By Matt Chancey
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6
June marked the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the current war in Sudan's Nuba mountains. And July marks the fourth anniversary of the start of PPF's outreaches to the embattled Nuba people.
Although there are usually complicated histories involving two sides of a conflict, the war in the Nuba is comparatively simple. The central government in Khartoum wants the Nuba people to clear out of the homeland they've inhabited for hundreds of years. Religiously, ethnically, politically, and culturally, the Nuba do not conform to the minority Islamists in power. So, they are condemned to be either ostracized or wiped out.
In a leaked report from a high-level defense meeting back in August, 2014, a Sudan General was recorded as saying that the military's policy towards the Nuba is to "starve them out." This strategy is primarily borne from a humanitarian blockade to deny the most essential needs of any community (food, safe water, and medical care) and an indiscriminate bombing campaign from the skies to spread terror.
On a recent trip to the Nuba, we were told by an area commander that Nuba people caught by government troops at border checkpoints with more than ten tablets of medicine in their luggage can be killed as traitors. And government planes predominantly target marketplaces, schools, churches, and hospitals to disrupt life as much as possible and sow terror in the hearts of residents.
Our friends at NubaReports.org have documented more than 3,740 bombings since April, 2012. Human Rights Watch has collected evidence indicating that the Sudan government is using cluster-bombs and other banned ordnance to inflict as many casualties as possible. The government has also unleashed armies of Islamist mercenaries on the local population, giving them a free hand to kill, rape, and pillage to drive the people out.
The only law recognized by the Islamists in Khartoum is whatever preserves their autocratic rule. They love to sign agreements and negotiate, which gives them time while they pummel their enemies from the air and land. They specialize in "charm offensives" with western powers. I'll never forget earlier this year when representatives of the Sudan government attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. While these officials were wining and dining for normalized relations with America, I attended the funeral of Hasha Ali and her unborn baby, killed when a bomb was dropped on their home in the Nuba mountains.
But despite the best efforts of the Islamists in Khartoum, the Nuba people continue to hold on, refusing to surrender, and to demand what they have been promised in multiple agreements with their government: free elections, freedom from sharia law, equal representation in government, protection of life and property, and other basic human rights.
Yet, we are already four years into the current war with no end in sight. When talking to our Nuba friends, it's evident that many believe that outside political help may never come. It's hard enough to get the international community to issue a press release denouncing the war crimes being regularly committed by the Sudan government - let alone exert any real diplomatic pressure to have them stopped.
As for humanitarian help, the Nuba are losing friends. The government of Sudan expelled all expat NGOs from the area in 2011. The few remaining are considered criminals of the state - and liable for treatment as such. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) found this out in January, when one of their hospitals in the Nuba was bombed for the second time in nine months. MSF has a distinguished history in Sudan, and evidently thought their humanitarian efforts would be allowed to continue unmolested. After the latest bombing, MSF pulled up stakes and left not only the Nuba, but all of Sudan.
These setbacks have not pushed the Nuba people any closer to surrender. In fact, we find the morale very high among the people. They have held out for this long and are determined to persevere.
The Christian community in the Nuba, Sudan's largest outside the capital of Khartoum, continues to play a vital role in defense of their homeland, but also in giving hope to their neighbors through coordinated outreaches. PPF works with a coalition of 100 pastors, representing churches spread over several Nuba counties. This network manages most distributions of the non-medical humanitarian aid PPF delivers into the mountains - items like soap, salt, clothing, cooking pots, mosquito nets, blankets, etc.
The church network also distributes Bibles and discipleship materials to provide spiritual hope and encouragement. Despite the reality of war, Sunday services are still conducted, and humanitarian and evangelistic outreaches to the local Muslim community are ongoing.
The church in the Nuba mountains is determined to persevere. But what about us? Are we willing to continue to stand with our brothers and sisters in Sudan? It's not a question one person can answer, because PPF is a voluntary association between many individuals, churches, corporations, and foundations all partnering together in active compassion for the persecuted.
For PPF to remain involved means you must stay involved. As one of the people with the privilege of actually going to the areas where we serve and meeting our extended family in Sudan, I can tell you that the work is appreciated as much as it is necessary. I hope you continue to persevere with us and remain "strong and courageous" - putting your faith into action alongside our Nuba brethren.
"And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9