My life (put) alongside God's word. Islam section.
by Bismark M. Avokaya
This article is briefly looking at the challenge of Islam in Sudan and South Sudan from a
Christian perspective. It is not our intention to handle everything related to this topic because of the limited scope of this work. We are briefly highlighting a few things to generate the interest for further discussion by other individuals who may take the issues further in full depth and breadth.
It is well known that for many years Sudan had been in war with itself for several reasons: racial, ethnic, socio-economical, political and religious, which strained relationships to some extent, not only between North and South Sudanese as people of one country, but also between Muslims and non-Muslims as people of faith groups. The social divisions in the country were entrenched beyond imagination. For instance, a simple misunderstanding
between two people, a Northerner and a Southerner (or a Muslim and non-Muslim for this matter), could result not only in the two people resorting to a physical fight within seconds, but even cause others from the two sides to join in the fight just on the basis of ethnic and racial loyalties, without first establishing the cause of the misunderstanding between the two.
But the most devastating war was the one fought between the then Government of Sudan (GOS) and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), which ended in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005. However, at the signing of that peace agreement, the late Dr. John Garang echoed his concern to his counterpart during a speech in Nairobi that:
“… either we implement this agreement or we take an alternative painful route –dividing Sudan into two. If Sudan will not rise to the challenges of this agreement, then rest assured it will split at the end of the six-year interim period”.
Certainly, as the then Sudan failed to “rise to the challenges”, the country split into two following the referendum which achieved 98.83% votes for separation. South Sudan finally got its independence on July 9th 2011.
What is Islam?
Let us consider a few descriptions of Islam before we come to define what Islam is:
“Islam is more than just another religion next to Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism or
Judaism. Islam claims to be a way of life. It is a system which governs and controls the lives of more than 1.2 billion men and women around the globe”. (www.answering-islam.org).
“Islam, in its clear and direct way of expressing truth, has a tremendous amount of appeal
for any seeker knowledge. It is the solution for all the problems of life. It is a guide toward
better and complete life, glorifying in all its phases God, the Almighty Creator and the
Merciful Nourisher”. “Islam is the first and the final religion of mankind”. “Islam is the
most rational religion. It gives a clear code of life”. “Islam is the shortest and broadest road
that leads to God”.
Rosemary Sookhdeo states in her Breaking through the Barriers: Leading Muslims to Christ, that: “We must recognise that Islam is totally different from any other religion as it is more than just a religion – it is a religion, a culture, a legal system (sharia) and a political system, all rolled into one. In fact, as it is a totalitarian system it could be classified as an ideology”.
Given these descriptions of Islam, it is definitely more than a religion. It is a way of life that
strives to encompass every part of human life. Therefore Sookhdeo is correct in saying it is “an ideology”. Yet is it comprehensive in a way that makes the human life contented as it seemingly states? The question that poses itself in the light of this is, “does a Sudanese or South Sudanese Christian who engages with a Muslim, have a meaningful response to these claims, not only by the way of arguments, but also through a convincing life testimony? ” If not, what could be some of the implications?
The challenges of Islam to the Muslims
Before we consider looking at the challenges of Islam to Christians, it may be worth looking at
whether the adherents of Islam have some challenges to their own faith or not? If they do,
what are some of those challenges? Certainly, it would be appropriate to get this from the
Muslim perspective as an insider. This writer’s intention is to gain an insider’s emic view, as
suggested by Malinowski, for the purpose of objectivity. (Argonauts of the Western Pacific). Hence let us look at these concerns of a Muslim believer:
“Islam, like any religion, is facing challenges to evolve and adjust to modernity and in
particular to the economic and cultural power of a dominant West. What issues are
confronting Muslims in a modern globalised world? Being a Muslim in the twenty-first
century, we have to deal with current challenges and try to find our way. We rely on the
past, we rely on great scholars, but we also have new challenges and it is up to us to try to find the way towards faithfulness. The great problem for Muslims today is a psychological crisis based on a lack of knowledge and lack of deep understanding of the spiritual dimension of our religion”. (www.antiessays.com/free-essays/Challenges-of-Islam-546196.htmil/ )
The writer continues to express concern in this way: “The way we translate the concept of
Islam is wrong, the notion of Islam is wrong and all the terminology and also the way we
are understanding the interconnections and the priorities. And I really think that if there
is a challenge for us in the twenty-first century here and everywhere to be able to come
back to the understanding of our terminology, the priorities and higher objectives of our
religion: why are we here, what is the answer of our religion, as to the great questions?
