A Nuba Hospital for the Nuba People

Dr. Ahmed Zachariah is a special individual.

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He could have chosen to practice medicine in the comfort of Sudan's capital city - or even abroad. Instead, his Christian faith led him to choose the path of hardship and service to his people by remaining behind in the war-torn Nuba mountains.

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Dr. Ahmed had no medicine. He had no equipment. He had no hospital. Now, he has all three - thanks to the generosity of PPF's ministry partners and his own resourcefulness.

PPF's medical program has equipped Dr. Ahmed with vehicles, medicine, equipment, and building supplies so that he can build a proper hospital for a region with precious few medical resources spread over a vast landscape.

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The hospital construction is progressing well, and patients are already receiving a surprising level of care for such a remote territory. Dr. Ahmed told us he's even receiving patients from South Sudan, who walk across the border because Ahmed's incomplete hospital is the best medical facility in the area.

We praise God for His grace and mercy in giving us the compassionate heart of Dr. Ahmed. And we praise God for your "active compassion" for our brothers and sisters in Sudan!

PPF in the Nuba: Six Years of Service

The conflict in Sudan’s Nuba mountains has surpassed its sixth year, with unfortunately no clear end in sight. During this time, the Islamist government in Khartoum has tried to terrorize and starve the Nuba out of their homeland. The Nuba is home to the largest Christian community in Sudan outside the capital city.

Most humanitarian organizations left the region very early into the conflict.

But that’s when PPF showed up.

On July 4th, 2011, our assessment team arrived in the Nuba on one of the last relief flights into Southern Kordofan State.

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In August, 2011, we testified before an emergency hearing on Capitol Hill to warn Congress of the danger of a “repeat of Darfur” taking place.

Our team then set about the process of reaching out in active compassion to the Nuba community left behind, and those seeking refuge in neighboring South Sudan.

The generosity of ministry partners helped us start several outreaches, including deliveries of important relief and shelter supplies and medicines. Our Discipleship and Evangelism program has sponsored Pastoral Conferences, as well as the distribution of tens of thousands of Bibles, audio Bibles, and other discipleship materials to the growing Nuba church. And our Safe Water Program began repairing broken well pumps spread throughout the Nuba region, providing clean water for hundreds of thousands of residents.

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Although the war has dragged on, creating famine conditions, the situation in the Nuba is much better than it would be had PPF not intervened. The head of the Nuba Medical Consortium, Tutu Turkash, stated that he didn't want to think about what it would be like if PPF was not working in the Nuba. “Having them with us here, where few others will come, it’s a game changer,” said Turkash.

The Church Militant

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The Nuba church is growing amidst the conflict. With this growth, we can expect an increase in persecution from the Islamist government (II Timothy 3:12).

It is a very unfortunate reality that US government policy towards Sudan has changed since the days when economic sanctions were first enacted and strengthened by Presidents Clinton and Bush, respectively.

Regardless of whether one believes sanctions are an effective way to change policy in Sudan, the truth is that President Obama put the US on a definite track to “normalize” relations with one of the most brutal terrorist regimes in the world. And, as of this writing, President Trump’s administration seems to believe the Obama track is the right course to take.

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But the Nuba church knows that no matter which way the winds of politics shift, its mission will not change— for the church serves a Government that NEVER changes. This Government has a compassionate King, Whose reign will go on, and vanquish all competing parties with mercy, justice and love.

The church in America serves the same King, and with the continued support of its members towards our brothers and sisters in the Nuba, PPF will continue its mission of “active compassion” for the persecuted.

Finding the Flock Again: Pastors' Conferences in a War Zone

By Tim Rice

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“How can you guide your flock when you, as the shepherd, are also being persecuted?” Pastor Al Kam Jaranabi asks while sitting under an acacia tree with other church leaders in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Pastor Jaranabi raises a valid point: maintaining faith during wartime is no easy challenge, especially when you are the main target.

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Since 2011, the Sudan government has sought to defeat rebel fighters in the Nuba Mountains who, after years of neglect from the central government, demanded greater autonomy in their remote border region. The rebel movement has fought the government to a cyclical standstill with no clear winners since the conflict started.

Unable to defeat guerilla fighters, the government in Khartoum targets civilians in a bid to drive the population out, or into submission. “They target us purposefully,” said Pastor Emmanuel Ofendi, “whether its your farmland, your school –even your church, they try to push people into the government-controlled areas.”

