Republic of Sudan
October 20-21

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Area 2,503,890 Africa's largest country. Desert in north, merging into grasslands and mountains in the centre and tropical bush in the south. Straddling the Nile Rivers. Nuba Mountains in the centre.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 29,489,719 +2.07% 12 per sq. km.
2010 36,256,579 +2.05% 14 per sq. km.
2025 46,264,179 +1.38% 18 per sq. km.

Over 2 million deaths through war, genocide and famine since 1983. Almost the entire southern population has been displaced during the course of the war, with over 5 million affected. A further 500,000 refugees have fled to surrounding lands.

Capital Khartoum 10,000,000. The three-city agglomeration of Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North are surrounded by millions living in shanty towns. Urbanites 25% officially, but closer to 50% in reality.


Over 244 ethnic groups.

Arab 45.2%. Predominantly in the north. The Arab population is intermingled with numerous indigenous peoples. Many distinct peoples of the north and centre have become Arabized. Specific categories (with overlap):

Sudanese 3.7m; Egyptian 360,000. Badawi (largely nomadic tribes and clans, 62) 11.7m – 29 of these peoples are of non-Arab origin (Nubian, Kordofan and Darfur); Baggara cattle herders 4m; Kababish speakers 2.1m; Shukriya 165,000.

Non-Arab 54.8%. Largely in the centre and south.

Nilotic 24.4%. 90 peoples, largest: Dinka(6) 1.7m; Nuer(2) 1.33m; Bari 378,000; Lotuko 274,000; Shilluk 259,000; Toposa 140,000; Didinga 111,000; Lwo 91,000.

Sudanic 12.9%. 92 peoples. Nubian 751,000; Fur 717,000; Zande 517,000; Daju(2) 182,000; Masalit 164,000; Mondari 110,000; Moru 103,000; Murle 89,000; Tama 44,000; Midob 43,000.

Nuba Mountain peoples 6.5%. 44 peoples, most small in numbers: Moro 187,000; Kadugli 156,000; Koalib 61,000; Krongo 39,000.

Cushitic 5%. Beja 1.5m; Ethiopians/Eritreans 100,000+.

Other 6%. 15 peoples. Hausa 489,000; Berti 200,000; Zaghawa 146,000; Fulbe 133,000.

Literacy 46%; functional literacy nearer 33%. Official language Arabic. All languages 132. Languages with Scriptures 7Bi 15NT 12por 19w.i.p.


Enormous agricultural and mineral resources but largely unexploited because of war and decay of the communications network. The cost of war and diplomatic isolation have impoverished all, but the genocide and use of famine as a weapon of war has devastated the south. There have been massive famines during the 1990s. In the late 1990s oil income became substantial – much being used for weaponry. HDI 0.475; 142nd/174. Public debt 95% of GNP. Income/person $290 (0.9% of USA).


Joint Egyptian and British control 1899-1956. After independence northern efforts to Islamize and Arabize the south led to civil war. Bitter fighting between Arab northerners and non-Arab southerners 1955-72. After 12 years of uneasy peace, and a degree of autonomy for the south, fighting broke out again in 1983 after renewed attempts to enforce Islam in the south. An extremist Islamist coup in 1989 led to increased fighting between Muslims and southerners in the Nuba Mountains and the southern provinces, then with Muslim groups along the Ethiopian and Eritrean borders during the 1990s. Oil income and aid from Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia enabled the beleaguered and diplomatically isolated regime to continue the war despite huge losses. Only the oil pipeline and the major southern towns remained under government control in 2001. There are efforts being made to bring about peace.


