Reaching the Nations

Sudan

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area: 2,505,813 square km.   Located in northeastern Africa, Sudan borders Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Egypt, and the Red Sea.  The Nile River and its tributaries enter the country from Ethiopia and South Sudan and flow north through Egypt.  Most of the country is arid or semi-arid, with semi-tropical areas to the south and lower rainfall amounts the further one travels north.  Plains cover most areas.  Few mountains may be found in the south and by the Rea Sea.  Dust storms and drought are natural hazards.  Environmental issues include desertification, drought, water scarcity, hunting, and soil erosion.  Sudan is divided into 15 administrative states.  Southern Sudan retained autonomy as a result of the civil war and became a separate nation in July 2011 after voting for independence in early 2011.  The status of Abyei State as to pertaining to Sudan or South Sudan remains undetermined.

Population: 37,000,000 (July 2011 - does not include South Sudan)

Annual Growth Rate: 2.484% (2011)

Fertility Rate: 4.84 children born per woman (2011)

Life Expectancy: 54.18 male, 56.71 female (2011)

*above statistics reflect Sudanese demographics prior to the independence of South Sudan unless otherwise specified.

Peoples

Black: 52%

Arab: 39%

Beja: 6%

Foreigners: 2%

Other:  1%

*above statistics reflect Sudanese demographics prior to the independence of South Sudan

Blacks populate southern areas whereas Arabs reside in central and northern areas.  Beja live in the east near Eritrea.

Languages: Arabic (41%), Bedawiyet (3%), Fur (1%), Nobiin (1%), other or unknown (54%).  Arabic and English are the two official languages of Sudan.  As many as 50 languages may be spoken in Sudan.  Languages with over half a million speakers include Arabic (15 million), Bedawiyet (951,000), and Fur (500,000). 

Literacy: 61.1% (2003 - includes South Sudan)

History

Civilizations have inhabited and flourished in present-day Sudan for millennia.  Sudan was known as Nubia or Cush and served as the location of civilizations with close ties to the Egyptians.  Isaiah the Prophet in the Old Testament referred to Cush as one of the locations in which scattered Israel would be gathered from.  Christianity and later Islam spread to Sudan, with Islam eventually claiming most Sudanese's religion.  Several kingdoms and principalities governed the area for centuries until Egypt conquered the area and unified northern Sudan.  The United Kingdom annexed Sudan in the late nineteenth century and maintained rule until 1956 when independence was granted.[1] 

As independence was granted to Sudan, tensions between the north and south were exacerbated and resulted in civil war.  The Sudanese government desired to institute an Islamic form of government and Shari'a law which the south opposed.  Civil war continued for much of the rest of the century and officially ended in 2005.  South Sudan became independent in 2011.  The Sudanese government has proven ineffective in controlling its peripheries, resulting in separatist movements that have spilled over into neighboring nations.  Among the most severe problems with civil unrest are notably in the Darfur region, where violence and instability have spilled over into Chad and the Central African Republic.  Serious human rights violations and accusations including genocide of non-Arab peoples in Darfur have severely hurt Sudan's reputation in the international community and led to economic sanctions.  Estimates for the number of deaths resulting from the civil wars and current conflicts in the Darfur region number in the millions, with millions more displaced from Sudan or displaced to Sudan from neighboring African countries.  The current Sudanese government has done little to address problems with slavery other human rights violations.  Political instability continues in several border regions of Sudan today such as the Eastern Front along the Eritrean border, Darfur, Abyei, South Kurdufan, and the Blue Nile.

Culture

Islam is the primarily influence on society as most the population is Muslim and the government draws from Shari'a law for its legislation.  Tribalism occurs in some peripheral states, such as the Darfur and southern and eastern regions.  Nearly constant warfare and insurrections in numerous administrative states have characterized daily life for the past half century.  Archaeological sites from ancient empires abound along the Nile River.  Cuisine shares many similarities with the Arab world and Ethiopia.  Cigarette and alcohol consumption rates are among the lowest worldwide. 