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The Sudan government’s opposition to the Church is no secret. Sudan authorities have imprisoned pastors and evangelists, refused to issue building permits for new churches, and even bulldozed several churches in broad daylight.

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It is within this environment that pastors in the Nuba Mountains try to spread the gospel. Pastor Ismael Suleiman remembers how challenging it was to even become a pastor. Suleiman had to walk for two days to reach a theological college in the rebel-controlled capital, Kauda, fraught with dangers along the way.

“While we were walking to Kauda we got ambushed by a government militia,” Suleiman recalled. “Imagine, we were just trying to go to our graduation ceremony.” The gunmen killed two of Suleiman’s colleagues while he hid in tall grass. “We were just hiding in the grass where everyone could see us, but God somehow covered us, and they walked past without seeing us.” The incident helped strengthen Suleiman’s faith and confidence that the Lord would protect him through all the challenges of war.

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With warplanes circling above and cut communication lines, finding time and means to preach is difficult. The year 2015 was especially bad, Pastor Jaranabi remembers. In 2015, over 1,000 bombs, including cluster bombs, were dropped on civilian targets in the Nuba Mountains, according to Nuba Reports, a media house that monitors these attacks. The Sudan government has dropped over 4,000 bombs on civilians in Nuba since the conflict began. “It reached a point where believers and pastors alike were distracted by the bombings, we were too busy running for shelter, searching for what little food may be available,” Jaranabi admits.

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This is the crux of the problem: the war has displaced communities to the point where believers are scattered with no easy means of communication to re-engage with the faithful. “We pray as individuals all the time, the war encourages that,” Jaranabi said --with many fellow pastors chuckling in agreement. “But we never prayed together as Church leaders, or even knew of each others’ welfare until now.” Pastor Jaranabi made these comments while attending a pastor’s conference in Ursalia at the Ursalia Missionary Church last November. It was the first time for him to reconnect with other pastors from within his home county, he said. One of many successful conferences, over 100 attendees participated in the event, bringing together pastors from several counties and denominations.

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Since 2015, Persecution Project Foundation (PPF) has organized many pastor’s conferences, inviting church leaders from all over the Nuba Mountains to congregate, reflect, share experiences and organize.

PPF has managed to get some church leaders together for the first time, and now the church community is requesting more and more conferences to take place.

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Over 800 participants attended a conference in Kurchi, Um Dorein County --the largest yet, with evangelists, pastors and parishioners in attendance, according to PPF’s Field Coordinator Kuti Rajab. “We have to remember the church body scattered in the war,” Rajab said. “Some pastors were losing hope since they had no means of coming together, no means of transport –so we thought of the conference as a means to bring them together.”

“It encourages all of us as pastors who come together, to greet one another, to share what the Lord is doing in our areas, and to see that people from outside Nuba are also standing with us,” said Pastor Yusuf Alferic, who walked nearly two days to attend the event.  “This war cuts you off from the outside world – even those around you. By attending these events –it gives you the strength to continue spreading the gospel. It gives you hope.”

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Sitting next to Pastor Alferic, Pastor Abdurahman Watkaju agrees. The conferences strengthen and improve their understanding of their faith. “Through this conference, it gives us unity and changes the idea that there are differences within denominations but [instead] we are actually one,” Watkaju said. Before unhealthy competition existed between roughly five Christian denominations in Nuba, Watkaju explained. “But now, we try to respect all of the denominations and focus more, as we should, on God.”

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Unlike in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, religious tolerance thrives in Nuba culture, where it is not uncommon to see Muslim and Christians within one family. “The government tries to target us using religion but this cannot happen here, we respect one another,” Pastor Ofendi said.

At the end of the Ursalia conference, a number of plans were formed during the meetings – including a way to spread the gospel to the camps of internally-displaced persons (IDPs). The pastors have voluntarily agreed to work in pairs and reach out to several areas of displacement to offer prayer and worship where access to a church remains limited, Ofendi added. One activity that seems to occur at every conference PPF helps facilitate: a corporate prayer for the war to end. “I don’t want this war, none of us do, and we always pray for it to end,” said Pastor Suleiman.

"Still Not Free" - The Fate of Sudanese Christians, Part II

[Editor's Note: This is part II of an important story published by NubaReports.org on the continuing crisis in Sudan regarding the persecution of that country's growing Christian population. Despite political posturing of Sudan's Islamist government, trying to redefine itself as a "moderate" regime, the sad reality on the ground is very much the same as it ever was. After a lot of rhetoric and promises, Sudanese Christians are still not free.]by Tom Rhodes, nubareports.org

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Just days before the president pardoned Abdelrahim and Abdelmoula, Khartoum state authorities destroyed another church 19 kilometers outside the capital in Soba al-Radi. Authorities under the Ministry of Planning and Development bulldozed the church on a Sunday, May 7, as Christians prepared to worship.