The first main crisis, the first main ‘how to be a Muslim in the twenty-first century’ is to
look at this as it is. That what we really need to think about is, how do we transmit the
spiritual message of our religion? How, in our societies, do we spread this peace and
confidence and trust? Because at the starting point of everything is confidence.
Confidence is not just being scared by other people. First, of course, for a spiritual mind,
for a spiritual message, confidence is to trust Him, al-tawakkul ala’ allah. It is this
confidence. It is the tawakkul. So we have to ask ourselves, how do we do that? It’s not
only through national discourses. These kinds of lectures are really important but at the
end of the day it is a daily process at the local level. To deal with the communities, to deal
with the people, to listen to their…”.
This Muslim writer has raised a number of questions that seem to be of greatest concern
to him. The question of “modernity” in the context of the ever increasing economic and
cultural influence of the western world; globalisation in the light of huge reliance on “the
past”, on the wisdom of “great scholars”. Yet some of the current challenges may not have
been there in the past and therefore, and perhaps, the wisdom of the scholars may be
lacking. In this regard, how do you remain as faithful a Muslim as you ought to be?
The author of this chapter in our book would like to add that, currently (in general terms)
Islam seems to be ‘married’ to terrorism. If you are a Muslim who does not take part in
terrorism, how do you deal with the perspective of this ‘marriage’? However, having said
this, it is imperative to note that the Islamic worldview differs from location to location, as
Muhammadou Mensah asserts in his discussion of the need to understand the Islamic worldview. (Holistic Ministry among the Poor, in Muslims and Christians on the Emmaus Road). Caleb Chul-Soo Kim, writing in Islam among the Swahili in Eastern Africa, also warns of the danger of falling into the reductionism trap of scholars by attempting to
generalise about Islam, while ignoring the “particularity of local Islamic phenomena in
specific cultural contexts”.
Yet the face of Islam in general is basically similar in all localities, especially where the
orthodox aspect of the religion is concerned. Muslims worldwide confess the Islamic
creed, or Shahada, that acknowledges the oneness of God and the apostleship of
Mohammed. From this credal statement stem “all of Islam’s concepts, attitudes, moral
values and guidelines for human behaviour and relationships”. (Suzanne Haneef 'What Everyone should Know about Islam and Muslims').
Focusing on Sudan, the main argument in this article is based on the view that the lack of
any genuine relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims can largely be explained by
some of the negative ways in which some Muslims in the Sudanese government have
related to non-Muslims over the years, especially within the context of Muslim/Christian
relations. In the light of this, this writer wishes to state categorically that some
government policies, ideology and attitudes led them to treat non-Muslims as inferior, to
say the least. As a result, they consistently exploited, enslaved and oppressed non-
Muslims beyond imagination, including African Muslims from Darfur, Nuba and Blue Nile.
This promoted injustice in all its forms, denying non-Muslims and the marginalised
people the right of equal opportunities for better education, healthcare, access to jobs and even the right to enjoy the benefits of the natural resources of their country. Certainly, in addition to the political, social and practical challenges of living together as Christians and Muslims, there are also theological challenges. For example the tenets regarding the deity of Jesus, sin, forgiveness and salvation are totally different between the two religions. (Rosemary Sookhdeo).
What is going on in Sudan?
In 2002 I heard that Sudan is 70% Muslim, but in 2013 we often heard the Government saying that out of the population of 31 million 97.7% are Muslims. After the Country split into two they said Sudan is now 100% Muslim. Yet we know that there are Christians in Sudan, not to mention other religious groups. Hence this claim is debatable. But we do know that “Christians and Muslims comprise over half the world’s population… If we can’t have peace between Christians and Muslims, then it will be virtually impossible to have peace in the world”. (Rick Love 'Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in our Families, Organisations and Communities').
