Sudan’s Plight Matters to Us
By Teresa Sfeir
More than a month has passed since protests erupted across Sudan, with the rising anger over skyrocketing prices and a deteriorating economy. Protests were sparked on December 19, 2018 following a government decision to triple the price of bread from one Sudanese pound ($0.02) to three Sudanese pounds ($0.06). The value of the Sudanese pound has collapsed by 85% against the US dollar this past year, while inflation rose to nearly 70 percent in September.
Some of our Sudanese students shared the concerns they had for their country. According to one of our students, for instance, “People are over-burdened, and they have reached the brink of suffering. Consequently, they took it to the streets.” Another student also says, “Most of the schools in the country have shut down since then. Everything has become so expensive, and the poor families can no longer tolerate the situation.”
Sudanese authorities report the death of 24 citizens across Sudan, but human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report the death of 40. More than a thousand people have been arrested nationwide. Meanwhile, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is planning to run for the presidency again in 2020, told crowds of supporters, “Demonstrations will not change the government,” adding that “there’s only one road to power and that is through the ballot box.”
According to Adeline Van Houtte, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit, “Bashir’s position has never been that weak. If the security forces sense that the balance of power is shifting, their loyalty cannot be guaranteed.” The military has been the dominant force in Sudan since its independence in 1956. Al-Bashir comes from a military background, but he has removed the military from its traditional position of authority, replacing it with the parliamentary forces loyal to him.
In the midst of the current protests, the military has shown its support to the country’s “leadership,” but it has not mentioned al-Bashir by name. While army troops work towards protecting state installations, it hasn’t obstructed the protests. In some instances, they have even offered support to protestors. Could the military stage a coup and remove al-Bashir? If that is the case, will its rule bring any social justice to the country? The recent history of the country demonstrates otherwise.
Theological Reflection and Missiological Recommendations
During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea (Acts 11:27-29 NIV).
Poverty is a recurrent theme in the Arab world; we often hear of famine and insecurity. In such times, the Sudanese Church can overcome challenges both locally and regionally through its unity and openness to the Church’s global reach. The conditions of the early Church weren’t any easier than they are today. It wasn’t through its seclusion that it thrived but rather through its expansion to different parts of the world. When church groups across the world are open to one another, they can extend help to one another. They can extend resources. It is then vital for the Church in Sudan not to get caught up in political strife, causing fractures within itself. Now is the time for Sudanese Christ-followers to stand together, being aware that they need other churches too.