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Latest Sudan conflict could impact churches

As church members return to Sudan, establishing new churches after years of bloody conflict, violence has erupted in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

But the conflict should not directly affect new congregations in southern Sudanese towns. John Ed Clark has helped train Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia for ministry. He said that the fighting was unlikely to directly impact new congregations of Sudanese returning from Ethiopia.

From July 10 to Sept. 10 refugees from Sudan have been in a special Bible course taught in English. According to Clark, training school coordinator, Woodward Park church, Fresno, Calif., these trainees “will be part of a gospel army that will return to South Sudan when a peace agreement is signed.”
That peace agreement, between the mostly Muslim north and Christian/animist southern Sudan, has been on the table for nearly a year. The conflict in Darfur erupted before the document was signed, though some followers of African politics say it is unlikely to significantly affect the peace process for the rest of the country.

Shawn Tyler missionary in Mbale, Uganda, assists refugee church members returning from camps in Uganda to their native Sudan. He agreed that the conflict should not directly impact new churches established by the refugees in Nimule, Sudan, which is hundreds of miles south of Darfur.

“Still, the ramifications of this crisis will reach all the way to Nimule if things continue,” Tyler said. “This crisis has displaced about 1 million people, and more than 30,000 people have been killed in the past 14 months.”

The conflict, which began in January, has pitted Sudanese Arabic militia groups against African villagers in Darfur, many of them Muslim, according to news reports. Thousands of African refugees have fled to neighboring Chad.

Though the violence has destabilized the region politically, Tyler said that the future could include opportunities for evangelism.

“We hear the (Muslim Africans) are claiming that they are through with Islam,” Tyler said. “If this is true, there is a powerful tribal group straddling the border of Sudan and Chad ready to hear about Jesus Christ.”

Filed under: International

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