By Dan Wooding
The Russian-made MU2 Antonov aircraft, with Sudanese government markings, made six bombing runs on Thursday, March 23, over the grounds of the Christian Liberty Academy of Southern Sudan in Western Equatoria, dropping one or two 250-pound-shrapnel bombs at a time. This bombing mission by the Islamic-led government forces of Sudan inflicted numerous injuries on students and their parents.
Over 100 high-school-age students from the Moru tribe are enrolled in the recently completed boarding school facility, which is being sponsored and financed by the Christian Liberty Academy of Arlington Heights, Illinois, a 910-student school on the edge of Chicago. Students, parents and others were making final preparations at the school when the attack came.
Following the bombing, Dr. Paul D. Lindstrom, Superintendent of the Christian Liberty Academy education system, which has schools in Russia, Surinam, South Africa and elsewhere, called for “total U.S. sanctions” against the Islamic government in Khartoum.
“We are outraged by the continuing persecution of black Christians, moderate Muslims, animists and other non-Muslims in Southern Sudan by the military regime in Khartoum who controls the Sudanese government,” he said. “It is accurate to say that the government of Sudan is engaged in genocide, especially against the black African Sudanese. And the silence of the U.S. government to all of this is deafening.
“This is not a political issue for us. Rather, it concerns the saving of children’s lives and education. If the Sudanese government has bombed us once, they will do it again. Why is the U.S. assisting Muslims in Kosovo, Bosnia and elsewhere, including the providing of military aid, and yet forsaking Christians in southern Sudan? The ten-year reign of Sudan government terror must cease!”
The school was fortunate. No one died in the incident. But this was not the case when the National Islamic Front (NIF) government of Sudan bombed a hospital sponsored by American Christian groups in the rebel-controlled south, killing two people and injuring several others. It was the third reported bombing of a southern Sudanese hospital in a two-week period.
Government aircraft dropped about a dozen bombs on the town of Nimule, on the White Nile River just north of the border with Uganda, according to Wes Bentley, the head of California-based Far Reaching Ministries, which trains chaplains at the hospital. “I think they just dropped a whole load on the city and didn’t care where they hit,” Bentley told Newsroom, based in the U.K.
Wes Bentley said that one chaplain was killed in the attack and another five chaplains were wounded along with a cook, who was struck in the head by a piece of shrapnel. “A bomb killed Tombek Marcello Daniel, a chaplain in training, as he ran out of a building near the hospital,” said Bentley, who spends about half of his year in Sudan. The 28-year-old was married with three children.
Human rights groups say that NIF forces have frequently targeted civilian buildings, ignoring the principles of the Geneva Convention. Earlier this year NIF bombers also struck a hospital in the southern city of Lui, run by North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse. With no military facilities within miles, bombs dropped by the Islamic Government of Sudan aircraft targeted the Samaritan’s Purse civilian missionary hospital. The first attack killed at least two people and injured many others.
“The government of Sudan just continues to demonstrate that they are a terrorist nation,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and son of Rev. Billy Graham. “For more than 25 years, Samaritan’s Purse has helped people all over the world recover from wars of hatred, but this is the first time we’ve ever been so blatantly and continuously attacked by the government of the very people we are trying to help.”
In spite of this and the previous attack, which killed two people and wounded dozens, Samaritan’s Purse is committed to keeping the hospital open. Graham said, “Our medical staff is committed to staying because we operate the largest hospital in southern Sudan, treating more than one million people since 1997.”
A CONTROVERSIAL DOCUMENT
Voice of the Martyrs was among 26 groups that signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that allowed them to continue working in the southern rebel-controlled part of the country under certain conditions. About a dozen groups, including World Vision International, refused to sign, contending that the agreement would have placed their staff, equipment and relief aid under SPLM control.
Open Doors, the international ministry begun more than four decades ago by Brother Andrew, the Dutch-born author of God’s Smuggler, has announced that it will stay in the war-torn country and will continue to deliver Bibles and conduct training for Christians in the south.
“Open Doors is not leaving Sudan. We have a completely different strategy for how we conduct our ministry. We don’t seek official government permission for our work, but rather we operate independently and work directly and only with the indigenous Sudanese church,” explained Terry Madison, the President and CEO of Open Doors USA. “Although we have done relief work in Sudan food, clothing, medical supplies our primary ministry there is to strengthen the Christian Church through supplying Bibles and training pastors for the work of the Gospel in what is one of the most repressive countries of the world. So we have decided to stay.”
RUTHLESS AND AGGRESSIVE PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS
Reflecting on Open Doors’ commitment to continue its ministry in Sudan, Brother Andrew went on to describe the situation and the need: “I know of no other place on earth where the persecution of Christians is more ruthless and aggressive than the Islamic Republic of Sudan. In southern Sudan, Islamic troops attack unarmed villages, killing our brothers burning their homes, churches and health clinics, and taking our sisters and their children as slaves.
“Government bombers terrorize the people as they thunder over their homes. And now their bombs contain deadly chemicals. The poison has killed children and caused many of our sisters to miscarry their unborn babies.
“The bombing and ground attacks, in addition to the famine the government has caused by cutting off international aid, has forced countless people from their homes and farms.”
