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ICC NOTE: This article is further testimony of the plight of the Sudanese Christian. Their persecution begins as far back as the 1400’s when Islamic forces came in and forced islamization of the people.

Sudanese Reverend speaks of struggles, hope

SCI Online

For the full article go to: http://www.sewardindependent.com/c11375.html

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by Theodore Wiesehan

His country is split among dozens of tribes and divided between an Islamic north and a Christian and secular south.

His country has seen four decades of civil war in its half-century of existence, yet the Rev. Andrew Mbugo Elisa, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sudan (ELCS), sees hope and opportunities in the midst of these challenges.

Elisa shared information about the Sudan and the ELCS with students, faculty and the public in Weller Chapel at Concordia University on March 20. The event was part of the Martin and Regina Maehr Lecture Series.

Elisa spoke of the Sudanese government’s persecution of Christians, as well, while he showed slides of churches that had been demolished to build a road.

“There is still no road today,” Elisa said of the project.

Eleven Christian churches were demolished by the government along the alleged route. The 16 mosques located in the same area remained undisturbed, Elisa said.

The Islamic government also gives preferential treatment to Muslims in the form of free higher education and government aid.

Sudan ‘s religious divide dates back to the 1400s, according to Elisa, when groups of Arabs began arriving in what had been a Christian kingdom.

The first group of Arabs desired only trade contacts, but the second group arrived on a mission to expand the influence of Islam and set about “Islamizing, Arabizing and assimilating” all they came in contact with, according to Elisa. Christianity and Sudanese culture suffered as churches were destroyed and language shifted to Arabic.

This second group of Arabs also took great interest in the slave trade, bringing further disruption to the Sudan .

The Arabic encroachment was thwarted by the dense jungles of southern Sudan , however, and the south today remains largely free of Arabic influence.

When the British colonized the area, they encouraged the continuation of cultural conflicts between north and south, in keeping with their tactics of colonial governance to discourage unified rebellion.

In 1955 civil war broke out and the following year the British handed over power to the Islamic north. The violent power struggle between north and south lasted until a 1972 agreement creating an autonomous region in southern Sudan .

Ten years later, however, the Islamic government declared that the whole of Sudan was to be ruled by Islamic law, sparking a 23-year civil war.

A peace agreement was reached in 2005, granting the south its own legislature, judiciary, secular constitution and the right to a referendum in six years on whether to remain part of the Sudan or form their own nation.

Elisa remained skeptical, however, of the government’s promises, citing several Muslim military coup d’ etats in the recent past.

“They are not really coup d’ etats,” he said, “but a hand-over to avoid agreement (with the south).”

Despite the difficulties of operating a church in a hostile political climate, Elisa spoke at length on the growth of the church and hope for the future.

“Youth are the backbone of the church,” he said.

Elisa closed by imploring those in attendance to keep Sudan in their thoughts and encouraged prayers of peace for the war-ravaged nation.

“With our prayers,” he concluded, “I remain certain that the living God will provide the resources for the southern Sudan and bring the church to grow.”