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The government said in a statement the church was built on land allocated for residential use. The church is among 25 other churches the state has marked for demolition in a June 2016 letter, claiming they were all built on land zoned for other purposes.

But according to Pastor Elias Abdelrahim, who manages the Soba al-Radi Church, the building was first built on empty land in 1986 and they have been trying to attain legal documentation ever since.

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(Muhanad) Nur, who also represents the now demolished church, said the government had provided land registration certificates for several mosques in the area but not the church – despite its long tenure. Nur had filed a 15-day abstention with the court of appeal to block the church’s demolition but the government ignored the court order.

“Now we gather at the church’s yard to pray, because we fear the remains of the building may fall on our heads.”

–Pastor Elias Abdelrahim, Head of Soba Al-Radi Church

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Three congregations used to attend Soba Al-Radi Church since it was the only church in the area following the demolition of 12 other church buildings over the past six years, news reports said. Sometimes over 200 people would pray there, Abdelrahim said.

“Now we gather at the church’s yard to pray, because we fear the remains of the building may fall on our heads,” he said.

The U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Ervin Massinga visited the demolition site. “This is a very sad and regrettable situation,” Massinga said in a short video. “Religious freedom and rule of law go hand-in-hand. Yes, rule of law is important, but without religious freedom, it is hollow.”

The parliamentary chairman of Sudan’s Legislation and Justice Committee, Ahmed El Tijani, defended the demolition in a statement, claiming the move was purely for land ownership reasons and not based on religious discrimination.

A month earlier, a group raided the Evangelical School of Sudan to quell a protest and killed church elder Yunan Abdullah. The April raid represented another move by Sudanese authorities to grab church land for investment, the Sudanese human rights Sudan Democracy First Group reported.

An armed group supported by Sudan’s ministry of guidance and endowments attacked civilians at the Evangelical School, Christians who had staged a protest against the attempted seizure of the building, local sources told Nuba Reports. Abdullah had rushed over to the Evangelical School from the neighboring Bahri Evangelical Church to help defend the protesters against the armed group. One of the members of this group stabbed Abdullah, who died of his injuries in a nearby hospital. Abdullah is survived by his wife and two children.

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Why target Christians now?

This state persecution of Christians appears at loggerheads with the October conclusions of the National Dialogue, a state-led peace initiative ostensibly designed to end Sudan’s internal conflicts.

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The conference attendants, including government and some opposition parties, concluded the event by issuing a National Document that makes at least four references to religious diversity, the freedom of worship and to end religious discrimination in Sudan.

Sudanese authorities continue to target Christians, however, seemingly apathetic to these events.

“You can’t imagine how this government works sometimes,” Nur said. “Human rights defenders, Christians, among others, are just locked up without any consideration of the consequences.” One explanation for this may be that government institutions are not in control – instead, divergent units within the security apparatus call the shots.

“It is not the minister of foreign affairs or minister of justice. It’s really the secret service in control”

Petr Jasek, Christian Aid Worker

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“The major problem is the NISS (National Intelligence and Security Service) is ruling the country,” said Petr Jasek, a Christian Aid Worker who was imprisoned by the Sudan government for more than a year. “It is not the minister of foreign affairs or minister of justice. It’s really the secret service in control.”

Sudan’s foreign ministry made several promises to the Czech government to release Jasek, for instance, which were unfulfilled.

“But I was kept hostage by one of these generals in the security wing,” Jasek said. “He wanted to show how important he was and refused to comply.”

The justice ministry also often works at the behest of NISS and controls the courts, he added. Nur agrees.

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“It’s true, it’s not a secret,” he said. “NISS control everything and is accountable to very few.”

In the midst of writing this article, authorities demolished another church in an area called Kalagala, south Khartoum, Abdelrahim told Nuba Reports. In this environment, Abdelrahim still fears conditions for Christians will deteriorate further in the years ahead. Security forces continue to monitor his movements upon his release.

“It’s a difficult time for us," he said. “Even with our release from prison last week, we are still not free.”

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More Clean Water for the Persecuted!

