Partly supported by humanitarian funding, evangelical agencies are making attempts to create a presence in Sudan’s Muslim Darfur area, which has been the site of widespread ethnic warfare, writes French researcher Philip Poupin in a recent article in the French geopolitical journal Hérodote (No. 119, 4th quarter 2005).
The issue is devoted to evangelical activities around the world and their political impact. Poupin’s article is an intriguing piece, based upon research including two clandestine visits to Darfur. There has long been sympathy among US Christians for fellow Christians in Southern Sudan, reinforced by the sensitivity of Black evangelicals for the plight of Black Africans seen as fighting against Arab Muslims.
While the situation in Southern Sudan has improved, the issue of Darfur has been raised by the same circles against against the country’s government Among other Evangelical agencies, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse is active in Darfur under UN mandate for issues related to emergency relief, food security, water.
Interestingly, in strongly Muslim Darfur, it conducted in 2004 its Operation Christmas Child (distribution of gifts), which recommends that: “at the distributions, boys and girls will be told that their gifts were lovingly packed by Christians… Through Gospel literature and evangelistic programs, they will learn that God loves them so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to shine His light and dispel the darkness.” In South Sudan, a broadcasting program, Peace Radio, has been set up for reaching Darfur.
Its head claims that churches have already begun to appear in Darfur, although.independent confirmation is not yet available, Poupin writes. But the researcher suggests that these evangelical efforts are quite likely to clash sooner or later with intense, Saudi-financed efforts for promoting Islam in Sudan. Competing proselytizers might become a new axis of rivalry, Poupin concludes.
— By Jean-François Mayer
(Hérodote, Institut Français de Géopolitique, Université Paris 8, 2 rue de la Liberté, 93200 Saint-Denis, France, http://www.herodote.org)