Brother Andrew went on to describe the refugee camps: “There, women are raped. Food is withheld from Christians who refuse to renounce their faith and embrace Islam. Yet even as I share this horrible description, remember that this is only the physical expression of the spiritual war being waged in Sudan. The Muslims, even the cruelest, are not our enemies.”
He then called for urgent prayer for the believers of southern Sudan. “Although Open Doors has sent, and continues to send, humanitarian aid to our suffering brothers and sisters, we are most powerful when we are on our knees.”
“Second in impact to our prayers are the Bibles and other Christian literature that we put in their hands.”
A JIHAD ON THE SOUTH
The indiscriminate slaughter of two million people, mostly black Christians, but also Muslims and animists has been brought about by the National Islamic Front (NIF) who long ago declared a jihad (holy war) on the south. Human rights observers say that NIF violates almost every provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Linda Slobodian of the Calgary Herald, who has traveled frequently to southern Sudan, wrote, “Civil war has raged in Sudan for 17 years. The NIF’s war effort, strengthened by revenues since last fall from oil projects fueled by foreign investment, has brazenly stepped up its assault on civilians. Reports of attacks on school children and hospitals steadily filter out. The West ignores them. More people have died in Sudan than in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Rwanda and Somalia combined.”
She added, “Sudan is a place littered with graves of children. A place where government bombs fall like raindrops on civilian targets.”
Harunn Runn, General Secretary of the New Sudan Council of Churches, the umbrella group for churches in southern Sudan, speaking at a Sudan consultation for U.S. church leaders sponsored by World Relief in Wheaton, Illinois, said that the war is not a Muslim crusade on the part of the north, but is rather a war of values. “It is a racial, economic and religious war,” he stated.
“RELIGION IS USED TO MANIPULATE PEOPLE.” THE SHOCKING STORY OF FRANCIS BOK BOL
According to a story in Religion Today, Francis Bok Bol was seven when his mother sent him to the market to sell eggs. The boy became a commodity himself that day.
Muslim troops raided the marketplace in southern Sudan, killing the adults and taking the children hostage, Charles Jacobs of the Sudan Campaign told Religion Today. Bol, a Christian, was thrown over a donkey and sold to a Muslim who forced him to convert to Islam, beat him and made him sleep in a barn. “He witnessed terrible things,” Jacobs said. Bol, who escaped after 10 years in captivity, testified of the horror in Sudan at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol, May 23, 1999.
Christian Solidarity International (CSI), a Swiss-based human rights group has been active in buying back the freedom of more than 15,000 Sudanese slaves, and this has caused it to lose United Nations status. The U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) removed Christian Solidarity International’s consultative status on October 26, 1999, by a vote of 26-14 with 12 abstentions. The vote endorsed a recommendation made earlier by the U.N.’s Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.
John Eibner, CSI’s representative to the U.N., insists that “there is a broad consensus of support” for CSI’s slave redemption work among southern Sudanese tribal leaders, according to Newsroom. “The community leaders would not want us to redeem slaves if it meant more being taken into bondage, more being beaten, more villages burned,” said Eibner, who helped secure freedom for 4,300 Sudanese slaves in October 1999.
ANOTHER VIEW OF SLAVERY
Clive Calver, President of World Relief, the international assistance arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, has a different take on slavery.
He said, “World Relief applauds and supports abolition movements to end slavery in Sudan, but to truly facilitate churches working together, World Relief must honor the well-thought-out priorities of the Sudanese church. While slavery is an issue for them, it is currently not the primary one. Ending the war that has claimed two million lives, keeping another 2.4 million from starving to death and teaching them about Jesus are the top concerns they repeatedly voice to me.
“As Pastor Arkangelo Wani Lemi observed to me while I watched death happen, ‘My people will not starve to death. We have brothers and sisters in the West; we are part of a family. Fight slavery, yes, but save lives and share Jesus as well.'”
World Relief says that since the 1998 famine, aid efforts in Sudan have had a profound effect on reducing starvation in southern Sudan. However, in many areas people’s existence is tenuous at best as they depend on relief supplies for survival. There remain pockets of people with high malnutrition rates. Because of continued fighting and insecurity, some areas remain inaccessible to relief flights. Since the fall of 1998, World Relief has worked with southern Sudan’s churches on several fronts as they address the massive suffering and complex issues facing their communities.
In February, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions that prohibit U.S. companies and citizens from doing business with partners of an oil pipeline project that according to Sudan’s critics helps support the NIF’s war machine.
The Liethnom area of southern Sudan has been repeatedly bombed, bombings intended to intimidate and discourage humanitarian workers. Following the most recent assaults by Sudanese military planes, Calver said, “It is an appalling travesty that the military forces of northern Sudan should target humanitarian endeavors aimed at improving the condition of the civilian population in Liethnom. At a time when the church there is exploding with life, I call upon churches in the U.S. to demonstrate solidarity with the church in Liethnom through their prayers and much needed humanitarian assistance at this time. We do not intend to leave our brothers and sisters to stand alone.”
When will the horror in the Sudan end? Only when good people pray and take a stand against what is happening to innocent people in southern Sudan.