Economy

GDP per capita: $2,200 (2010) [4.64% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.531

Corruption Index: 1.6

Oil profits have driven economic growth over the past decade as oil exports began in 1999.  Although oil exploitation has proved important for economic growth, 80% of Sudanese are employed in agriculture.  Sudan has one of the largest public debts as a percentage of annual GDP in the world.  Recent reforms in currency and economy have occurred in order to attract greater foreign investment and spur greater, long term economic growth.  Hydroelectric power generated from dams on the Nile River provides much of the needed electricity for the country.  Additional natural resources include small reserves of valuable and industrial metals and minerals.  Agriculture, industry, and services each roughly account for a third of the GDP.  Oil, cotton, clothing, cement, cooking oils, sugar, soap, and shoes are major industries.  Common crops include cotton, peanuts, grains, sugarcane, cassava, fruit, and sesame.  58% of exports and 22% of imports are trafficked with China.  Other primary trade partners include Japan, India, and Indonesia. 

Corruption is perceived at some of the highest rates worldwide and is pervasive and the primary obstacle to economic growth.  There has been little done to address corruption issues. 

Faiths

Muslim: 60%

Islam or Christianity practiced with indigenous beliefs: 25%

Christian: 5%

indigenous beliefs: 10%

*above statistics reflect Sudanese demographics prior to the independence of South Sudan

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic  2,000,000

Seventh Day Adventists  8,469  26

Jehovah's Witnesses  1,826  65  (includes South Sudan)

Religion

Religion is highly correlated with ethnicity as nearly all Arabs are Sunni Muslims.  Many ethnic groups in northern areas are traditionally Muslim whereas ethnic groups in other regions of the country tend to follow a mixture of indigenous religions and Christianity or Islam.  Christians are marginalized by the government and society and concentrated in the Nuba Mountains of South Kurdufan and in Khartoum.  Major Christian groups include the Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church.  There are long-established communities of Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Christians in Khartoum and northern cities.[2] 

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index: 5th

The government protects religious freedom, but Islam is the source for legislation and government policy.  In practice, religious freedom is limited for non-Muslims.  Conversion from Islam to another religion may be punishable by imprisonment or death but there have been no instances of the government carrying out a death sentence for conversion from Islam.  Muslims converting to a different religion have been intimated by government authorities, persecuted, and pressured to recant their conversion and at times encouraged to leave the country.  Defaming Islam and blasphemy are punishable crimes.  The government regulates the operation of mosques and imams.  Some laws favor Muslims over Christians, such as reduced working hours for Muslims during Ramadan but no similar legislation providing reduced working hours for Christians during Christian holidays.  Religious groups are required to register with the government as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) but this requirement was not enforced.  Registration is required to receive tax-exempt status and receive duty-free imports of religious items and furniture for meetinghouses.  To construct a meetinghouse, a religious group must obtain a permit from the local planning office, the state ministry of construction and planning, and the national Ministry of Guidance and Social Endowments.  The government delays and restricts the number of visas for foreign religious workers and generally only grants visas to Christian clergy to support local congregations and not for Christian missionary activity.  The government does not permit missionaries to proselyte in Sudan but missionaries may perform humanitarian work and promote Christian-Muslim cooperation.  All public and private schools must provide Islamic education from preschool to the second year of university classes.  Friday is designed as the day of prayer in accordance with the traditional Islamic workweek and Christians generally worship on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sunday evening.[3] 

Major Cities

Urban: 40%

Omdurman, Khartoum, Khartoum North, Nyala, Port Sudan, El Obeid, Kassala, Medani, Gedaref, El Fasher, Kosti, El Duein, Ad-Damazin, El Geneina, Rabak, Sennar, Atbarah.

Cities listed in bold have no LDS congregation.

None of the 17 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants have an LDS congregation.  24% of the national population resides in the 17 most populous cities. 

LDS History

The first Sudanese Latter-day Saints joined the Church in Europe, the United States, and Australia.  Nearly all LDS Sudanese converts have originated from South Sudan.  A Canadian Latter-day Saint living in Khartoum introduced the Church to several Sudanese acquaintances who later moved to Juba, South Sudan and joined the Church in 2010.  Sudan has been assigned to the Africa Southeast Area since 1998 and the Uganda Kampala Mission since late 2008 or early 2009.  Although there is an LDS presence in South Sudan at presence, there is no LDS presence in Sudan at present. 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: less than 10 (2010)

In 2010, the Church reported no membership totals for Sudan.  There appear to be only a few Latter-day Saints in Sudan that either joined the Church abroad or are foreigners temporarily living in Khartoum. 

Congregational Growth

Branches: 0 Groups: 0

There are no known LDS congregations.  Any congregations would operate under the Uganda Kampala Mission Branch.

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Arabic, English

All LDS scriptures and most Church materials are available in Arabic.

