Military regimes, favouring Islamic-oriented governments, have dominated national politics since Sudan’s independence from the UK in 1956. Sudan was embroiled in two prolonged civil wars that were rooted in northern economic, political and social domination of largely non-Muslim, non-Arab southern Sudanese. The first civil war ended in 1972 but broke out again in 1983. The second war and famine-related effects resulted in more than 4 million people displaced and more than 2 million deaths over a period of two decades. A peace accord was signed in January 2005, granting the southern rebels autonomy for six years.
In January 2011, the southern portion of Sudan voted to cede from the north, making South Sudan a new country on July 9, 2011. Since January, heavy violence from the north has blanketed both nations. The United Nations reported that in the first four months of 2011, hundreds died and 94,000 were displaced due to the violence.
Sudan has a Sunni Muslim majority, but primarily among the Sudanese Arabs in the north. The constitution offers some religious freedoms, but in practise, those freedoms are arbitrarily abused. The Naivasha Agreement established some protections for non-Muslims in the north (although apostasy is legally punishable by death), and it clarified that Islamic law does not apply in the south. But attempts to impose Islamic law—in infringement of several previous peace agreements—generate a hostile religious context and a cause of civil war.
Persecution of the Church has been most intense since 1985. Deliberate attempts to eliminate a viable Christian presence are extreme and include bombing of Sunday church services; destruction of churches, hospitals, schools, mission bases and Christian villages; massacres and mutilation; and murder of pastors and leaders. Persecution has been especially severe in the Nuba Mountains. Whole areas have been laid waste and lands seized and given to Arabized northerners. Despite this, the number of Christians is growing—from 1.6 million in 1980 to 11 million in 2010.
- Pray that Christians throughout Sudan will continue to entrust themselves to Christ and preach the gospel boldly, knowing Jesus is the ruler over the kings of the earth (2 Timothy 1:7-12, Revelation 1:5).
- Pray also that peace, justice and religious freedom may be firmly established.