Image: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

By Katelin van Zyl

On 25 September, the United Nations (UN) reported that the number displaced within Sudan and into neighbouring countries has risen to approximately 5.3 million. Just over five months into the fighting in the northeastern African nation, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project estimates that nearly 7,500 people have been killed. An INcontext contact shared that the violence in the capital has been worse than many previous outbreaks of fighting. For many, it has become unbearable to live in Khartoum and neighbouring Omdurman. Christians who have managed to escape the capital and seek shelter in other parts of the county find themselves living among Muslims and ‘unreached’ people groups. The global Church can pray for these Sudanese believers to lovingly, wisely, and courageously share about Christ with their neighbours and be a light in this difficult time. Only around 3.78% of the population are Christian, but these believers can have a mighty impact as they gain new opportunities to engage with fellow Sudanese under changing circumstances. Our contact shared about a three-day revival held in a local church in an area believers relocated to, where God worked mightily through prayer and worship. Three people were healed and fourteen people gave their lives to Jesus. The Body of Christ can trust for more of these spiritual breakthroughs in this time of upheaval, along with political breakthroughs.

In the past few weeks, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the de facto ruler of Sudan, has conducted a series of diplomatic visits. Toward the end of August, he travelled to Egypt on his first official trip since the outbreak of conflict to meet with his most important international ally. On 4 September, the general held talks with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir in his neighbour’s capital, Juba. General al-Burhan then travelled to Doha to meet with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. While these diplomatic trips may have served to demonstrate his authority and legitimacy as chairman of the Sovereign Council amidst the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces’ (RSF) siege of his Khartoum headquarters, the visits also renewed hope that there is openness on his part to negotiate a peace deal. Indeed, while in New York to join the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly between 21 and 26 September, he expressed his desire for peace to be restored. However, so far, both sides have accused each other of not upholding commitments made at the Jeddah peace talks in May. During his address to the General Assembly on 21 September, General al-Burhan called on the international community to declare the RSF and its allied militias terrorist groups in light of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by their fighters in the capital, Darfur and other parts of the country. He argued that the violence waged by the RSF is against all Sudanese state components (including civilians) rather than merely the SAF, and that the fighting in the country bordering seven other nations could threaten security throughout the region and lead to a wider humanitarian disaster. RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo also gave a speech to the General Assembly in a competing address via a video recording from an undisclosed location, similarly blaming the other side for the inability to reach a lasting peace agreement. The global Church can pray for both sides to be truly committed to working towards peace and for the international community to continue to assist in peace talks.

Heavy rain and flooding in seven states has also contributed to the additional displacement of more than 72,000 people, according to the UN. The spread of measles has added to the suffering of many Sudanese, with the total number of cases since April growing to 4,334. At least 1,200 refugee children in White Nile State have died due to suspected measles and underlying malnutrition. Outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever have also been reported in eastern Sudan. Over 50 humanitarian and human rights organisations are urging greater solidarity with Sudan and more assistance for its people. Out of the $2.6 billion required by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to help the 24.7 million people identified as being in need of assistance this year, $806.5 million has so far been received, which roughly amounts to 31%. Economic infrastructure has been destroyed, which has affected many industries and households throughout the country, regardless of their proximity to the fighting. One such example is the important date industry, primarily concentrated in the north of the country, which is the seventh-largest date producer in the world. It is difficult to secure buyers, with the largest market being Khartoum, or to move produce across the country due to insecurity and fuel shortages. The agricultural sector, of which the date industry forms part, is the foundation of the pre-war economy, employing more than 80% of the workforce and making up 35-40% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the UN. Many factories have been looted or burnt down, while smallholder farmers struggle to gain access to financing and traders cannot rely on market demand. One of the largest employers in the agricultural sector, Haggar Group, suspended its operations in May and had to lay off thousands of workers. The global Church can pray for the needs of humanitarian initiatives, the agricultural sector, and all individual households – especially the most vulnerable – to be met, and for the economy to strengthen and stabilise.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For successful strides towards peace, and an end to the atrocities committed by some groups in the country
  • For many people in Sudan to experience the eternal hope, peace and mercy found in Jesus Christ
  • For the provision of the needs of humanitarian efforts, key industries and Sudanese households in this turbulent time