Health and Safety

Political instability, war, and ethno-religious conflicts are major safety concerns.  Millions have perished over the past few decades as a result of civil war and ethnic hostilities. 

Humanitarian and Development Work

No LDS humanitarian or development work has occurred in northern Sudan as of early 2011.

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

Government restrictions prohibit the LDS Church from sending full-time missionaries to proselyte.  Any prospective missionary activity may only occur by local members among Christians and must be in harmony with local laws.  Persecution of Christians by the Muslim majority creates an unfavorable environment for LDS missionary activity.  Opportunities for LDS humanitarian and development work exist.

Cultural Issues

Friction between Muslims and Christians threatens the integrity of the country and will continue to delay any LDS Church establishment.  Polygamy is widespread nationwide and encouraged.  Those desiring to join the Church must divorce polygamous spouses before baptism.  Islamic law restricts proselytism and Muslims who convert to Christianity are often harassed and discriminated.  The strong ethno-religious ties of Arabs and Islam presents a nearly insurmountable obstacle for LDS proselytism.  There are no LDS missionary approaches tailored to teach those with a Muslim background.  Literacy rates are low and pose challenges for establishing self-sufficient local leadership if an LDS Church presence is established one day.  Overall non-Arab ethnic groups are receptive to Christian proselytism.  Low smoking and drinking rates complement LDS teachings. 

National Outreach

The entire population is completely unreached by the LDS Church.  The lack of any LDS mission outreach in Sudan results from persistent civil war and political instability in peripheral states, government and societal restrictions on religious freedom, persecution of Christians, few LDS foreigners living in the country, and few LDS members currently residing in government-controlled areas. 

South Sudanese converts will likely play a significant role in any prospective LDS outreach in Sudan as several converts previously lived in Khartoum and likely continue to maintain contact with any family or friends residing in the north.  Initial LDS outreach will most likely commence near the South Sudanese border or in Khartoum if permitted one day.

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Few if any Sudanese native to the north have joined the LDS Church abroad.  There have been no known LDS convert baptisms to have occurred in Sudan.

Ethnic Issues and Integration

Integration issues or ethnic conflicts could arise from Arabs and blacks meeting in the same congregation.  Christians are concentrated among blacks, which may lead to LDS congregations comprising almost entirely of blacks if an LDS presence were established due to prohibitions on proselytizing Arabs.      

Language Issues

Arabic and English are widely spoken first or second languages and reduce the need for the translation of LDS materials into local languages at present.  There are no realistic prospects of local languages indigenous to Sudan to receive translations of LDS materials as there are few or no Latter-day Saints which speak these languages and no feasible method of reaching populations that speak these languages due to government restrictions on proselytizing.    

Leadership

Potential church leadership may depend on South Sudanese and foreigners for many years due to a lack of members.  Humanitarian missionaries may play an important mentoring and administrative role if assigned and LDS worship services are held.

Temple

Sudan is assigned to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple district. 

Comparative Growth

Sudan remains one of a few African nations with sizeable Christian minorities without an LDS Church presence; other such nations include Chad and Burkina Faso.  Eritrea, Somalia, the Maghreb countries, and Sudan rank among the least tolerant of foreign religious groups and exhibit the poorest religious freedom records in Africa.  

Most missionary-minded Christian groups operate in Sudan among non-Arabs and have reported strong growth in recent years.  The number of Seventh Day Adventists in Sudan was slightly higher than the number of Adventists in South Sudan in 2010 notwithstanding government restrictions in the north.  Adventists and other Christian groups conduct missionary activity through local members, allowing for growth to occur despite government restrictions whereas Latter-day Saints rely on full-time missionaries and have no prospects of establishing an official presence for the foreseeable future.

Future Prospects

The outlook for an official LDS Church establishment in Sudan is poor due to severe government restrictions on religious freedom, few members in the country, persecution of Christians, and proselytism bans for foreign missionaries.  South Sudanese Latter-day Saints offer meaningful prospects for future outreach if religious freedom conditions improve one day.  Humanitarian work is greatly needed and may establish a positive relationship with the government.  Limited LDS humanitarian and development resources for the region and security concerns will likely delay the commencement of any humanitarian work for many years to come. 


[1]  "Background Note: Sudan," Bureau of African Affairs, 8 April 2011.  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5424.htm

[2]  "Sudan," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148722.htm

[3]  "Sudan," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148722.htm