Six months after the Sudanese Crisis began, refugees still flee into neighbouring countries.
On April 15, 2023, heavy fighting broke out between rivalling military forces in Sudan, the continuation of a conflict of more than 30 years. This escalated conflict brought elevated national crisis for the third largest nation in Africa.
With more than half of its population now in need of clean drinking water, food, basic healthcare and fuel**, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies estimates that in the first five months of the crisis, an additional 4.89 million refugees were displaced internally in Sudan, and 1.36 million fled the country.*** In addition, up to 10,000 civilians may have been killed and many more injured, with severe economic impacts as property and livelihoods have been destroyed.
As the six-month mark of this intense conflict nears, OM spoke with leaders in three neighbouring countries about how they have been impacted. Before this crisis began, each of these nations already had hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees within their own borders., as well as facing their own economic and/or food crises. Since April 2023, each country has seen 200,000-400,000 additional people enter their nations. Caring for hundreds of thousands of refugees has added strain to these precarious situations as the prices of rent, food and basic necessities have skyrocketed.
For security, the countries are referred to as “Country A”, “Country B” and “Country C”.
OM: How has your team been able to serve Sudanese refugees?
Country A: We have worked at an arrival centre and a refugee camp of more than 1,000 households (five to eight people per household). Each block of tents has a chief, and there is a “Chief of Chiefs” over the entire camp. He told us everyone needed blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, bottles and clothing. We prayed, and God provided a large number of sleeping mats and mosquito mats for us to distribute. The people were very grateful.
When I told the Chief of Chiefs we were a Christian organisation and the mats were purchased by churches and Christian individuals, he replied, “We really thank them. We know that whenever any Muslim people have a crisis, Christians are the first to help them. We really ask God to bless them and continue to do what they are doing.”
Country B: We are blessed with team members who are also Sudanese refugees, so they have access that very few people have. Immediately after the crisis began, our Sudanese team went to the main bus and train stations of our city to meet people, hear stories and give advice on housing, food prices, etc. They began taking breakfast and lunch to places where refugees slept outside as well.
After the immediate relief efforts calmed down, it became more relational. Our Sudanese team works in extremely poor areas, visiting families, bringing food packages, medicine, etc. They’ve also been able to arrange training for jobs and help the poorest households receive mattresses and a stove for their apartments. In the winter, we’ll bring blankets as well.
Since Covid-19, we’ve seen a lot of house churches formed amongst Sudanese, all of whom were from a Muslim background. Now, these new believers are taking what they have — their experiences — and finding ways to help others. They challenge each other in how to serve others and increase capacity even in their limitations. They’ve gone further than many Christians in their new faith.
Their network is helping newly arrived refugees in a real way, because they know what it’s like to be refugees. It comes from a deep, personal place. They will sit with families and listen, crying with them. God is using their experience and pain to help others in a way that a local or a foreigner cannot do.
Country C: Recently, we were able to help 1,200 families receive food, as well as medicine and medical transport.
As the majority of those who have come to our country are Muslim, this is a great opportunity to share the gospel with them. We distribute food items, pray with people, help encourage and counsel those who have experienced trauma and share God’s love with them. Those who were unable to hear it before now can! As well, a large number of our countrymen, who left because of our nation’s own economic crisis, are returning to our nation — and they are believers! The churches have grown tremendously since April.”
OM: What is the spiritual impact of this crisis?
Country A: While many of the Sudanese refugees are Muslim, they are open to us sharing God’s love with them. We can’t openly share in public in the camps, but we can do so privately, in the context of relationship, or outside the camp. We’ve also met a few underground believers amongst the refugees. They can share about Jesus with those around them.
“In the future, we will send four people to the area so they can do ministry more regularly. They will train women for small business, like sewing/knitting, and also do sports ministry for the youth.
“All of our work is to share the gospel with those from Sudan, build relationships, and help where we can. We want to meet not just the physical needs but the spiritual one as well.”
Country B: “Right now the biggest impact is on the young Sudanese believers on our team. A few weeks ago, we talked in a training about Jesus’ greatest commandment: “Matthew 22: 37-39 (NIV): “And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22: 37-39 (NIV). In the room, there was great sadness, as our Sudanese brothers and sisters agreed, ‘If our leaders in Sudan had lived this way, we would not have been at war, and no one would have had to flee.’ Then, one girl stood up and said, ‘Yeah, that’s true. But our group realised that if we live this way, we can change the world.’
“The next day they discussed how to love their Sudanese neighbours in their host country.”
Country C: For someone who is suffering or in stress, the gospel is like refreshing ice water on a hot day, because they hear that someone loves them and is fighting for them. They become filled with hope, despite their circumstances. We have seen this many times as we’ve shared God’s love with those who fled from Sudan.
OM: How can the global Church pray for Sudanese refugees in your country, as well as for your team?
Physical resources: Most of the refugees left with only the clothes they were wearing. They need not only food, but also clothing, mosquito nets, blankets, etc., and NGOs aren’t providing these things. About 90 per cent of the refugees here are women and children.
Local support: As our team is all from Muslim backgrounds, no local churches support us. We have to raise our own support from our communities. We hope to expand to more camps but are limited in resources and capacity.
Stamina for Sudanese team members: Our Sudanese team members are very busy and very tired. They also are concerned for their own family members remaining in Sudan.
Discipleship of new believers: Pray for our team to support our Sudanese teammates well, as well as for the leaders of the new churches being formed, that they disciple and teach new believers to follow their example by discipling others as well, so that the church can multiply.”
Provision for refugees: Pray for those who have been displaced, that they will receive shelter, food, clothing and healthcare.
Economic Improvement: Pray also for the economic situation in our country.
Peace in Sudan: Pray for the Sudanese crisis to stop.
For our team members: Pray for good health for our team, and for wisdom, strength and endurance for ministry in this time, as well as opportunities to share the gospel.
To support relief work in Sudan and amongst Sudanese refugees in bordering countries, go to: https://www.om.org/eng/sudan-crisis.
*As reported on Tuesday, 7 November 2023.