But what is going on in Sudan now? The conflict in Darfur, in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile is not settled. Many people have been killed and others are hiding in caves in the mountains, as they are often being bombed by Khartoum and denied access to humanitarian aid. As a result, some people are refugees from Sudan in South Sudan, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya and other places. As I write recent news headlines from Khartoum have been about Mariam Yahya Ibraham, the alleged Muslim who was married to a Christian. On May 21st 2014 the Archbishop of the Northern Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan/South Sudan (ECSSS), the Most Rev. Ezekiel Kondo, informed the Bishops that, although Mariam was born to a Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother, he left them when Mariam was six years so she was raised by her mother. Later on she married a Sudanese American.
According to her testimony she is a Christian and not a Muslim. Yet she was sentenced to
100 lashes for adultery because she accepted to be married to a Christian, and then death because of apostasy, accused of converting from Islam to Christianity. But this contravened the Constitution of Sudan 2005, Article 38 on Freedom of Creed and Worship which stipulates that, every person shall have the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship, and to declare his/her religion or creed and manifest the same, by way of worship, education, practice or performance, subject to requirements of the law and public order. No person shall be coerced to adopt such faith to which he/she does not voluntarily consent. Moreover, Archbishop Kondo says, it contravened the spirit of dialogue, co-existence and love that the President of the Sudan declared, as well as her Human Rights.
Consequently, the Archbishop elect correctly said that the verdict reached by the court on Mariam was a clear and direct persecution on Christians and on the Church in the Sudan. He condemned this court’s decision and requested the Ministry of Justice to review the case and release her immediately. Likewise they requested the authorities in Kalakla to free a young man who has a similar case in court there. It is to be noted that the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) issued a similar statement.
Most cases of tension between Muslims and Christians come from the fact that these religions are missionary in nature. Each has a divine mandate to win converts. Unfortunately, while Christianity appears to be content with individual and personal decision over which faith to profess, with freedom to remain or to change faith; Islam seems to coerce Islam whether you like it or not, as evidenced in the case of Mariam in Khartoum. This writer proposes that there is high need to the missioners of both faiths to take their divine mandate of winning converts seriously, as it ought to be, but also to keep a reasonable balance respecting the freedom and right of individuals to accept or reject the faith being proposed to them, for the purposes of peace harmony. After all God does not force people. He has given people the free will to choose, right from the very beginning, Genesis 2:16-17.
This case of Mariam has generated outrage globally, from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the British Prime Minister, the President of the United States of America, and many others. Presumably, it was in the same spirit that Pope Francis addressed Muslims in the Middle East on 26th May 2014. He said: “Dear brothers, may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters… May we learn to understand the suffering of others! May no one abuse the name of God through violence!" His calling of Muslims “dear brothers” was intriguing, not only to the media, but also to many other people across the globe.
The reality was that when the Pope called Muslims his “brothers” and appealed, “May we respect and love one another as brothers”, he was not asking the Muslims to do something that came only out of his Christian perspective. Pope Francis was essentially drawing from the Islamic tradition as well. Muslims have a strong social belief called “solidarity in Islam”, which translates into the concept of “brotherhood”, especially in their concept of “Ummah (nation/community)”. This entails “mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy” because we are one body. Moreover, it states that for Muslims “solidarity and collaborative action are not limited to interactions with fellow Muslims only. Islam stresses that the source of creation is one, and thus the whole community is a single family descending from a single mother and father (i.e. Adam and Eve). Therefore all human beings are brothers and sisters in humanity”.
