Sudan - (Africa)

Information about Sudan

2505813 square kilometres
Sunni Muslim 70% (in north), indigenous beliefs 25%, Christian 5% (mostly in south and Khartoum)
Christian (%)
Protestant (%)
Reformed (%)

Sudan’s population reflects its position as a bridge between the Arab north and the African south of the continent. Today migration caused by civil war has blurred to some degree the historic separation of the two populations. Christianity first spread through the Nubia area in the 6th century. The 19th-century missionary movement did not impact the Sudan until 1890, when the Christian Missionary Society (Angl) first began to work. The Ref presence began in 1901 with the coming of missionaries from the United Presbyterian Church of North America to Omdurman. The colonial government at the time prohibited Christian evangelization in the North. The South, however, was divided among the three societies seeking to work there. The Presb effort was directed to one of the three southern provinces called Upper Nile.
In the North, work continued in the field of education and health alongside a small church composed mostly of Egyptian expatriates, first connected with the Coptic Evangelical Church of Egypt (cf. Egypt) as the Presbytery of Sudan. It is now independent and known as the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC).
The work in the South was difficult. Conditions were inhospitable. Travel was largely by boat. It brought missionaries in touch with the Shilluk, Nuer, Dinka, Anuak, and Murle people. The first Sudanese pastor was ordained at Doleib Hill in 1942. An attempt in the ’50s to achieve union between the CMS and the Presb mission failed. This good-intentioned plan blocked what could have been a more practical goal: the merger of the Presbyterian Church in the North and the Presbyterian Church in the South now known as the Presbyterian Church of Sudan (PCOS). By the time of national independence (1956) the Sudan was in a state of civil war. The new constitution failed to give the South the protection from the Arabs and Muslims which was anticipated. Southern garrisons revolted, and civil war raged until 1972, when the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement, largely negotiated by the WCC and the AACC, was signed. Peace lasted until 1983, when southern garrisons once again revolted because the government had declared that Sharia would become the law of the country and began to transfer southerners in the army to the North. This war continues to this day.
Christian witness everywhere in Sudan is carried out under difficulties. In the North, though freedom of worship is in principle guaranteed, no new buildings are permitted by the government. Christian women are harassed for not wearing Muslim dress, and Christians face discrimination in employment. Nevertheless, churches are crowded. In the South the Presbyterian Church has temporarily been divided into two presbyteries — one for the government areas and one for the rebel-controlled areas. In the latter, there has been a significant movement of the Spirit of God. Though people face enormous suffering, congr are multiplying.
Another branch of the Ref family is the Sudanese Church of Christ in the Nuba Mountains (SCOC). The church grew out of the Sudan United Mission from Australia, which started in 1913, and the Sudan United Mission from New Zealand. It became independent in 1962. The roots of the church are among the people of the Nuba Mountains, a remote area which suffered repression from the Sudan government. It developed quickly from 1960 under the leadership of Pastor Samwiil Gangul Angallo. In 1963 some members of the church emigrated to the cities. Accordingly, the name of the church was changed from the Sudanese Church of Christ in the Nuba Mountains (SCNM) to the Sudanese Church of Christ. Today, in the Nuba Mountains, people adhere in about equal numbers to Christianity, Islam, and indigenous religions; they are united in defending their culture, which the government seems determined to Arabize. During the war churches have been burned; many Christians, Muslims, and indigenous people have been killed. Little publicity has been given to these events.
The Sudan Interior Church grew out of the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) from the USA. It was started in 1937 by SIM missionaries who had been expelled from Ethiopia by the Italians. Hoping to keep in touch with the small community they had built in Ethiopia, they began to work in the Sudan along the border in the Blue Nile province, and eventually in the northern part of the Upper Nile province. The Blue Nile province is part of northern Sudan and nominally Muslim. The government is therefore very sensitive to Christian witness. Emphasis was on health care, Bible translation, and literacy work. Efforts to start schools ran into government objection.
The Trinity Presbyterian Church (TPC) is the result of a separation from the Presbyterian Church of Sudan (PCOS). Some Dinka leaders felt that the leadership of PCOS was unfair to Dinkas. The leader who rallied people to start TPC was Andrew Wieu Riak, who was raised in the PCOS and became one of the best-known political leaders of Presb background. TPC has grown and started a number of new congr, especially in the North. Some hold out the hope that an eventual union of PCOS, SPEC, and SCOS will pave the way for bringing TPC back into the fold.



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