Praying (for Sudan) with Our Eyes Open
It's been almost two years since PRISM ran its heartbreaking cover story on the devastating situation in Sudan, particularly in the Nuba Mountains. I remember when I first learned of the merciless government bombing of civilians in southern Sudan. The horrors were outlined in black and white: casualty counts, dates, crimes committed by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al Bashir.
But it wasn't until the photos began flooding my inbox that I truly understood. These came through in vibrant color. Red and green: blood pooled in grassy fields. Brown and yellow: African flesh blasted to the bone and left to bake under the equatorial sun. What I saw—spinal chords and intestines exposed, human torsos blown open with the carelessness of windows thrown wide on a summer day—brought the story screaming into my consciousness. I could not look at the pictures for more than a second or two at a time. And I could not look away.
My first thought was, We can't publish these. I felt traumatized and was unable to shake the images from my mind as I moved into a weekend family reunion that was supposed to be a time of joy and rest. But when I sneaked away from the party and reread the messages from those who had taken the pictures—people who had endured long months, even years of persecution and then had witnessed and somehow survived the horrific events recorded by the camera—I realized that we had no right not to publish them.
"Please show the world," the picture-takers urged. "Time is running out," they warned. "Many children are missing after the aerial bombardment," wrote the director of Yida Refugee Camp in South Sudan, where population doubled to almost 60,000 between April and June of that year as refugees from Sudan's southern regions continued to flee south. "Many kids and women are getting sick, and many of them are not good psychologically. No food at all."
To refuse to publish these pictures of slain, displaced, and terrorized children, women, and men is to refuse to hear their story. To refuse to look is to turn our backs on these beloved children of God.
Can you look? And then pray? And then ask the US government to double down on diplomacy for Sudan and South Sudan?
Because today, two years later, the violence continues to escalate. Gaza is in the news this month, and we shudder as we continue to dare to pray for peace in that embattled region. Sudan is less often in the news these days—but as much in need of our prayers and advocacy as ever.
Read the latest report on Sudan's civil war from The Enough Project.
Watch "Land of the Hungry," a short film by Operation Broken Silence documenting both the government's abuses and the Sudanese people's heroic resistance.
Read the letter sent to President Obama earlier this month, from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN), and African Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Coons (D-DE), to express their concern over the situation in Sudan.
Send your own letter to Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Power, and Ambassador Rice.