However, Pope Francis did not only appeal for “respect and love”, and for us to “learn to
understand the suffering of others”, which suffering is huge in our world today. He also
appealed, “May no one abuse the name of God through violence!” This is credible and
seems to be the heart of the matter. Yet how can Muslims “understand” the pain that others are going through? Think of the conflict between Israel and Palestine that has been ongoing for years, the crises in Syria, Egypt, Darfur, Nuba Mountains and in Nigeria’s Boko Haram scenario. How could those concerned in these violent acts refrain from abusing “the name of God through violence”? Some are often the perpetrators of such “violence” in the name of God.
David Virtue (www.virtueonline.org ) adds to our discussion, “Our religions tell us that human interactions should be shaped by compassion and humanity, not by death sentences. It is vital that all people should enjoy freedom of conscience and be able to follow their own religion… Christians and Muslims should be able to coexist alongside each other, we emphasise that force and compulsion are not characteristics of either faith”.
This writer is delighted to acknowledge that at the time of submitting this article we heard that Mariam has been released from prison and is being taken care of with family by the American Government at the American Embassy in Khartoum. We do want to thank God for that. But what about those who are not lucky enough to have been married to a Sudanese–American citizen like Mariam? What is their fate in Khartoum?
What is going on in South Sudan?
This writer believes that Muslims in South Sudan are enjoying the freedom of religion which is their right as given by State Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan.
Probably as a result of the previously negative experience of Southerners in Sudan under
Khartoum over the years, the Government of the South would now like to prove to Khartoum that there is an alternative way as they had always said. This is why they always stood for a secular state in the South. Any traveller can see Muslims praying openly to Allah from Rumbek in Lakes State to celebrating eide al fitr freely in the capital, Juba. Pictures of these happenings are published in newspapers like the Sudan Tribune for all to see. And according to Waakhi Simon Wudu, these Muslims expressed their gratitude to President Salva Kiir for respecting their Islamic religion in South Sudan which they termed as “privilege granted by a Christian Government”. While it is debatable as to whether we have Christian Government in the South, yet according to the reports, Sheikh Abdun Moteer was reported to have said, “We are celebrating in jubilation and joy because when I was ruled by President Omar Al Bashir I was a sixth class citizen. But ever since I came back to South Sudan, I feel I am a first class citizen”. (www.gurtong.net/June 21st 2014).
Certainly Muslims are enjoying the right of religion in South Sudan as it stands today. This is
good for the healthy democratic society that we are striving to establish in the country.
However, this writer would like to point out that, a few concerned South Sudanese are also
questioning this freedom as well. For instance, someone expressed his concerns as follows:
“… Whilst people of South Sudan have recently escaped all forms of abuse and humiliation under the Islamic united Sudan, the Islamic religion remains a grave threat to the social, political and economic stability of the Republic of South Sudan. The contemporary growing number of the so-called South Sudanese Muslim communities in the Republic of South Sudan is an insult to South Sudan national integrity, identity, the pride of South Sudanese citizens… a conduit Arabs can use to infiltrate into South Sudan either now or in the future. As our history proves, the growth of the Islamic religion will potentially cause a quantity of practical challenges for South Sudan economically, socially and politically. Although universal rights are guaranteed in the constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, including the right of worship, this concept of “universal” rights needs to be considered over the precedence of the ‘individual’ rights to freedom of religion. Hence, when religious freedom and expression infringes on the existence of others, as Islam disapproves the existence of others, SouthSudanese who are concerned about their national identity and stability should re-think allowing the Islamic religion, which has historically been a cause for our suffering, to be practised in their hard won country”.
This present writer can see the points raised by the concerned South Sudanese who wrote the above article, and the opinions expressed are valid. Who can be so naive about this?
For instance, over many years the Arabs in Khartoum and their associates had wanted to
influence the rest of Africa in terms of Arabisation and Islamisation. But it seems the
resistance in the South had prevented this to some extent. What is the guarantee that our own brothers, the South Sudanese Muslims, may not be “a conduit that Arabs can use” and not only “to infiltrate into South Sudan” but also for reaching the rest of Africa this time, if they allow themselves to be used? Nevertheless, based on our negative past experiences and a fear of the future, is it fair for the South Sudanese to deny the Muslims the right of religious freedom, which is their human right like any other citizen of South Sudan? And by denying, would South Sudan be doing justice to Muslims as citizens, and rightly applying the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan? If not what are the implications in the light of the freedom and equality that are the core values that the country fought for in the first place?
