Date: December 17, 2019
Sudan (MNN) — The latest news from Sudan sounds promising, but is it too good to be true?
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok met with USCIRF officials earlier this month; it was the first time a Sudanese government leader visited the U.S. in 30 years. Hamdok reportedly outlined multiple improvements, including changes to Sudan’s apostasy and blasphemy laws, workshops related to religious freedom and legislative reform, and new laws for places of worship.
Meanwhile, back in Sudan, officials “invited church leaders to come speak into the process as they’re developing a new government,” says a Christian worker we’ll call Ken. It’s suspicious, to say the least.
“These are the same people who, just a few months ago, were putting people (believers) in prison… now they’re inviting them to come be a part of the same conversation.”
Understanding Sudan requires context
As described here, dictator Omar al-Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years:
Under his charge, the country has been ruled as an Islamic state with limited rights for religious minorities… All Christian communities in Sudan are afraid of having conversations about their faith with Sudanese Muslims because that could put them at risk for arrest or intimidation… conversion from Islam to another religion is legally punishable by death.
There were also threats inside the church walls. “In the past, the Sudanese government planted spies in the churches and also recruited spies out of the churches,” Ken says. “So… nobody trusts each other because you never know what someone’s motives are.”
After Bashir’s ouster earlier this year, Sudan formed an interim government to guide the country through its transition period. There’s a momentary lull now, but some officials who ruled with Bashir remain in key leadership positions.
When these individuals now invite believers into the conversation, are they genuinely open to working side-by-side? Or do they have something sinister in mind?
“A lot of [Christian leaders] have been in prison in the past already so they know what’s at stake here. But, they also know what the stakes are for God’s kingdom. They have to be obedient to these opportunities that are presented to them… [and] go in with eyes open and bathed in prayer,” Ken says.
“What happens tomorrow is in God’s hands. People just have to be obedient.”
Planning for the unknown
The Sudanese Church faces a new era on the heels of Bashir’s ouster. New freedoms exist during this transition period as Sudan restructures, but these opportunities must be used wisely. “[In] December 2022 there’ll be another election. Nobody knows what’s going to happen but…we have about three years that God can open up doors. We just need to be ready,” Ken says.
“The whole future of the Sudanese Church is at stake.”
Pray for unity and reconciliation in the Sudanese Church. Pray that God would open the hearts and minds of Sudanese Church leaders to love and forgive each other. Find more ways to pray for Sudan here.
“Recently, I’ve been to two different meetings in two different countries with different Sudanese church leaders. The number one thing that came out of each of those days together was their need to learn forgiveness and reconciliation amongst themselves,” Ken says.
“The biggest prayer Sudanese leaders have asked me for is that they will learn to love each other as much as God directs us to. In that process, they will learn to minister to the hearts and the minds of the Sudanese people.”
Header image depicts U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin shaking hands with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons.