“They did many bad things to me…Apart from abusing me sexually, he (one of Hiba’s abductors) tried to force me to change my faith and kept reminding me to prepare for Ramadan. I cannot forget this bad incident, and whenever I try to pray, I find it difficult to forget.”
Hiba (left) was only fifteen years old when a gang of Muslims kidnapped her in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum in June of 2010. Remarkably, after one year of abuse, she escaped from her abductors in July of this year and told ICC when we met with her in September that she is praying “to Jesus that He reveals Himself to my assailants and forgives them for what they did to me.”
When we asked how she was recovering from the abuse, Hiba said, “I am feeling good now because I am reunited with my family after spending one year in the custody of my Muslim kidnappers. I escaped from them by the help of God who did not want me to suffer more in their hands. I have faith that one day God will change my situation for good and be a blessing to my mum and the family.”
Hiba is aware of the power of prayer. She appreciates all that prayed for her release, saying, “I want to thank God who saved me from the hands of the abductors. I also thank God for all believers all over the world for their prayers for me and my family. It was because of your prayers that my situation changed.”
Hiba, who missed one year of school due to the abduction, is now starting her studies again, but under financial constraints. Her widowed mother lost her job because she had taken time off work to search for her daughter.
Hiba told ICC, “All that I want now is to pursue my education. Even though my mum does not have money for that, I believe in the power of prayer of the believers.”
ICC is providing financial assistance to help pay for Hiba’s education and help rebuild the life of her family by helping her mother to start a business. If you would like to give to support girls like Hiba who have been abducted and abused, please give to “Save Our Sisters,” our new fund which our Facebook community helped us name. Click here to give today.
Prior to joining ICC, I lived and worked in a remote village in the deep south of Sudan rebuilding churches – many of which were destroyed by the Muslim north during Sudan’s seemingly endless civil war. South Sudan’s new found independence will prayerfully end an era that has taken some two million lives and displaced countless more. But after a lifetime spent at war or living in impoverished refugee camps spread across East Africa, how does one forgive an oppressor and start anew?
Forgiveness is never an easy process, yet the virtue was instilled within many southern Sudanese long before the civil war had ended. Forgiveness came to southern Sudan with the first missionaries who brought the Gospel. Because of those who faithfully offered the hope of Christ to the Sudanese, you will see neither vengeance nor agony on the faces of Sudan’s Christians, but rather an inconceivable joy for the opportunity of a new beginning.
At first, I was amazed when I heard an Anglican bishop tell his congregation to begin planting mango trees, teak trees, and gardens. At the time, I had been in Sudan for several months and was overwhelmed by the desperation of a place ravaged by war. I had been focusing on the immediate needs – food for the hungry, hospitals for the sick, clean water for the thirsty. Why was this pastor telling his people to plant when there was so much else to be done? I then realized that he saw past the obstacles I had been dwelling on. Instead, he was offering hope to his people by bringing new life to a new nation. He saw the fruit, the building potential, and the beauty that the trees would harvest. He was a visionary, wishing to bestow a better future to his children.
It is easy to become disheartened when reading about or living amongst the bloodshed and devastation suffered by the southern Sudanese, but let us not forget that Christ has not forgotten Sudan, but claimed the Sudanese as his own ages ago. While I was in Sudan, I reflected in my journal upon the early missionaries who brought the Gospel to this unfamiliar land and the hope that is only found in Jesus Christ:
Outside our compound is a church built of brick and stone by English missionaries in the 1930s. It was destroyed in the war and all that now remains are crumbled walls and stone pillars left deserted to serve as a plot of weeds rather than as a house of God. Within the shadows of these halls I find a cool place to write where I am hidden from those passing by. I imagine what this place must have been like when it was used for worship to our Lord. I try to picture the early pioneers who struggled to reach this unfamiliar land and persevered through countless hardships for the sake of Christ to bring the gospel to these people. What an incredible thought that as missionaries, we are continuing a work that was built and has lasted through the ages by the trials, sufferings and perseverance of faithful men and women before us who “considered everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus… (Phil. 3:8).” Those are the footsteps that we follow and whose work it is now our joy to complete.
Some who look upon those ruins may see a church that was unable to stand firm through the devastation of war, and hence may believe that the mission of those pioneers had failed. But, we know better. When I meet the Sudanese Christians and see the hope that they have, I am reminded that the work of the missionaries before us to share the Truth did not end with the destruction of a building but will endure for eternity in the hearts and souls of these people.
