Military Coup in Sudan Alarms International Christian Community

October 27, 2021

On October 23, a shocking news story reported that a military coup had taken place in Sudan and that the prime minister had been arrested and taken captive.

Sudan's military seized power Monday after it reportedly arrested the prime minister and dissolved the transitional government.

Military forces in the country have reportedly placed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under house arrest and have been urging him to come out in support of the coup. The Umma Party, the country's largest political party, called on people to take to the streets to counter the military, The Associated Press reported.

Security forces opened fire on some of the crowds, killing two protestors and wounding around 80 people.

Indications of a military coup sparked the U.S. Embassy in the capital city, Khartoum, to urge Americans in the country to shelter in place Monday.

"The U.S. Embassy has received reports that armed forces are blocking certain areas in and around Khartoum. Internet in Khartoum is non-functional," the embassy elaborated.

According to The Hill, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan's military and ringleader of the present coup said the prime minister had been detained "for his own safety." He has since returned to his own home, but remains "under heavy security." In response, pro-democracy protests broke out after the military takeover. Meanwhile, BBC reported that Khartoum airport is closed, and international flights have been suspended.

This continuing turmoil is of grave concern to Christian communities both in the U.S. and abroad. The brutalities of former President Omar al-Bashir are unforgettable, and Christians took the brunt of his abuses during his reign of terror from 1993 until 2019. Has a military dictatorship -- perhaps aligned with Bashir's Islamist ideology -- seized power? Is Gen. Burhan part of Bashir's residual support system in Sudan? Those questions remain unanswered.

On "Washington Watch," former U.S. Senator and President Trump's Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback discussed these new uncertainties in Sudan. When asked about his reaction to the coup in Sudan, Brownback responded,

Well, it's troubling... my last trip to Sudan before the COVID pandemic was to meet with the prime minister there and other leaders, and they were on a path to restoring religious freedom along with other fundamental freedoms... And I was just over in Sudan in June of this year meeting with the transitional government. I met with Prime Minister Hamdok several times... I was very encouraged about their movement forward on human rights and broadening the country and religious freedom.

Ambassador Brownback also expressed deep concerns about the seething undercurrents that he has felt in Sudan. Elections had been planned for next month. But now the military leadership is claiming that those elections won't take place until the summer of 2023. Does that indicate that this newly-declared regime intends to return Sudan to military dictatorship?

"Well, let's hope they don't," Brownback answered. "I met with the two of the three military people in some of the top positions on the leadership council when I was there. They didn't sound at all like that was something that they wanted to do. We sure don't want to see them returning to this militant Islamic government type that they had under Bashir." Indeed, that possibility is of great concern.

So, what policies should the U.S. be pursuing now? What position should we take as it pertains to Sudan and this new military government?

Brownback responded immediately: "Stay engaged!"

The former ambassador stressed that we should not march off the playing field and that we should also continue to provide an economic lifeline, which will prevent the Chinese and the Russians from seizing control. The U.S. should also continue to stand for human rights and religious freedom, which are central to the operation of an open democracy.

He went on to caution about Sudan's political landscape. "There's a lot of factionalism involved. There are a lot of communists and Baathists still operating. And a lot of Bashir loyalists continue to seek influence. We've got to work with Sudan's better angels to help keep the country on a positive track."

American Christians should be in prayer for the Christian community in Sudan. Faithful prayer helped bring an end to the vile Bashir regime, and prayer and wise policy can continue to help Sudan move forward to a brighter future.