Having said this, let us ask are there certain things of common interest that we could work on together as South Sudanese regardless of our religious differences, things that can bring good to the community? For example, right now our country is in political crisis and this affects everybody. Can we work together as religious leaders to ensure sustainable peace, unity of purpose and security are attained in our country? Is it not a good example to see the religious leaders going as a team to Addis Ababa to present the voice of ‘the religious leaders’ under the auspices of the South Sudan Council of Churches and calling on all warring parties to give peace a chance? What other examples can we exhibit as people of one identity–the South Sudanese people, for our peaceful co-existence?
For instance, are there some developmental activities we could engage in together for the good of our communities and nation? One time in 2012, on his return to the office from a journey, this present writer found waiting in his office a letter addressed to him. It was written by the Muslim Community in his town seeking some financial support for the
construction of a mosque. Having read it, he then asked himself, “Being a Bishop, am I here to construct a mosque or church?” It is to be remembered that out of fifty-three congregations, only three churches in our area are concretely constructed; eight are semi-permanent, while the rest are grass-thatched, (except for six which had been burnt down by wild fire and tribal conflict). Hence many Christians worship under trees.
Logically, if there was enough money for the construction of worship centres, should some be given to Muslims, or all be shared between Christians for the construction of church buildings? Of course, to the Christians, for building churches. No doubt about that.
Subsequently, the bishop could not respond positively. However, a few months later, seven Episcopal Bishops were called to Yei to meet with seven of their counterparts from the Catholic church. It was a special meeting on peace and reconciliation in the country. This present writer happened to be one of those bishops. Following four days of fruitful meeting, he had a strong urge to consult with one Catholic bishop and taking him aside he asked for advice. As they stood aside, the Archbishop of the Catholic church joined them and this writer told his colleague his story. “Back in our diocese the Muslim community requested me to contribute towards their mosque construction. But I asked myself, is it my work as Bishop to construct a mosque or a church? Please, my brother Bishop, I need your advice!”
Then his brother bishop replied, “I do not have any advice for you, but let me share my
personal experiences. Firstly, one time a few Muslims in town approached me for financial support for construction of a mosque, but without a Bill of Quantity (BQ) and I suggested they should first go and get the BQ before they move around seeking support. And if they do that then they may return to me. They went and did that and on their return, I told them I will fix for you a window and I gave them something in the name of the window. Secondly, during the war I saw a lot of Muslim men in the town who were totally in rags and I felt very sorry for them. So I bought some materials for clothing and gave to them for making jallabia (the long white dress used by Muslims) to avoid appearing in rags when they led Salat (ritual prayers in Islam) in front of others”. However, he re-emphasised to me that he had no advice to give. That was just his own life experience, in a similar situation to the one I was asking about. On this note, the Archbishop interjected. “I guess he has given you the advice that you need!” We
ended the interaction and departed.
This writer returned to Mundri, but given the fact that he had too many things to do, what he learnt in Yei missed his attention. However, one morning he received a call from unknown number. When he responded the voice introduced himself as someone whom he knew as a County official. Let us call him Foster Lima (a cover name). So Mr Lima said he was very sorry, but he had tried several times to get this writer’s number, yet he failed until that morning. Furthermore, he said he is a Muslim and today was their eide-al-fitr (the annual festival at the end of Ramadan). They were to have prayer at 9:00am at the mosque in town, during which they would like this writer to address them, along with the County Commissioner! The caller said he was only sorry that they did not tell the writer earlier, but they would very much like me to come! Obviously this writer did not know what to say but managed, “I may get back to you later”. In this regard, the writer decided to share the invitation with his wife, who wisely said, “Do not go alone but take someone with you so that you are not misunderstood”. As a result, the writer called the Diocesan Secretary (DS) and asked him to be ready to go with him to the mosque. Also instantly, the writer remembered the Muslim request for support and he asked the DS to get a cash sum from the accountant as contribution to the Muslims. On this note the writer called Mr Lima and confirmed his coming.