The constitution offers some religious freedom, but in practice those freedoms are arbitrarily abused. Declared an Islamic Republic in 1983 in contravention of the 1972 peace accord with the southerners. The threatened application of shari'a law on non-Muslims and Muslims alike was a direct cause of intensified civil war. Crude attempts to Islamize non-Muslims continue to be made. All schools in the north, including those run by Christians, have been turned into Qur'anic schools to the dismay of the 2 million Christians in the north. Yet despite discrimination, bulldozing of churches and persecution of individuals, there is considerable freedom for Christian ministries. Persecution index 5th in the world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Muslim 65.00 19,168,317 +1.8%
Christian 23.19 6,838,666 +5.5%
Traditional ethnic 10.61 3,128,859 -2.3%
non-Religious/other 1.20 353,877 +2.9%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 15 2.90 855 +6.8%
Independent 28 0.33 97 +19.4%
Anglican 1 7.14 2,106 +7.0%
Catholic 1 11.87 3,500 +4.7%
Orthodox 4 0.95 280 +2.3%
Marginal 1 0.00 1 +4.6%

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 140 2,034,884 3,500,000
Episcopal A 2,100 632,432 2,106,000
Presbyterian P 600 130,000 450,000
Sudan Church ofChrist P 560 80,000 190,000
Africa Inland P 50 11,994 80,000
Sudan Interior P 130 20,000 30,000
Assemblies of God P 50 7,000 20,000
Sudan Pentecostal I 65 5,200 18,200
Trinity Presby Ch of S I 306 7,266 16,474
Other denoms [41]   336 221,885 428,094
Total Christians [50]   4,337 3,150,661 6,838,768

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 10.3 3,051 +7.0%
Charismatic 5.5 1,634 +6.6%
  Pentecostal 0.1 38 +8.1%

Missionaries from Sudan
P,I,A 65 in 5 agencies to 7 countries: Sudan 50, Ethiopia 4.

Missionaries to Sudan
P,I,A 260 in 30 agencies from 20 countries: USA 89, UK 55, Sweden 22, Germany 16. C 418.

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Answers to Prayer

1 Due to the long and terrible warfare, Christians have spread all around the country, leading to a multiplication of congregations in areas with many unreached peoples.

2 The massive growth of Christianity in the southern peoples from 5% in 1960 to perhaps 70% in 2000.

3 The major breakthroughs among the Bor Dinka in 1995 with collective renunciation of the old ethnic religions and wholehearted commitment to Christ. There have been similar turnings among other peoples.

Challenges for Prayer

1 Sudan's civil war has been one of the world's longest conflicts in the 20th Century. Pray for peace and the formation of a viable multi-cultural, multi-religious society. Wrongs have been done – the British colonial rulers (they brought peace, honest administration and an end to slavery, but were short-sighted in handling the south), the atrocities of both northerners and southerners and the bitter divisions among the southerners themselves. Pray for repentance, restitution and rebuilding of communal life.

2 Sudan's leaders proudly boast that they are the leaders of the Islamic Revolution in Africa. In fact, an Islamist Arab minority has used this as a tool to strengthen their personal control of the economy and political power. The tragic cost is 2 million dead, millions traumatized, an economy devastated and a country divided. Suffering and disruption of lives appear unending. Pray for the disarming of the spiritual powers that have held the land in centuries of bondage and that a fair and durable peace be established. There was once a strong Christian presence in northern Sudan, and for nearly a millennium the majority of the population were Christians. Muslims invaded and defeated the Christians at the end of the 13th Century and gradually Islamized the area by the 15th Century – a process now being extended to the non-Muslim south.

3 The human tragedy of Sudan was long ignored until it was revealed that the Islamic government had sanctioned the re-institution of slavery. Many southerners have suffered from slave raiders. An estimated 60,000 – 200,000 are now chattel slaves. The controversial buying back of slaves by Western NGOs could be helping to perpetuate this evil. Pray that this wicked, degrading practice may be ended, and pray that world leaders may prevail upon the government to change its policy and truly seek the welfare of all Sudan's peoples.

4 The Church has grown in the midst of suffering. Catholics, Episcopalians and the Church of Christ in Sudan (fruit of SUM-AP ministry in the Nuba Mountains) have seen significant turnings to Christ. Massive population movements have broken down barriers of customs and languages to bring many to Christ from hitherto unreached peoples. For many, becoming a Christian is an expression of opposition to Islam, and so nominalism is still a problem, but for many others it is a genuine work of the Holy Spirit. The Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches have experienced revival, and there have been significant people movements among the Nuer (Presbyterian), Mabaan, Uduk (Sudan Interior Church), Dinka and Moru (Episcopal), Toposa, Acholi (Africa Inland Church) and some of the Nuba tribes (Sudanese Church of Christ). Pray that Christians may demonstrate a love and concern for others that transcends ethnic and racial divisions – especially to their Muslim neighbours.