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PPF’s Safe Water Program set a goal in 2017 to repair 77 broken well pumps in some of the most remote and difficult to access places of Sudan’s Nuba mountains— an area which has been under a government-enforced humanitarian blockade since 2011.

Our ministry partners poured into this program, and we were able to position enough fuel and spare parts in the Nuba to achieve our goal.

At press time, our Emergency Borehole Repair Team had completed their 74th repair for the year! We have nearly reached our goal— thanks to God working through your generosity!

Please pray for the continued safety and success of our team, and that many Nuba people will be introduced to the “Water of Life” through our Safe Water Program.

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"Still Not Free" - The Fate of Sudanese Christians, Part 1

[Editor’s Note: NubaReports.org recently published a very important story on the continuing crisis in Sudan regarding the persecution of that country's growing Christian population. Despite positive political posturing of Sudan’s Islamist government, trying to redefine itself as a “moderate” regime, the sad reality on the ground away from the spotlight is very much the same as it ever was. After a lot of rhetoric and promises, Sudanese Christians are still not free.]  

From nubareports.org

It was unexpected but much welcomed news. On May 11, Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir pardoned Pastor Hassan Abdulrahim from the Nuba Mountains, along with a Darfur activist, Abdulmoneim Abdelmoula.

After spending 17 months in several prisons, the two were released early from a 12-year sentence facing charges of undermining the constitution, espionage and spreading false information, their defense lawyer Muhanad Nur told Nuba Reports.

Abdulrahim came out of Kober prison, a facility in the capital of Khartoum used to lock up political opponents and terrorists alike. “It’s hard to remain in prison all that time, especially when we think about our families,” Abdulrahim told Nuba Reports. “But it was also a good experience for us – to help build up the church in prison and encourage parishioners.”

The targeting of churches and Christians ratcheted up after South Sudan gained independence in 2011. Once the predominantly Christian South Sudanese populace seceded, those Christians remaining within the country had less institutional support and protection against state authorities. In April 2013, the Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced that no licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population. Two years later, government officials stiffened penalties for apostasy and blasphemy.

“Christianity is not welcome in Sudan,” said Nur who routinely defends Christian cases in court, including the Sudan apostasy hearings against Meriam Yahia, now in the United States. “It seems as if every week I am hearing about another case of Christians being persecuted here.”

In Nur’s latest case, the accused’s sentences were largely based on their association with a Christian aid worker from the Czech Republic, Petr Jasek. Authorities arrested Jasek around the same time as Abdulrahim and Abdelmoula along with another Nuba pastor, Kuwa Shamal, who was released in late 2016 for lack of evidence.

In October 2016, state prosecutors presented video footage and photographs taken from Jasek’s laptop as evidence. The prosecutor’s case included footage Jasek took interviewing Christians in the Nuba Mountains. The state evidence also included evidence of the four suspects assisting a student and Christian convert who suffered skin burns from a teargas bomb during a 2013 university protest.

“They were monitoring me,” Jasek told Nuba Reports upon his release. “They [Sudan’s security agents] showed photos of all the meetings I had with church members. There were even night photos –they were monitoring every step.”

But the heavy state surveillance hardly produced any criminal offense.

"Despite being locked up for over a year, the whole legal process was actually six months," Jasek said. "It took them [state prosecutors] about three months to raise their concerns and then our lawyers were able to destroy their accusations in three hours."

Despite a weak case against Jasek, Sudan only released him in February after a visit to Khartoum by the Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek.

All four faced considerable duress, shifting to several different prison facilities during their incarceration.

"I was in five different prisons in total," Jasek said. "Usually the transfer meant that conditions were going to be even worse."

At one state, Jasek was placed in a cell with Islamic State fighters who would beat and torture him. One of the fighters from Libya boasted that he had beheaded 20 Coptic Christians in Libya and carried a fishing line that "could kill anyone in seconds," Jasek said during a press conference after his release....

Christians continue to worship even though Christianity is not welcome in Sudan.

Ministry is Muddy Business

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Our favorite part of this work is visiting our persecuted brothers and sisters in the war-torn Nuba mountains of Sudan. We love the fellowship we have together. We love the smiles and jubilation of people when they realize that their prayers have been answered and they have not been forgotten.

But 90 percent of the “real work” is far less glamorous— but just as important. It is the “dirty job” element of ministry.

Do you know PPF has a special fund called “Transportation and Logistics?” This doesn’t sound as important as our “Safe Water,” “Medical” and “Discipleship” programs, but believe us, it’s vital.