After voters cast their ballots last week in Sudan’s crucial referendum, it is apparent that the overwhelming majority in the south hope to finally have an independent country of their own. According to information from one of our sources, early voting results indicate that in Kajo-Keji county alone, 45,892 people voted for secession, while only 198 voted for unity. The county had a 99.6% voter turn-out. Secession will mean peace from almost constant civil war that has killed roughly two million people. While the voting has thus far proceeded with relative calm, some Islamic leaders are speaking of revolution and the overthrow of Bashir’s regime if the president allows the south to secede.
Pastor Ayumba’s Story
Christians have often found themselves in the middle of the conflict. We want to share with you the testimony of Pastor Ayumba, a southern Sudanese Christian who spent most of his life living in – or fleeing from – war. In his own words, Pastor Ayumba reflects on the suffering of Christians faced only years earlier at the hands of the Muslim north and the south’s own militia, the SPLA. May we remember what our Christian brethren in Sudan have suffered, and what the chance of independence and freedom truly means to them.
“I was born in 1972 at a village called Abukini in South Sudan, near the Congo border. At the age of five, my mom died and I was left with my dad, but he was too old to be able to take care of us or even care for himself. I decided to marry at the age of sixteen.
In 1994, the Sudan civil war between the southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the northern forces reached my village. I realized that my family could only be safe in exile, so we fled to Uganda. Life in Uganda soon became hard because of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. They burned the houses of the refugees and even fellow civilians in Uganda.
By God’s provision, [the southern Sudan city of] Yei was liberated in early March 1997, which prompted my family and me to return home from exile. While on the way from Uganda to Sudan, we needed to cross through Congo (formerly known as Zaire). The Congolese militias did not like Sudanese refugees entering their country. If a Sudanese was caught by a Congolese soldier, he would be handed over to the government in exchange for food items, such as salt and sugar. Older men were sold for ten bags of salt, while youth were sold for twenty bags of sugar and ten bags of salt.
I even witnessed my pastor being sold and brought to Yei. At the time, the northern military was imposing Sharia (Islamic) Law across all of Sudan, including the Christian south. My pastor was commanded by soldiers to say “Allah Akbar” (God is great). Instead, he proclaimed “Halleluya Yesua” (Hallelujah Jesus). He was beaten and again commanded to exclaim “Allah Akbar.” His response was the same, “Halleluya Yesua!” For this act of defiance, he was tortured and thrown in prison, but the key for the prison could not be found. The guards looked for the key for nine hours but could not find it. Finally, they released him, saying, “Go, you cursed!” The guards then followed the pastor home to his church of worship in Yei town, and burnt the church down.
I remember one night when many Christians were imprisoned for praising the Lord. The soldiers said to them, “If God is really here, than prove it. Let Him save you!” After hearing this, I gathered a group of believers together and we began praying unceasingly throughout the night for those captured, believing that God would rescue them. At 3:00 am, the prisoners showed up at the front door while we were still praying for them! We praised God for releasing our brothers in Christ!
Then there were the Antonovs (Soviet built bombers operated by the north). You knew they were near by the loud, buzzing sound of the engines, and fear would immediately take hold of you. Only one question raced through your mind: “Where will the bombs fall?” I remember one night in Yei when we heard that terrible sound approaching. An SPLA traitor climbed high in a tree, signaling the Antonov to drop its bombs over our church. We began praying, and none of the bombs fell on our church.
Christians were often treated badly and suffered for their faith. If a person agreed to be a Muslim, they were given food daily. Some that converted to Islam were branded with a hot iron on the buttocks as a symbol of their allegiance to Allah in order to obtain food rations. For those who remained Christian, some were thrown into the Yei River or put in an empty sack and thrown into a pit as a result of refusing to be a Muslim. At times, we also had trouble with the SPLA, the army who was there to protect us. At nearby churches in Lainya, SPLA troops would use the buildings as their barracks and force the congregation to carry bullets and weapons to the frontlines. They would also raid villages, looting our possessions and livelihood. Many terrible things happened during the war, yet even still, the promises of God were not forgotten by the believers.
When the church was persecuted, many Christians went underground or joined other fellowships of believers, holding small prayer gatherings at their homes and under trees. However, the church could not be defeated or weakened and today it is strong and growing. I will continue to pray for my country Sudan. I encourage the Christians to remain firm and united serving the Lord’s people for life. Neither poverty nor hardship nor death will separate me from the love of God as it is written in Paul’s letters to the Romans (8:38-39). May the Almighty God bring an end to the suffering and the persecutions of the Christians in South Sudan.”