Christianity at Cross Road In South Sudan
May 20th, 2018(Nyamilepedia) — Christianity in present days Sudan and South Sudan has a long history that dates back to ancient Nubia. Based on archaeological evidence and early Christians’ doctrines, which composed of two major rivaling doctrines – one called the Monophysite (“one body”), which held that Jesus had but one nature that was both human and divine, and the second doctrine called Dyophsite(“two body”) which held that Jesus had separate human and divine natures- the Coptic Christianity was introduced in ancient Nubia by the end of 1st century AD. Without diving deep into Christians’ accounts, the Christianity that was introduced to ancient Nubia was different in beliefs, faith and practices compared to our modern days Christianity in both Sudan and South Sudan. Read more about the Nubian Christian Kingdoms here.
The modern days Christianity in South Sudan was introduced in late 19th century and spread across the southern regions of Sudan in early 20th century. The Presbyterian Church denomination, for instance, was introduced in Dolleib Hill in 1902 by American missionaries, Rev. Kelly Giffen and H.T. McLaughlin, who came from Egypt in the 1890s. By 1945 the missionaries had established schools and clinics in Malakal, Wanglel, Bor, Obel among other towns with its mission station in Malakal.
Following the independence of Sudan in 1956 from British Colonial regimes and throughout the liberation struggles of the Southerners, which extends back to 1947, the present days South Sudanese Christians where made to believe in prophecies of suffering such as the famous Isaiah Charter 18, which states:
Go, swift messengers,
to a people tall and smooth-skinned,
to a people feared far and wide,
an aggressive nation of strange speech,
whose land is divided by rivers”
This prophecy among others were extensively used to spread Christianity in South Sudan during the Anyanya and SPLM/A liberation periods. The South Sudanese, most of whom believed in African Traditional Religions, were told that their suffering has been prophesied in the Bible and that they must convert to Christianity and have faith in the Lord to end their suffering. It is a Christian teaching that both good and bad leaders come from the same God – “All authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God” (Romans 13:1, NLT 2013; see also Psalms 75:6-7; John 19:10-11).
Over 60% Christians But God Still Punish South Sudan?
Believing that God punishes societies through bad leaders depending on the amount of sins and immorality in each society at that instant of time , then South Sudanese should as well believe that something must be wrong either with how Christianity was introduced in South Sudan or with how the Christians doctrines are being interpreted and practiced. Over the last century, Christianity has spread to almost all corners of South Sudan and over 60% of our current days South Sudan population are devoted Christians.
Presbyterian Church, which is one of the three major denominations in South Sudan, for example, has more than 1, 000, 000 members and over 500 congregations. Compared to large countries like Canada, which has a population that is four times as much as that of South Sudan, but has only 91,036 Presbyterian Church members and 980 congregations, the God of the Presbyterian Church could award the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan a better reward(not suffering) than the Presbyterian Church of Canada for converting more members to Christianity, holding other factors constant. My argument here would be that why would a fair, humble and forgiving God continue to punish South Sudan like Sodom and Gomorrah when South Sudan has converted more than half of its population to Christianity?
After more than 5 decades of devotion, worship, praise, offerings and tithes, South Sudan finally attained her independence in 2011 – thanks to SPLM/A, Anyanya and many other guerrilla movements. To Christians, the independence was a sign of relief that God has heard their overdue prayers and that he has “touched the hearts” of Sudan and South Sudan leaders. In response, the South Sudanese Christians took their tithes and offerings to mount Zion as foretold by prophet Isaiah. This must have been done according to the Will of the Lord and God should have been delighted and in return should have blessed and empowered the young country. In case if this was not done as prophesied, then God should have punished only the leaders of the church, who wrongly interpreted his words, instead of tormenting the whole country or innocent people. Better yet, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a God that instructs, leads and guides His people, and should therefore have instructed and guided the Church on His rightful path after His forgiveness(independence). At this point the conservative South Sudanese Christians should perhaps focus on praying to get answers for their unanswered prayers. It’s more of a common sense that a child who keeps asking the same question and never get answers from his father should try an alternative approach in order to get the answer he deserves!
Unlike in the past struggles where the powers to end the civil war were more in the hands of Islamic Arab’s regimes in the North and South Sudanese, who were mostly Christians, had very little power to extinguish fire in their favor, the today’s’ civil war in South Sudan is fought between Christians, who attend the same churches and pray to the same God. If the God of Israel was to be responsive and decisive, then why wouldn’t He apply the same instance justice that He is applying on the whole country on the very leaders who are seemingly compromised by evil?
The South Sudanese leaders, especially President Kiir, who is currently politicizing the church and Christian Faith, must have concluded that the God of Israel must be asleep, in a coma, in a recession or he never existed. President Kiir declared a National Day of Prayer in March 2017 but failed to declare a unilateral ceasefire on his oppressive military. On the very day of Prayers, which was March 10th, 2017, the SPLA[IG] attacked multiples areas in Lou-Nuer in attempts to capture Akobo and other SPLM/A[IO] strongholds while Salva Kiir was being anointed by the most respected men of God in the capital, Juba. Again, if the God of Prophet Elijah, Elisha and Isaiah was to be responsive, He would have descended from heaven, just to intervene; however, this was not the case.
Principled men of God, who hesitated to acknowledge the anointment of President Kiir, were instead bullied, harassed, arrested, kidnapped or killed by “unknown gunmen”. Why would a responsive God allowed his disciples to be humiliated by a self-proclaimed earthly authoritarian king who is disobeying His teachings?
Similarly, the South Sudanese stakeholders, who are responsible and accountable for the ongoing civil war, and despite knowing that they have all abilities to resolve the conflict, were seen today, May 20th, 2018, in Addis Ababa helplessly crying on their knees for God to intervene to end the man-made catastrophe in South Sudan. How realistic and logical? If the Biblical God was to response accordingly and strike the root cause of the conflict, it’s apparent that not many South Sudanese leaders would survive and those who would survive would never return to politics.
Resolving the ongoing conflict in South Sudan is as easy as solving one plus one [1+1]. It is very unfortunate that the South Sudanese leaders and the mediating regional bloc [IGAD] has made ending the war in South Sudan looks like a rocket science. Silencing guns does not need years of prayers or sophisticated conflict resolution model but honest dialogue and compromises. Instead of going to waste time and space in the church while war continue to devastate the country, the stakeholders should genuinely acknowledge and admit their failures and then compromise, recommit to work with one another and forgive the past in good faith in order to end the conflict. In any case, if prayer is all that is needed to end the war, the stakeholders should inform IGAD to arrange prayer sessions within mediation mechanism and invite all the leaders including Kiir and Machar to attend!
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