Wednesday, May 8, 2013

RLPB 209. Sudan: repression escalates as rebels advance

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 209 | Wed 08 May 2013

REMINDER: Symposium - 'Confronting Persecution in the 21st Century'.
Wed 15 May from 7pm at Glen Waverley Anglican Church, Melbourne, Australia.

SUDAN: REPRESSION ESCALATES AS REBELS ADVANCE
By Elizabeth Kendal

The Arab-supremacist, Islamist regime in Khartoum, Sudan, has been escalating its campaign of systematic persecution against the Church since at least April of 2012. Also targeted are 'Southerners' (predominantly Christian Africans from South Sudan) and 'blacks' (predominantly Christian Africans from Sudan's Nuba Mountains). The persecution appears aimed at driving Christians and non-Arabs out of Sudan, or at least out of Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman. Christian ministries (including schools) have been closed and their foreign staff deported. Morning Star News reports that in February, National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) officials arrested staff members of a university campus ministry. After interrogating them for a week, confiscating everything of value and deporting three members to South Sudan, the NISS released the believers who were ordered to report weekly. The officers also threatened the Christians, saying they would be 'buried alive' if they fail to provide information about who is supporting Christian activities in Sudan. On 17 April 2013 Sudan's Minister of Guidance and Endowments, Al-Fatih Taj El-sir, announced that no new licences for building churches will be issued on the grounds that new churches are not needed as Christians are leaving and churches are closing.

The escalating persecution coincides with the mounting pressure being felt by the regime. This is due to economic stress and widespread disaffection, and with military gains being made by rebel forces. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N) has made great gains in South Kordofan and now holds most of the Nuba Mountains. Meanwhile, rebels in Darfur have made great gains in south Darfur.  Led by the SPLM-N, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) is an alliance of rebel forces fighting for a new constitution and a government of national unity in an inclusive, secular, democratic state, much along the lines of the 'New Sudan' vision that Southern leader Dr John Garang had championed. Formed in November 2011, the SRF has gone from strength to strength. (See RLPB 148, 28 Feb 2012, for important background.) Recently the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) from Darfur dropped its demand for Sharia Law in Darfur, embraced the national agenda and joined the alliance. On 27 April 2013 the expanded SRF fought as a united front under a single command to seize territory in North Kordofan -- just 480km from Khartoum and 100km from a government airbase -- and hold it for several hours. According to SPLM-N Secretary General Yassir Arman (a close aide of the late Dr John Garang), this is now 'a fully-fledged war'

Though the rebels are talking about entering Khartoum, that is unlikely. Even if they did enter Khartoum, they most certainly could not hold it. However, they don't need to take Khartoum to paralyse the government as they only need to hold South Kordofan, where Sudan's last remaining oil reserves are located. But while the SRF is strong -- and getting stronger as nomadic tribal Arabs and Muslim Africans defect from Khartoum to support the SRF -- the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have probably double the number of troops as well as air power and political control at the centre. The most likely scenario is a 'vicious deadlock'. Meanwhile, the regime is employing its well-worn strategy of targeting civilian populations suspected of supporting the rebels. Some 700,000 have been displaced by Khartoum's aerial bombardments and the 436,000 who are displaced within rebel-held areas are facing famine due to the regime's aid blockade. Whilst devastating to civilians, the stalemate -- the fact that Khartoum cannot win -- could pave the way for negotiations where the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) could be re-addressed. This would be especially likely if pressure is brought to bear from outside, something the West -- to its shame -- has been unwilling to do.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will 'break' the regime's power (Psalm 10:15); may Arab Sudanese decide they are sick of war; may support for the regime drain away; may political and military defections increase; may the regime be forced to negotiate; may the 'New Sudan' vision of a united, diverse, inclusive, secular and free Sudan be embraced even in the heart of Khartoum (which would be a miracle).

'The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.' (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

* the Church will know the sustaining power and comforting presence of the Holy Spirit of God; may she stand firm, growing in faith and numerically despite the opposition she faces; may her righteousness and grace bear witness to the truth of the Gospel.   

'And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.' (Romans 8:28 ESV)

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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REPRESSION ESCALATES IN SUDAN AS REBELS ADVANCE


Persecution is escalating in Sudan, especially in Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman, as the racist, Islamist regime continues its campaign of intimidation, ministry closures, deportations and media disinformation along with impunity for persecutors. This coincides with escalating economic and social woes and military advances by rebel forces. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N) has made great gains in South Kordofan, now holding most of the Nuba Mountains. An alliance of rebel forces led by the SPLM-N is fighting for an inclusive, secular state and recently seized territory in North Kordofan only 480 km from Khartoum. The regime is fighting back by bombing civilians and denying international food aid entry to rebel-held areas. Please pray that God will liberate Sudan and bless his Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)