5 There has been persecution of the Church over much of the past 50 years, but much more since 1985. Deliberate attempts to eliminate a viable Christian presence have been extreme, and have included bombing of Sunday church services, destruction of hospitals, schools, churches and Christian villages, massacres, killing of pastors and leaders and a food-for-conversion policy for refugees banished to desert areas around Khartoum. Slavery has been re-instituted with slave raiding and trading. Persecution has been especially severe in the Nuba Mountains. Whole areas have been laid waste and lands seized and given to Arabs. Pray that Christians may bear good witness to their persecutors in these sufferings and become spiritually strong as a result. Pray also that the sufferings of Christians might become widely known and that peace, justice and religious freedom be firmly established.

6 The pressing needs of the Church:

a) Commitment to Jesus to increase despite aching needs and terrible suffering.

b) Unity that transcends tribal boundaries and battle lines. The Sudan Council of Churches in the north and the New Sudan Council of Churches in the south need to be able to prepare for peace and unite all Christians. There have been ethnic and political divisions that have divided the Church. The NSCC was able to mediate peace between the Nuer and Dinka in 1999. Pray that Christians may be delivered from bitterness and hatred and find unity at the cross.

c) Recovery – many churches, villages and towns in the south have been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Education and health services have scarcely functioned for two decades. There are fewer and fewer with the skills and education to lead reconstruction programmes. A large proportion of the non-Arab population has gone through traumatic experiences.

d) The provision of physical needs. A number of agencies have gone to great lengths and risked danger in bringing food, medicines, Bibles, etc. to the centre and south of the country despite the threats and intransigence of the government. Of special note is the work of Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, Frontline Fellowship, Christian Solidarity International, Samaritan's Purse and WVI. Pray for the safety of workers and effective use of limited resources.

e) Vision for the future. By 1998 there were over 5,000 churches. 'Cush for Christ 2000' is a saturation church planting project with goals to plant 25,000 churches and to reach every people by 2010.

7 Sudanese Christian leaders have achieved so much against all the odds. Many have lost their lives in serving Jesus. Few have had opportunity for formal theological education. The few theological institutions function under considerable difficulty. Pray for leadership, as there are too many young converts for the pastoral care and teaching available. A number of Bible schools function but with many disruptions. Pray for the AIC Bible School, the Anglican Seminary, the SIC/SIM and SCOC/SUM-AP Gideon Theological College now based in Omdurman, and a Pentecostal Bible school in Juba. The Bishop Gwynne College in W. Equatoria and the Christian Liberty Academy – the first Christian high school in the South have been restored and revived (Frontline Fellowship). Pray for the provision of adequate facilities, staff and Sudanese leaders for the churches. Many Sudanese are studying in other lands.

8 Ministry challenges for the Church:

a) Muslim majority. The population in the north is largely Sunni Muslim, though among them are 300,000 or more Coptic Christians and maybe 2 million southern Christians displaced by war. Sufi religious orders are strong – especially Ansar, followers of the famous Mahdi. A small but increasing number have become Christians – disillusioned by Islam and attracted to Jesus. There are probably some thousands of these. There are reports of whole villages turning to Christ. Pray that their numbers may increase. There is a remarkable openness among many.

b) Khartoum may now have 13 million inhabitants. Vast shanty towns of displaced Nuba Mountain and southerner populations have sprung up. Poverty and deprivation are widespread and Christians are often subjected to harassment, destruction of church buildings and discriminatory taxes and laws. In 1997 there were officially only 171 churches, but unofficially many smaller groups also exist. Most use Arabic in services. Many congregations are introspective and in 'survival mode'. Pray that they may impact the Muslims around them and that many more churches be planted.

