The year 2019 will go down in history as one of the most important in the modern history of Sudan. It was the year when the brutal 30-year reign of Omar al Bashir finally ended. Bashir was overthrown by members of his own government following months of continued unrest and near collapse of the national economy.
Sudan is presently ruled by a fragile transition government. While pro-democracy forces are very vocal on the governing council, there remain many hard-line Islamists from the old regime who were instrumental in enforcing Bashir’s twin policy of “Arabization” and “Islamization.”
Still, with international pressure to bear, and a population tired of war and desperate for lasting peace, Sudan has an opportunity in 2020 to reverse decades of persecution and oppression… and begin the long road of rebuilding.
One of the driving parties demanding the government make fundamental changes in how it treats religious and cultural minorities is the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), led by elected Chairman Abdelaziz Adam al Hilu. Chairman Abdelaziz has led an armed resistance against Khartoum since fighting broke out in 2011 when Bashir’s forces tried to forcefully disarm the Nuba people after a sham gubernatorial election in Southern Kordofan State. The Nuba is home to Sudan’s largest Christian minority outside of the capital city.
While supporting the current ceasefire, Chairman Abdelaziz has insisted the Sudan government abolish Sharia law. The SPLM wants the new Sudan government to remain neutral on matters of faith to accommodate the country’s diverse ethnic, cultural and religious population.
Some pro-democracy supporters are pressuring Abdelaziz to lower his standards and trust the new government’s commitment to religious freedom. But the Nuba people have learned the hard way to “trust— but verify” anything coming out of Khartoum. Years of broken promises have left the Nuba torn and under-developed.
Persecution Project continues to provide support for 194 clinics and 2 rural hospitals in the Nuba. We also provided most of the non-food aid, and nearly all the repairs to well pumps.
We remain cautiously optimistic about 2020, but also realize that our work in the region is far from over, as it could take many years to recover what has been lost. The Nuba conflict, like Darfur in the West of the country, has been like a slow-moving hurricane. There is scarcely a community untouched by its destructive force.
Looking forward, three things are certain: 1. The Nuba people will continue to defend their land and rebuild their lives; 2. The Nuba church will be working right beside them; and 3. Persecution Project will stand beside our brothers and sisters, thanks to your active compassion.