Sudan Baptists reunite

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This happened at the end of April, but I’m just getting around to posting it. ABP reported that Sudanese Baptists — who like their country was divided between North and South — are now coming back together.

The article contains commentary by Elijah Brown, a Texas Baptist who’s looked at the role of the church in Sudan. He brings some interesting insight on the situation there.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) — After years of division precipitated by one of history’s deadliest civil wars, Sudanese Baptists have finally — like their nation — reunited.

The reunification of the Sudan Interior Church North and the Sudan Interior Church South took place during a series of meetings April 1-5, in the southern Sudanese city of Renk, according to a Baptist World Alliance news release.

The occasion was one of “jubilation and praises to God for his goodness,” said Ramadan Chan, who was elected by the reunified denomination as general secretary.

According to BWA, there are about 45,000 baptized believers and 225 churches in the reunited denomination. The BWA release said the northern church is growing quickly, expanding from 15,000 baptized believers in 2000 to 21,000 in 2007.

The reunion meeting culminated a process begun with a series of talks a year earlier. Sudanese Baptist leaders had long hoped to recombine the separate conventions. They insist the division was borne of administrative necessity, after thousands of Christians were displaced from the north as a result of the 12-year-long Second Sudanese Civil War.

The war pitted the mainly Arab and Muslim north of the vast nation against the mainly Christian and animist ethnic blacks of the south. It took an estimated 2 million lives and caused about 4 million more Sudanese to be displaced between 1983 and 2005.

The displaced included many Baptists, and many of them formed churches in Kenyan and Ethiopian camps for Sudanese refugees.

“The scattering of the church necessitated the development of a second administrative center based in Nairobi, Kenya,” said Elijah Brown, a Texas Baptist who has studied Sudanese Christians and sits on BWA’s freedom and justice commission.

The establishment of the Sudan Interior Church South “was a pragmatic attempt to minister to a dispersed church divided by warring factions,” Brown said. He has submitted to the University of Edinburgh a doctoral thesis on the role of the Sudanese church in the war.

BWA, the worldwide umbrella group for national and regional Baptist denominations, accepted the Sudan Interior Church as a whole as a member body in 2000, even though the two branches had not been officially reunited.

BWA officials have paid close attention to Sudan during its war years and after, which have included repeated accusations that the Arab-dominated government in the north has oppressed Sudanese people of non-Muslim religions.

In recent years, international human-rights groups and Western governments have denounced Sudan for supporting genocidal Arab gangs carrying out a campaign of extermination of ethnic blacks in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

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