c) The Nuba Mountain peoples, an island of non-Muslims in a sea of Islam. Whole tribes have turned to Christ (Episcopal Church, Sudanese Church of Christ); a few others have become Muslim. There are still a number of unreached groups, but 60% of the population has fled the area. Government policy has sought to eliminate the Nuba by destruction of their villages, murder and their relocation as slave labour.

d) The SPLA, the southern army, had a bad record for atrocities, but since front-line-trained chaplains were appointed a large number of soldiers have become believers. Pray for the maturing and growth of this movement to Christ and its wholesome impact on their lifestyle.

e) Children and young people. There are few southern children who have had opportunity for education. Many are traumatized. There are many street children in Khartoum, an estimated 30,000 of them homeless (SIM). CMS helps the Christians with an 'Under Tree School' programme. Many young men and even children are press-ganged to become soldiers by both sides in the conflict.

9 Less-evangelized peoples are many in the west, east and north of Sudan. There are also some peoples in the Nuba Mountains and in the south which are still largely unreached. Pray especially for:

a) Darfur Province in the west which was Christian a millennium ago. It is now one of the least evangelized areas on earth. There are no known believers among the indigenous peoples – the Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa, Daju, Tama, Bideyat, Midob, Fulbe and Hausa.

b) The Beja on the Red Sea Coast were famed as the 'Fuzzie Wuzzies'. They were once Christian. Now only 4 believers are known. There is a limited outreach to them.

c) The Nubians of the Nile valley are an ancient people with great kingdoms who were Christian for 1,000 years. Relentless Muslim pressure led to their Islamization 600 years ago. There are only a handful of believers today. Several Christian agencies have ministry to them.

d) The nomadic and semi-nomadic Baggara tribes in the central belt of the country are numerous, but few have had much exposure to the gospel, and little has been done to reach them. They speak 3 to 4 major Arabic dialects, but many are of non-Arab origin.

10 Missionary activity on the part of expatriates has steadily decreased, and few expatriate Christian workers remain. In 1964 missionaries were expelled from the south, and limited ministry had been permitted in the Khartoum area (SIM, CMS) and among Ethiopian refugees. The ACROSS programme run by SIM, AIM, SUM-AP, TEAR Fund and others carried on a vital range of help ministries between 1972 and 1988 before the enforced closure of its ministry. Since then only a low-profile spiritual ministry and aid programme has been permitted in Khartoum and a few outlying areas. The rate of expulsions and refusals of visas has been stepped up since 1990. Pray for:

a) The few Christian agencies still able to carry on in the north.

b) Input to the south where the Khartoum regime is not in control; these ministries are largely based in Kenya.

c) The reopening of the land so that outside aid may be given to help the battered Church repair the immense emotional and physical damage to lives and property, and to train a new generation of leaders.

d) The calling and preparation of indigenous and expatriate workers to evangelize the many peoples of the north who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel.

e) The health and protection of missionaries serving in dangerous areas.

11 Christian help ministries:

a) The Bible Society has done much to supervise translation work and distribute Scriptures from their Khartoum depot.

b) Bible translation – still a major need. Of the 81 languages without Scriptures, there are at least 18 with a definite need. Pray for the many Sudanese Christians involved in planning for, or actually translating the Scriptures in 73 languages. Expatriates seek to help, encourage and train for the task. Pray for the rapid completion of these NTs and Bibles despite the many obstacles.

c) Christian literature is in short supply in most areas. Importation into the north is difficult but not impossible. Pray for all involved in bringing Scriptures, hymn books, etc., to remote and war-zone areas (Frontline Fellowship, Open Doors, etc.). OM have a remarkable literature ministry including an annual book exhibition on the Nile in Khartoum. Pray that the great hunger for Christian and educational reading materials might be met.

d) The JESUS film has been extensively used and maybe half of the northern population has seen it. Pray for lasting impact on individuals and communities, and for safety for film teams.

e) Christian radio. Impact is diminished by lack of batteries or hand-winding radios. FEBA broadcasts 4 times/week in Nuer and Dinka, and is wanting to start programmes in Beja. Both TWR and FEBA broadcast daily in Arabic.

f) GRN has produced recordings in 120 languages and dialects.

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