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What good are several tons of medicine and emergency food if it just sits in a warehouse because it can’t be delivered to those who need it most?

This is why we say “mud is ministry!” The nitty-gritty, numbers-crunching, mud-boggin’ part of this organization is the bridge connecting your love and compassion with those who need it most.

On a recent outreach, we delivered several more tons of medicine and emergency food aid to the Nuba mountains. But the road wasn’t easy. In fact, it was a muddy mess. The seasonal rains had come early, and at one point, we spent 6 hours moving about 600 yards! Just that one journey resulted in a broken quad-bike axel, burned out clutches in two Landcruiser pickups, and two broken vehicle winches!

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Your support of PPF’s Transportation and Logistics program is the “grease” that keeps the wheels of ministry turning. As we enter another season of heavy rains, when the roads in Sudan literally disappear, would you consider making a special gift to this fund today?

A "Working Faith" in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan

By Tim Rice

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17 (NIV)

In April last year, Pastor Emmanuel Offendi from the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan saw an all-too-familiar, pitiful sight: a ragtag group of people with only threadbare clothes fleeing another bomb attack. The group of 15 adults and children were not a family, but a group displaced from their homes and their land, and walking towards the pastor.

The group had come from Karkaria, an agriculturally rich area that government forces attacked and warplanes bombed, driving civilians from their livelihoods, Offendi remarked. “They had lost their loved ones, lost properties – even families,” he said. “They come war-weary, seeking help from the community and the church.”

The citizens of the Nuba Mountains are accustomed to war. For the last six years, the government has targeted civilians as potential supporters to the rebels. In fact, government warplanes have dropped well over 4,000 bombs on civilian targets since 2012. It is in this context that pastors across the region try to uphold hope and support.

“We as pastors are generally good at talking to our community –but sometimes you feel lost for words –how can I encourage and support our people when looking at so many hopeless faces?” Ofendi asks. The pastor felt this way when he saw the group of displaced from Karkaria coming towards him.

Fortunately Ofendi no longer feels quite so helpless when attempting to console others, largely due to the faith-based Persecution Project Foundation’s (PPF) unique relief distribution system. Besides providing the bulk of life-saving medicine to the Nuba people, PPF is also the main provider of non-food item support to the war-affected civilians. Items such as soap, pots, clothes, mosquito nets, sheets –all are crucial for displaced families that have lost literally everything.

 

But how do you deliver such vital supplies in one of the remotest places in Sudan, during a war? The government effectively blocks most humanitarian aid coming into the country. The rainy season, from mid June to October, muddies roads and makes access routes impassable. Not least, many of the most needy are displaced and live in remote locations –seeking shelter from the war by staying in caves within the mountains.

Fortunately for PPF, pastors are available to help—and do. As God-fearing individuals trusted by the local community, pastors are uniquely qualified to assist. “When we bring items, we ensure it goes to people who are really in need. We check with local authorities and through our own networks to ensure that,” Offendi explains. Working hand-in-hand with local community leaders, PPF Field Coordinator Kuti Rajab says they have managed to distribute kits smoothly, without issue.

“The Church does not have much to give, so PPF fills a crucial gap,” said Pastor Ismael Suleiman, who has personally helped deliver over 2,000 non-food item kits to those in need in a town called Kurchi within the Nuba Mountains. “As a general rule I try to give to those most disadvantaged first --such as widows, orphans, the elderly and the disabled, before reaching out to others in need.”

Sometimes it becomes very easy to prioritize recipients based on their predicament, Offendi said, such as the case of a widow whose home was burnt down …twice. “It was terrible, [government] soldiers raided her home and razed her village to the ground, she fled to the mountains with small children and meager supplies.” Neighbors came to the rescue and helped her build a makeshift home within the rock crevices, Offendi said. “But then one of her children burnt this structure down by accident while trying to light a fire, the woman just could not believe her predicament.”

Hearing the story from neighbors, Offendi managed to get some materials to her so that she could rebuild her life again. “It was incredible, it was the first sign of hope she experienced in a very long time.” The pastor’s efforts also convinced her to become one of the most devoted at Offendi’s church, attending services regularly. “This support creates a very big difference in people’s lives –even if these items may appear basic to some, they are life-changing for others,” Suleiman said. Another gift that arises from these distributions, Suleiman added, is faith. “Some people, just from receiving these items, started to develop a stronger belief in God.”