However, these arrangements delayed them a bit and by the time they reached the place the Muslims had just finished prayers. Some had already left but a few were still at the Mosque, even though they were heading home too! Among them was Mr Lima. Subsequently, the writer apologised and gave them the small support gift. To their surprise Mr Lima appreciated the support and told them that there was no problem in being late because they were to have the actual celebration in his house at 4:00pm. They welcomed the writer to his house would give time for him to speak. In the meantime, he allowed us to go home and arranged to meet again at his house later. This gave the writer an opportunity to invite three other people to join them and they met the Muslims at 4:00pm sharp.
I addressed them using Abraham as our common point of intersection, Abraham being the father of the three historical faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). But I linked that with the story of Cornelius in Acts 10:1-8, putting more emphasis on Cornelius’ habitual character of devotion to God: God fearing, generosity and regular prayer. In this regard we drew a parallel with Muslim practice of alms giving to the needy and devotion to prayer, as evidenced by that particular day when all Muslims had closed their shops as a sign of devotion to the day of prayer.
Moreover we contrasted that with how often, although we profess to be Christians, we may be doing business in the market while the Sunday service is going on in the church. As Christians can we learn something from our Muslim brothers and sisters? After this the writer prayed for the Muslims.
Following this address, however, Mr Lima as the host, expressed appreciation for our coming and our encouraging words. Moreover, he told the writer that, “when the County
Commissioner gave us space for the construction of the mosque and we began to clear the site, some of your Christians participated in clearing the site without pay. Also when we went to buy red bricks for the construction, some Christians gave us the bricks for free. In addition to that, some Christians who are masons supported them in building without pay. Furthermore, when a group of youth who were opposed organised to destroy the mosque, the leader of Youth League of the SPLM political party in company with another youth group confronted them, telling them not to destroy the mosque or else they could be locked up, because we have freedom of religion in the country. The opposing youth went away. In addition to that, the youth leader who stopped them mobilised more members of his youth to give full protection to the Muslims as the mosque was being constructed. The mosque has not been destroyed to date.”
Mr Lima therefore asked the writer to take their (Muslims’) appreciation to the Christians once again for all that they have done for them. Now it is to be remembered that, not only the writer, but all the members on his delegation, were not even aware of all these narratives as it was their first time to hear about them. I took note of the Muslim message of appreciation and passed it to the Christians later on. Also it is worth mentioning that when it came toward Christmas we were surprised with a small gift for the Christmas celebration at the Cathedral, which came from the Muslim community! We
informed the Christians accordingly. And when it was followed up, we found that it was Mr Lima who had asked his Muslim community in Mundri to do that. Although Mr Lima had already been transferred to another County he was able to influence his Mundri community to give a Christmas gift to the Christians. In addition to keeping in touch we have remained in good friendship to date.
Don McCurry says, in his 'Healing the Broken Family of Abraham: New Life for Muslims', “Love is the proof that we are Jesus’ disciples. He called it a “new commandment”, John 13:34-35. We are to love our neighbours as ourselves – with no exceptions, Matthew 22:39. We are to love Muslims because our God does, John 3:16. Even in the event that some make themselves our enemies, there is no exemption. Jesus’ teaching is radical indeed. “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate
you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”, Luke 6:27-28.29.
How could Christians in Sudan relate to Muslims?
Christians need to know what their Constitution says about the right to faith of theindividual, then as citizens claim their rights based on a legal stance, as churches have done in the case against Mariam Ibrahim who is alleged to be a Muslim.
Given the fact that Christians are considered a minority in Sudan, the Christians need to understand from the Muslim emic view, the rights of minorities under Islamic rule, and to claim them accordingly without fear.
It is strategically imperative for Christian leaders to have in depth knowledge of the Qur’an, Hadith and Islamic tradition for effective and concomitant intervention in Muslim related peace building processes.
To enhance knowledge on how to identify violence against Christians in situations of violent conflicts in their society, and point it out on legal stances.
