability, as gunshots and explosions are the order of the day. People live in fear and hopelessness. Life becomes meaningless as the value of human beings is reduced to nothingness. I have heard horrible stories of people who fled the war. There are nearly millions of stories from those who experienced the war in Sudan.

For me and my family, who have also experienced wars, life is extremely difficult. It is not easy to be a displaced person or a refugee. I have been hearing stories of the mass displacement, destruction, and rape of people unable to leave the war zone simply because there are no means of transport or because travel is impossible.

The situation is catastrophic. International NGOs left the country just a few days after the conflict broke out. The situation is fragile. Nobody is safe. No food and water. No, power.

I hear stories of people risking a full-scale war that might threaten regional and international security as other countries try to support either side of the warring parties based on the interests of each country.

How is the war affecting you and your family?

As I write, three of my siblings, two sisters and one brother, are stuck in Sudan and unable to leave due to heavy fighting. They have no food to eat and nowhere to go, and no financial resources for them. This is disturbing as I seem helpless except for prayers expecting God to do the impossible. My family itself had been displaced by the war in South Sudan some eight years ago. Currently, they, too, are refugees in Kenya. This is a double crisis for the family.

Can you please let our audience know the best way to pray for you?

Please pray with us for the safety of my siblings in Sudan and that God provides me with resources to evacuate them safely and for food and shelter.

Pray for my family, who are refugees in Kenya, that the Lord will continue to provide them with funds for food, house rent and school fees for our four kids: one boy and three girls ages 13, 12, 8 and 3.

As we don’t know where we shall get resources for school fees for our kids, upkeeping for the family as we live as refugees in Kenya, and house rent for the next coming months, but we trust in the Lord to provide.

Pray for me to keep working hard to help those who are persecuted for their faith. Pray that many lives will be transformed and saved through this ministry.

Pray for peace and the end of the war in Sudan.

What do you think will happen next to the people of Southern Sudan?

The people of South Sudan will be affected as a result of the war in Sudan. The country is already facing a hard economic crisis. The economy is likely to worsen as the war in Sudan continues. Inflation is already high, and prices of basic commodities are skyrocketing. The influx of refugees is expected to increase, including the number of refugees from Sudan. This will put more pressure on the delivery of services, which are already lacking. The security situation in the country is likely to be affected due to the war in Sudan. It is feared that guns might be smuggled into South Sudan from Sudan. This can fuel the tribal conflicts in South Sudan, causing more suffering to the war-torn country. It might destabilize the relative peace being enjoyed in South Sudan.

What is the Church climate like in the country?

The Church of Sudan needs great support as it has lost many of its members due to war. Still, others have been displaced by the conflict. All the Churches located in the conflict zone in Sudan have been deserted as they were turned into military bases by the RSF armed militia. In South Sudan, the Church is free and strong spiritually, but it lacks resources to help assist the refugees and returnees from Sudan.

Global Christian Relief is America’s leading watchdog organization focused on the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide. In addition to equipping the Western church to advocate and pray for the persecuted, GCR works in the most restrictive countries to protect and encourage Christians threatened by faith-based discrimination and violence.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Handout

Christian Missionary Paints a Harrowing Picture of Life in War-Torn South Sudan