By using local community members such as pastors, PPF’s support also builds relationships within Nuba communities –even with those from different faiths. According to another pastor, Yusuf Alferic, the pastors make it a rule not to discriminate by faith when distributing. Alferic provides support to Muslim families as readily as he does Christians. “It’s not just about giving aid –it’s about building relationships and trust within communities,” Alferic explains. “And any soldier will tell you, building trust is key when living in wartime.”

Many of the pastors helping PPF distribute aid take it one notch further and provide support directly to their aggressors who very well may have attacked them in the past. Several pastors in Um Dorein County, Nuba Mountains, deliver aid directly to prisoners of war (POWs) in the rebel-controlled areas, Offendi said. Assuming they will remain isolated and abandoned, Offendi added, POWs were surprised to see them. “We talk to them freely, share the gospel, they were very surprised and started to see that our God was really God.” It was not always easy, Pastor Morris Kartina explains as many opposed the pastors providing the POWs support. “People called us crazy –even my own kids could not understand it,” he said, “but in church we learn to love your enemy and to pray for them.”

While many in the Nuba Mountains have grown to appreciate the pastors and PPF ’s support –even former enemy combatants, there is still one major setback: demand. “It can be hard sometimes, you can’t please everyone,” concedes Alferic. “Sometimes we simply run out of items and some grow jealous and start to blame us.” PPF managed to deliver over 10,000 kits in 2016 and have plans to disseminate more this year, Rajab said. But he admits the need is always greater. “It’s hard, sometimes you deliver kits to many needy people but then more people turn up who need our help just as much as those you have distributed to.”

According to recent UN estimates, roughly a quarter of the population in the central rebel-controlled counties in the Nuba Mountains are displaced from the war –that’s around 120,000 people currently homeless.

Fortunately, the sense of community and sharing still thrives in Nuba, to the point where everyone relies on one another. “Even if the kits are not enough –our people somehow manage to share what little they have,” explains Alferic, The pastor went on to explain how he has seen those who have received relief packets share some of the items with their neighbours, despite the fact all of the items were sorely needed by the original recipients.

But there is another group of people desperately in need that are not necessarily recipients of these kits: the pastors themselves. “Often the church has no money and we must rely on contributions from our congregation,” Offendi explains, “but how do you ask for support from those who have nothing?” PPF realized that if they wanted the pastors help distributing kits and to continue preaching the gospel –they needed to help these church leaders in return.

This led to the organization’s providing cattle and other livestock to the pastors to help them stay afloat. Now pastors are able to feed their families and dedicate more time to reach out to their community. “This support has helped in so many ways –even time,” said Pastor Suleiman. “Now, I find I have more time to preach and reach out to others, before farming and scrapping together whatever small amounts of support I could provide my family would take up almost all of my time.” Suleiman has received two goats and one cow from the PPF project and now the cow has given birth to a calf, he said proudly. “God is always working, I’m sure of that.”

Beating Back a Weapon of Genocide: Faith-Based NGO Running Medicine to Sudan War Zones

By Tim Rice By mid-March, an aid convoy managed to reach an extremely remote, war-torn area of the Nuba Mountains in Sudan: Kau-Nyaro and Werni counties. Effectively cut off from the outside world due to conflict, the UN estimates around 45,000 people living in these counties are considered the most affected by the six-year conflict in the Nuba Mountains.

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The South Kordofan-Blue Nile Coordination Unit, an organization that monitors food security and displacement in the two areas, reported last February that 242 people – including 24 children —had died of hunger-related illness in the two counties. Now, for the first time, vital medicine provided by Persecution Project Foundation (PPF) reached one of the most isolated areas in Sudan, if not the world.

“We’ve been trying for years to penetrate every community in the Nuba with our medical outreaches,” said PPF President, Brad Phillips. “We thank God we managed to bring some hope and encouragement to another dark corner of this conflict.”

But no area of the restive Nuba Mountains is easily reachable, and the Sudan government wants to keep it this way. The central Khartoum government effectively blocks any aid from reaching the rebel-controlled areas of the Nuba. The government’s blockage follows their military strategy -- a war of attrition against the Nuba people -- since the conflict began in 2011.

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“In the wars of Sudan, food and medicine have been more effective weapons of genocide for Khartoum than bombs and bullets,” said Phillips.

Despite these challenges, PPF managed to deliver 44.5 tons of medicine and medical supplies to the Nuba Mountains in 2016, making it the single largest supplier to the region, according to PPF Field Coordinator Kuti Rajab.