To equip Christians with skills on how to demonstrate the relevance of the human security paradigm as an integrated approach to conflict transformation and peace building with Muslims in their communities.
To build Christians’ knowledge and skills in analysing their contexts, to envision sustainable peace and draw up plans for conflict transformation and a peace building framework, in relationship with Muslims.
We do understand that the Islamic tradition is said to be peaceful and endorses values promoting diversity and peace. Therefore, is better for Christian leaders to engage Muslim leaders (not to exclude them) when implementing initiatives in peace building and conflict resolution among the Muslim and Christian communities.
How could Muslims in South Sudan relate to Christians and non-Christians?
Being a minority group in South Sudan, Muslims need to know what the Constitution says about the right of faith for the individual and as citizens claim their rights based on a legal stance.
Given the fact that Muslims are a minority, they should not demand unnecessary special treatment from the government against the treatment accorded to other citizens, as though they are ‘last born in a family’. Doing this may create coveting and envy in other citizens, perhaps leading to tension.
It is vital for Muslim leaders to have a workable knowledge of what Christianity says about peace building processes.
To enhance Muslim knowledge on how to identify violence against Muslims in situations of violent conflicts in their society and to point that out on legal stances but being careful to avoid the use of violence.
To equip Muslims with skills on how to demonstrate the relevance of human security with integral approaches to conflict transformation and peace building with Christians or non-Muslims in their communities.
To build Muslim knowledge and skills to analyse their contexts, envision sustainable peace and draw up plans for conflict transformation and a peace-building framework in relationship with Christians or non-Muslims.
In Christianity it is obvious that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. Therefore, it is better for Muslim leaders to engage Christian leaders when implementing initiatives for peace building and conflict resolution among the Muslim and Christian communities.
In the light of the discussions above, the writer draws the following recommendations:
If Christians and Muslims make half of the world population, then Christians and Muslims are likely to make two thirds (if not 90%) of the population in Sudan and South Sudan. So we must learn to live together.
Relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims in Sudan are often contentious. It is better to avoid them getting out of hand.
Have a fair knowledge of the socio-economical, historical, political and religious experiences of the people you are dealing with, in addition to the knowledge of the word of God.
There are no racial, cultural or gender boundaries to the good news of salvation. Jesus is the Saviour of all and we need to present Him so to all.
Try to turn simple and ordinary life experience into spiritual object lessons, unveiling theological truth for the expression of God’s love.
Acknowledge all good qualities in Muslims, like love, kindness, trust, honesty and so on. This builds respect for what you want to offer him/her in Jesus.
Instead of decrying the historically negative relationships that have been separating Muslims and Christians, it is surely better to cry out for the things that will unite the Sudanese and the South Sudanese across religious divides.
Seek to be a community in which all Sudanese and South Sudanese Christians and Muslims, non-Christians and non-Muslims, male and female, are involved culturally and appropriately. To be cared for, supported and encouraged to be mindful of others and to have genuine relationship, but remembering this does not mean assimilation.
If we are to have meaningful peace building relationships, then it seems appropriate for Christians to understand the underlying worldview of Muslims in relation to what they do, and its significance even in the context of conflict resolution.
Give respect and value to all human beings. Seek good relationships with all the people you encounter, regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, socio-economical, political or religious status or background. Every one is made in the “image of God”, Genesis 1:27, Colossians 3:9-10, James 3:9-10.
1. How much freedom should be given for individuals to practise Islam in South Sudan? Or to practise Christianity in Sudan?
See Sheikh Abdun Moteer comments above.
2. If Sudan denies individuals the human right to convert from Islam to Christianity, should
South Sudan respond by not allowing Christians to convert to Islam?
3. What would you do if you were asked to support the building of a mosque in your home area?
See Bishop Bismark’s dilemma above.
4. How can you try and relate to local Muslims in a way that will encourage non-violent
resolution of any conflicts that may arise?
See point 4 above.
5. Of the ten recommendations given in conclusion, which ones would you give top priority to, and why?