SUDAN – Following increased persecution in northern Africa, a major Christian organization has announced plans to evacuate over 3,000 Christians from Sudan in coming months.
Since South Sudan seceded from its northern counterpart two years ago, Christians in Sudan have suffered under heavy persecution from the predominantly Islamic culture, where Sharia law is enforced. Demographic data suggests that 97-98% of Sudan’s population is Muslim, and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir declared last year that he desired “a 1oo% Islamic constitution, without communism or secularism or Western [influences].”
As previously reported, the U.S. Department of State identified Sudan as a “country of particular concern” in its most recent International Religious Freedom Report, which was released in late May. The report explains that the Countries of Particular Concern are nations which display “particularly severe, … systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”
“The [Sudanese] government at times enforced laws against blasphemy and defaming Islam,” the Department of State report details. “Authorities harassed religious practitioners of unregistered groups and limited the freedom of the four registered religious groups. There were instances of abuse and mistreatment. … State governments and local authorities razed two churches.”
A description of Sudan by the Barnabas Fund—a Christian organization which strives to “support Christians where they are in a minority and suffer discrimination, oppression and persecution as a consequence of their faith”—echoes similar concerns over religious freedom violations in the north African nation.
“Since the mainly Christian South Sudan gained independence in July 2011, Christians and churches in Sudan have faced increasing aggression,” the Barnabas Fund reports. “They already endured discrimination and many restrictions, but now church leaders have been threatened, arrested and abducted, and Christian buildings destroyed.”
As a result of the intense persecution against Christians, Barnabas Fund recently announced plans to evacuate 3,400 Christians from Sudan to the freer South Sudan. This effort is a bold extension of the organization’s “Exodus” project that was initiated last year. Since the Sudanese government has stripped countless Sudanese Christians of their citizenship, Barnabas Fund has provided airlifts to thousands of people seeking better lives in South Sudan.
When Exodus was first launched, Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, admitted that the airlifts—which each cost roughly $275—were a “major endeavour.”
“When faced with such tremendous need, it can be overwhelming, but we have a powerful God and nothing is too difficult for Him,” he stated. “It is an honour for us to be able to help the most vulnerable Christians get to safety in South Sudan, and I invite you to be part of this rescue mission through your prayers and gifts.”
Officials with the aid agency estimate the total cost of the additional evacuation effort will be nearly $120,000.
“We are very grateful that our supporters have been moved by the plight of their Christian family in Sudan to give generously to this rescue mission,” Sookhedeo said in a statement this month. “We must now call on your help again as we prepare to assist more endangered women and children. Perhaps you could ask your church to have a collection for this cause?”
Photo: Barnabas Fund