Assisting 175 localities in the Nuba Mountains, a large amount supports Mother of Mercy Hospital, and two other smaller hospitals where PPF also covers staff salaries, says Phillips. “One of the first people we met in the Nuba in 2011 was Dr. Tom Catena at Mother of Mercy Hospital. We knew then we wanted to do whatever we could to help him in the area of medical needs.”

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While the support is great, the need is still greater, Phillips concedes. There still remains a 25% gap in available medicine for the region, and health facilities are few and far between. The UN estimates there are 70 active health facilities functioning in the rebel-controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains – that means one facility per 12,600 people. There are four hospitals serving roughly 1.5 million – and one of these hospitals, Gigeba Hospital, is still being built.

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PPF is providing the bulk of the medicine and much of the construction materials for the upcoming facility. The hospital is designed by a local Nuba doctor, Dr. Ahmed Zakaria, who, incredibly, managed to pick up a degree in architecture while completing his studies in medicine. Already, many patients are being treated there despite the fact the floor is only partially complete, and most window-panes are missing, Dr. Zakaria said back in December, 2016.

“It’s really helping people in Western Jebel,” says Tutu Turkash, Secretary of Health for the rebel-controlled areas, speaking about the new hospital. “Now it is able to provide services for the people there and reduces the number walking two to three days to reach Gidel [Mother of Mercy Hospital] – our main facility.” Out of 52 clinics in the area, Turkash added, Gigeba is the only hospital.

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The secretary of health believes thousands of lives are saved each year through PPF’s support, especially children and mothers. Child mortality rates, particularly during the rainy season when malaria thrives, used to be very high prior to the organization's involvement. “It was not uncommon for clinics to report 40 – 50 cases per month, sometimes reaching hundreds,” Turkash said. “When you compare these rates to now with better equipped health facilities, clinics report two to five mortality cases. It’s a huge impact, beyond words.”

Hussein Adam, a long-time farmer and former soldier during the previous war in the Nuba Mountains has experienced the change in medical access firsthand. “Before, finding any medicine was difficult,” Adam recalls. “Most of the time you had to rely on traditional remedies that sometimes worked but sometimes failed.” Adam’s brother died of a leg wound that he feels could have been treated if only basic medical care was available. “If he was here now, we could have saved him.”

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But getting this medicine to the Nuba Mountains is no easy task. Kuti Rajab recalls a time in 2014 when it took the PPF team two weeks drudging through mud to get two trucks of supplies delivered. A medical consignment was delayed forcing PPF to deliver supplies during the onset of the rainy season where roads become intractable and the rebel-controlled areas of Nuba are effectively cut off from the outside world. “We really struggled, but in the end succeeded to get the shipment up there, pushing the trucks through mud for days on end,” Rajab remembers.

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But in many ways, mud is the least of their worries. The Antonov, a lumbering but deadly warplane used by the Sudanese government, is a common bane for the Nuba people. Since 2012, the Sudan government has dropped over 4,000 bombs against civilian targets in the Nuba Mountains. One of these planes hovered above PPF’s medical-supply convoy. “When we see them flying above we stop all movement since, if you move, they will spot you,” Rajab explained. “Since we were on the road there was nowhere to hide, we just had to stop while the plane flew overhead and pray they don’t bomb us.” Fortunately for Rajab, their prayers were answered on that journey.

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Once in Nuba, local partners often have to find secure and creative ways to deliver the medicine. To reach Western Jebel, a restive area in the Nuba Mountains, a convoy of 20 motorbikes was used to deliver medical supplies, Phillips said. The roads were so poor, only motorbikes could make the journey – a journey that was done partially at night to avoid detection by enemy combatants.

And once medical supplies reach health facilities, there is still a chance of an attack. Since 2012, Sudan warplanes have targeted hospitals at least five times, according to Nuba Reports, a media house that documents the conflict.

According to Turkash, Sudan forces have attacked 24 clinics in three counties of the rebel-controlled Nuba Mountains since the war began in 2011.

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One of the most crucial medicines PPF provides local health facilities in the Nuba Mountains is anti-malarial drugs. “This is the one that always runs out,” Rajab said, “especially during the rainy season.” Turkash agrees. “It is the biggest challenge we have, especially considering the fact that roads are impassable during the rainy season so even distributing malarial drugs becomes a challenge, sometimes vehicles simply cannot reach certain locations.”

Relatively new challenges for the Secretary of Health in the Nuba Mountains are hunger-related illnesses. Harvest rates for the Nuba Mountains were less than half their average production, according to the Secretary of Agriculture in the rebel-controlled areas, Hafsa Idriss. This, coupled with displacement from the conflict, has led to skyrocketing prices for staple commodities, reaching ten times their normal market prices.

