Image: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

By Katelin van Zyl

On Monday 14 August, Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) chief General Abdel Fattah Burhan delivered a rare, televised speech in which he accused the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of committing war crimes. In his speech commemorating Sudan’s annual Armed Forces Day, the General questioned how the RSF and its leader, Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, thought that committing war crimes could restore democracy. The paramilitary force is not the only warring side accused of committing war crimes. Amnesty International has found evidence to show that SAF is also guilty. Arab militias have also been accused (along with the RSF) of atrocities in the Darfur region, in what seems to be ethnically motivated violence. Human Rights Watch recently appealed to the United States and United Nations to enforce additional sanctions on the individuals to blame for these crimes in Darfur, from whom the government is failing to protect the people. Darfur has a history of genocidal violence dating back to 2003, and some analysts and survivors have labelled the current violence the same. The reported atrocities predominantly affecting non-Arabs in West Darfur include summary executions, mass graves, and the torching of villages. Historic tension between Arab and non-Arab communities is linked to land and water disputes, which former president Omar al-Bashir is accused of exploiting to hold onto political power. The 2003 civil war in Darfur saw then-president al-Bashir combat the largely non-Arab armed revolt by recruiting and arming Darfuri Arab militias (known as Janjaweed), who would in 2013 be restructured and regularised as the RSF.

As the number of displaced persons exceeds 4 million people – with approximately 884,000 of that number fleeing to neighbouring countries – and over 20 million people facing high levels of food insecurity, the country continues to descend into a worsening humanitarian crisis. There are no signs of the fighting coming to an end, despite diplomatic efforts by internal and external actors, and the start of the rainy season has brought concerns about a repeat of last year’s flooding disaster. Already in the north of Sudan, torrential rains have destroyed more than 450 homes. In addition to the risk of further home and infrastructure damage, the heavy rains could lead to an increased risk of malnutrition, vector-borne diseases, and displacement. Many medical facilities are not operating, and aid groups across the country face security challenges, including targeted attacks, and bureaucratic obstacles hindering their ability to assist. The global Church can pray for their protection and access to communities in need.

There has been no update on the nationwide death toll since the June estimate of somewhere over 3,000. Civilians not killed in the crossfire have died due to the inability to access medication or starving to death while trapped in their homes. Many bodies are not buried, and some morgues have been abandoned. If they are buried, it is not a burial in line with Sudanese Islamic tradition. Neither are many Christians able to hold the funeral they would have chosen for their loved ones. Many of those who have fled homes have of course lost livelihoods and some of their possessions as well. There are reports of displaced persons needing to come up with creative solutions to support their families where they find themselves. The global Church can pray for God to inspire creative ideas and healthy survival strategies, and for the community to take care of the most vulnerable in society, including the elderly, disabled, and orphans or unaccompanied migrants. There are encouraging reports of believers continuing to faithfully serve, even in areas seriously affected by the fighting, such as in and around the capital, Khartoum. This is despite the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual toll the war is having on those who have lost family members and friends, homes and livelihoods, as well as general freedoms such as the ability to move around safely. They ask for prayer as they gather to conduct bible studies, church meetings and times for prayer, worship, and fellowship.

May they cling to their faith and hope in Jesus, testifying that “The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:7-10 NIV). He strengthens the spirits of those who look to Him, equipping us to fight the spiritual war raging around and against us with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Wearing the helmet of salvation, His followers are to daily take up the shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one and to fight with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-18). As they continue to pray, may the global Body of Christ remember to pray for them too, and be reminded that we are also facing spiritual battles even if we do not see a physical manifestation of war.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For God to bring a breakthrough in peace negotiations, and for an end to the lawlessness and merciless violence
  • For God to make a way for relief groups to assist those in need and enable people to provide for their families
  • For the Church in Sudan to be comforted, strengthened, protected, sustained and fruitful as they continue to serve the Lord in exceptionally challenging times