Sudan, April 12, 2012
Easter Sunday, April 8, held the kind of finality of a death sentence for many Christians in Sudan.
Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, confirms that a majority of them were stripped of their identity cards and other documents, and most don't have the money to pay the hefty registration fees. That leaves many in limbo. "There's been no process, there's been no clarity to that, so it has put Christians in an extremely precarious place because at any moment the government could begin to act in very aggressive ways toward this group and claim this deadline as a pretext."
Moeller goes on to explain that "one of the process problems, of course, is how do they either apply for official repatriation to the South, or the process by which they would approach a new citizenship in North Sudan?"
South Sudanese Christians fear authorities will use the occasion to rid the country of Christianity, according to the CDN report. Although Khartoum denies it, Moeller says it's hard to believe religious rights are not involved. "This is a very strong concern of ours because the idea of religious cleansing is really behind this. Many in the North, from an extremist Muslim viewpoint, are calling Christians a 'cancer' in their country. This is often the kind of language that's used before more aggressive actions take place."
Human rights organizations have called on Khartoum to grant them more time to either leave or apply for citizenship. However, Moeller says the effect can already be felt in Sudan's churches. "Churches have been, for the last several months, increasingly closing and emptying because people are leaving. They are fleeing to the South. Many who can't or won't leave, for a variety of reasons, still want to maintain their Christian identity, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to do so."
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in a referendum last July 9. The government of Sudan has begun issuing national numbers to designate citizens of Sudan, denying the designation to Sudanese of southern origin. Without a national number, Southern Sudanese have no citizenship rights to work or to get an education. Moeller says, "They will officially have no rights, and if persecution does break out more aggressively, as it has in the past against those Christians, they could be extremely vulnerable, without any legal recourse."
However, Southern Sudanese may not be welcome in South Sudan, either. Moeller explains, "What's next for the Christians who try to flee to South Sudan? There's no guarantee that they would even be admitted, because again, this is a very turbulent time where some of the issues of repatriation haven't even been addressed yet."
What does the future hold for the Church of Sudan and South Sudan? Chaos makes it hard to lay down plans for any kind of ministry. Moeller says while that won't stop the Gospel, please pray for believers trapped in the situation. "This is the Church that has endured great suffering and has come through that suffering with a profound faith. They truly believe that God has a plan through all of the turmoil and all of the persecution that they're enduring."