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“Although maybe not noticeable at first, many people in Nuba are suffering growth retardation from malnourishment,” said the Director-General of Health Joseph Konda. “This can only get worse in the current situation we are facing.” To address this problem, PPF added another commodity to its support: the high-nutrient BP-5 biscuit.

“BP-5 is expensive, but a great resource for getting high-nutrient food to the severely wasted or malnourished in our hospitals or clinics,” said Phillips. “We don't currently have the capacity to feed everyone, so we are focusing on the greatest needs — mostly children and IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons].

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Besides delivering medicine to a remote war zone, providing materials and upkeep to hospitals, among other projects, PPF hopes to provide even more holistic medical support to the Nuba people: care for the caregivers.

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Everyone in the Nuba Mountains has witnessed and contended with death due to the war, especially those in the medical field. “We see nurses and doctors saving lives every day,” Phillips said, “but they are also seeing death every day.” For this reason, PPF plans to provide trauma counseling for medical staff. “It vexes your soul, it makes you angry and then sad – you can’t help but be affected,” said Philips, reflecting on some of the tragedies he has personally seen while working in the field. But the stress will not slow the organization down as it plans to expand its health programs across the region.

“To be honest, I cannot even imagine how we coped before PPF came,” Turkash said. “Having them with us here, where few others will come, it’s a game changer.”

Identifying a Vital American Security Interest: The Persecuted Church

by Brad Phillips

On February 25, 2017, just one day before missionary Petr Jasek was released from prison in Sudan, I delivered a brief address to a room of American public policy people. Some were activists. Others were elected officials. Many were the donors supporting both.

This was an audience I don’t normally address. Persecution Project Foundation is not a public policy organization. We’re a ministry to the persecuted church. Politics may affect what we do, but our focus is mainly to love and serve our persecuted brothers in the areas of physical and spiritual needs.

But on February 25th, what I believe I told that room full of policy-motivated people is very much in keeping with PPF’s mission of “active compassion for the persecuted.”

The summation of my remarks was this: the indigenous persecuted church in places like Sudan, constitutes a vital national security interest for America.

Traditionally, America’s international interests consist of important trade and defense partnerships. But Sudan doesn’t fall under any of these categories. Sudan has some oil, but America has no stake in it. Sudan has valuable minerals, but America has not stake in them either. And Sudan’s military is, at best, a force of destabilization in the region, not a strong partner in the “War on Terror.”

Contrast this with the Sudan church.

What we have seen in, for example, the war-torn Nuba mountains of Sudan, is that the indigenous church forms a bulwark against the forces of Islamic extremism, which desires to wipe out the Nuba community (both Christian and Muslim).

While the Sudan National Intelligence and Security Service terrorizes the country’s population by leading the infamous Janjaweed (“Devils on Horseback”) militias in places like Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and the Blue Nile, the Sudan church is confronting these forces of extremism everyday— but not with bombs and bullets.

The weapon of the persecuted church is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is the ministry of mercy the persecuted church engages in which changes hearts and minds, and rolls back the advance of extremism.

For example, at one pastor’s conference in the Nuba mountains last December, one day of community evangelism resulted in the conversion of 70 Muslim families. For those families still part of the Muslim community, their relations with the local church are stronger than ever. In fact, the local church reaches out through compassion and service to bridge together differing faith communities.

This bridge breaks down traditional fears and prejudices. It’s hard to hate someone who shares their meager food stores with you in a time of famine. It’s hard to fear someone who gives you medication to save your child from malaria.

One Muslim convert from the December conference came to the church and proclaimed, “Everything I’ve ever been told about Christians is a lie.”

It is for this reason, and many others, that the US Government needs to view the indigenous church as a strong partner in the War against Radical Islam in countries which have traditionally acted as factories for extremism. The Church in Sudan is a vital American security interest.

It is my prayer that the US government will see the imprisonment of Pastor Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor and Abdulmonem Abdumawla (who as of this writing are still behind bars in Khartoum) as worthy of diplomatic intervention.

But regardless of what public policy makers do, you and I can intervene right now through prayer and solidarity with our persecuted brothers.

Petr Jasek said over and over again throughout his own 445 day imprisonment, “God holds the keys to my cell.” Let us pray for His will to be done and for Him to release all the captives, not only spiritually, but physically as well.