On January 31st, 2016, Sudan President Omar al Bashir abruptly announced an end to his government's cozy relationship with Iran. This move was spun by Bashir as a response to the spread of Shiite Islam in his predominately Sunni country. However, for those of us watching the region for some time, this move may have had a lot more to do with political positioning than religious orthodoxy.
While it is true that Sunnis and Shias have a rocky relationship, the reality is that this relationship has not bothered Sudan's leaders in the past. Bashir has willingly traded with Iran and even relied on that country for many of the weapons that Khartoum is using against its own people.
But there are at least two big factors pressuring Bashir to close ranks with his Sunni Arab allies. The first is Sudan's increased financial reliance on Arabia for bailouts. The sheiks of Qatar alone have dropped mountains of money on Bashir to keep Sudan's economy from completely tanking.
The second is that by dumping Iran, Bashir gains brownie points with the Western governments, which have pressured him for years to politically divorce the Ayatollah. Sudan desperately needs more normalized relations with the West, and that means hanging out with the "right kind" of friends.
Never mind the fact that Bashir's government has killed and terrorized millions of its own citizens since 1989. Never mind that Bashir was the first sitting President to be indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against his own people. What Bashir figured out a long time ago is that if he is perceived to be on the right side of the International War on Terror, he can get away with committing domestic acts of terror in his own country.
The US and International Community dropped bombs on Muammar Gaddafi for much less. It armed al Qaeda-supporting "freedom fighters" in Syria for much less. Yet opposition leaders in Sudan have consistently asked the West for a No-Fly-Zone over areas of the country Bashir is hammering from the skies, and little more than cricket-chirping has come from Washington or Brussels.
Although frustrating, this moral confusion is quite common in foreign policy. This is why we cannot rely on a political solution in places like Sudan. Politicians and policies come and go. The "Game of Thrones" will go on. But for those of us approaching the subject primarily from a spiritual perspective, the issue becomes much simpler. "Who is my neighbor?" is the question we must ask. And Scripture gives us the answer in the beautiful story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).
Regardless of what happens on the geopolitical front in Sudan, what is our role, as believers, towards the victims of genocide and persecution? Let the foreign policy "experts" haggle over political objectives. Our objective is Active Compassion for the Persecuted.
We desire to bring glory to God by loving Him, and our neighbor. It sounds cheesy to some politicians, but it's the only realistic goal in a fallen world. We fight the darkness by shining the Light. This means the fight must become very personal and move out of the realm of "experts." Everyone can engage in this battle. At PPF, we have ministry partners representing people from all walks of life. Like the Hebrews of Nehemiah's day, everyone has found his place on the broken city wall and is re-building. We are working on what is right in front of us.
In the case of Sudan, what is right in front of us are our persecuted brethren. They have been beaten and broken down by years of war, famine and persecution. Our hope is not in a political regime change, but in a heart change-- first in ourselves (to care about the persecuted and to intercede), then in the recipients of our love (to see the great love God has for them), and thirdly to our enemies (to see the great love the church has for each other, and to desire that love for themselves).
Thank you for standing with us in ministry and investing in an eternal treasure, which no moth or flame (or politician) can take away.