Once in a while, I hear American Evangelicals talking about persecution here in the United States. While true discipleship often creates disagreements and opposition, I sincerely believe that we are quite a distance from anything like the people of Sudan have suffered for the last 20 some years. Today the Church remembers all the Martyrs of Sudan. Not a place that is oil-rich for the powerful to be concerned with, but rich in another way; the souls of faithful Christians. Remember them today.
The Christian bishops, chiefs, commanders, clergy and people of Sudan declared, on May 16, 1983, that they would not abandon God as God had revealed himself to them under threat of Shariah Law imposed by the fundamentalist Islamic government in Khartoum. Until a peace treaty was signed on January 9, 2005, the Episcopal Church of the Province of the Sudan suffered from persecution and devastation through twenty-two years of civil war. Two and a half million people were killed, half of whom were members of this church. Many clergy and lay leaders were singled out because of their religious leadership in their communities. No buildings, including churches and schools, are left standing in an area the size of Alaska. Four million people are internally displaced, and a million are scattered around Africa and beyond in the Sudanese Diaspora. Twenty-two of the twenty-four dioceses exist in exile in Uganda or Kenya, and the majority of the clergy are unpaid. Only 5% of the population of Southern Sudan was Christian in 1983. Today over 85% of that region of six million is now mostly Episcopalian or Roman Catholic. A faith rooted deeply in the mercy of God has renewed their spirits through out the years of strife and sorrow.
From the proposal before the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church
O God, the One Who is steadfast in the midst of persecution, by Your providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before You the blessed martyrs of the Sudan, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to Whom they refuse to abandon, even in the face of death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.