Clutching a Bible in one hand and a walking stick in the other, Pastor Stephen Lenku Tipatet traverses the plains of Kajiado County, fighting female circumcision and propounding on the Christian gospel.
The region is the homeland of the Maasai, an indigenous community in Southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The community has resisted modernity and Western influences, and clings to their traditional way of life, including the practice of female genital mutilation, or FGM.
Sudanese Christians and human rights groups are urging the government to produce two clerics, whose location has been unknown since their arrest in December. Hassan Kodi, 49, secretary general of the Sudanese Church of Christ, and another pastor, Telal Ngosi, 44, were detained after attending a Christian conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in October. The two represented the Sudanese Church of Christ at a meeting to discuss the plight of Christians in Sudan and South Sudan.
After international outcry, two South Sudanese Presbyterian Evangelical Church pastors who faced a possible death sentence in Sudan have been set free after a court hearing Aug. 5.
The Rev. Michael Yat and the Rev. Peter Reith were on trial in Khartoum on criminal charges of undermining the constitutional system, espionage, promoting hatred among sects, breach of public peace, and offenses relating to insulting religious beliefs. The first two charges are punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment.
There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about the situation in South Sudan. But as I saw on my trip, there are also reasons to be hopeful. Working for a faith-based organization provides many opportunities for me to not only reflect on my faith but also put it in to action in my day-to-day work. While I grew up outside of a specific congregation, my parents instilled in me from an early age the importance of helping those in need, no matter their race, religion, or any other difference because we are all equal in the eyes of God. It’s this idea, paired with my love of learning about cultures, which put me on this path of working for an organization like Lutheran World Relief. I feel blessed because I wake up every day excited to go to work. While there are many daunting challenges in the relief field, I chose to see the good when possible because if you look closely, hope is there in even in the darkest of places.
Here are a few inspiring highlights from what I witnessed in South Sudan.
Sudanese authorities have detained 10 Christian students on a charge of indecent dressing, a criminal offense, after they wore miniskirts and trousers to church.
The young women were arrested last month in front of the Evangelical Baptist Church in the war-torn Nuba Mountains region in South Kordofan.
The girls, ages 17 to 23, had attended a ceremony at the church.
Police charged 12 women under Sudan’s 1991 Criminal Act, but two were released. The rest are to appear in court in coming days. If convicted, each will face 40 lashes.
The Rev. Michael Yat and the Rev. Peter Yein Reith, both from the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, have been charged with undermining the constitutional system and spying, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment.
The clerics are charged with waging a war against the state and assault on religious belief.
Two new movies that aim to attract a faith-based crowd join a glut of biblical films for 2014, testing the limits of Hollywood’s appetite for religion.
The two films, “The Good Lie” and “Left Behind,” both opening Oct. 3, reflect two different filmmaking strategies: One is geared for a wider audience that could attract Christians, while the other produces a movie clearly made for the Christian base.
With a number of films targeting a faith audience this year, it’s unclear whether Hollywood is oversaturating the market with faith-based films — a revolutionary idea 10 years after Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” shocked the industry by raking in $611.9 million worldwide.
“The Good Lie,” starring Reese Witherspoon helping four young “Lost Boys” from Sudan adjust to life in the U.S., has underlying faith themes. The refugees rely on their faith as they try to leave homeland strife behind, and Witherspoon’s character works closely with a faith-based agency to place refugees with families.
As the Washington, D.C., premiere of Warner Bros.’ new movie, The Good Lie, came to a close, I could barely see the credits through my tears, but the noise of the crowd around me erupting into cheers and the standing ovation was impossible to miss. This film really touched me. I knew I had to write about it.
The Good Lie is the story of some of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan — orphans of war, who walked hundreds of miles fleeing violence, only to spend a decade in a refugee camp before finally being resettled in America. But the film is much more than that. It is a story about the power of faith and regular people who do incredible things because there is no one else who can. It is the story of immigrants — a funny and heartbreaking insight into what it is like to be a stranger in America. And it's a story and performance made all the more real because the Sudanese characters are played by actors who were child refugees and child soldiers themselves.
It stars Reese Witherspoon, whose character and role encapsulate so much of why this movie works. She's the headline draw for Warner Bros., but the movie is not about her. She helps the Lost Boys, but as is so often the case when we respond to God's call to care for our neighbor, they probably help her more. No one saves the day in this movie, but they all help save each other.
Pope Francis met Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman spared a death sentence for apostasy in Sudan, at the Vatican on Thursday after she was flown to Rome by the Italian government following a vigorous international campaign to free her.
Ibrahim, 27, was accompanied by her husband Daniel Wani and two young children when she met Francis for nearly half an hour at his Santa Marta residence.
The audience was arranged only hours after she disembarked at Rome’s Ciampino Airport with her family on an official Italian aircraft. She was smiling as she carried baby Maya, who was born just two months ago as Ibrahim was shackled in prison.
The pope thanked her for her courage and loyalty to her Christian faith despite facing threats of execution in an ordeal that lasted nearly a year.
The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis wanted Thursday’s meeting to be a “gesture of support for all those who suffer for their faith, or living in situations of difficulty or restraint.”
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag, a Sudanese Christian woman, was sentenced to be flogged for adultery and to be hanged to death for apostasy because she married a Christian man. Ibrahim, 27, is eight months pregnant and currently in detention with her 20-month-old son, according to Fredrick Nzwili of Religion News Service.
United States' National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden released this statement in response to the sentancing.
We strongly condemn this sentence and urge the Government of Sudan to meet its obligations under international human rights law. We call on the Government of Sudan to respect Ms. Ishag’s right to freedom of religion, a universal human right enshrined in Sudan’s own 2005 Constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Since 1999, Sudan has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern for its ongoing, egregious, and systematic violations of religious freedom. We continue to urge Sudan to fulfill its constitutional promise of religious freedom, and to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of all its people.
Sudanese Christians have condemned the sentencing of a Christian woman to death by hanging after she married a Christian man.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, refused to recant her Christian faith as ordered by the court.
A doctor who is eight months pregnant and currently in detention with her 20-month-old son, Ibrahim was charged with adultery last year. Recently, the court added an apostasy charge when she declared her Christian faith in court.
“This is very disturbing,” said Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum.
Americans were introduced to Sudan and what is now South Sudan by immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees like the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, who sought protection from a brutal dictatorship in Khartoum. Sudanese turned to the U.S. for a better life not only for themselves but in order to support their family and friends back home, and to advocate for help in stopping genocide, mass atrocities, and human rights abuses committed by an oppressive regime. Many Sudanese captured our hearts not only because of their fight for freedom and their bravery in enduring terrible suffering, but because of their resolve to access the educational and employment opportunities available in the U.S. to prepare themselves to return and help rebuild a country destroyed by decades of state-sponsored violence.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes for CNN on his hopes for peace in Sudan and South Sudan:
"My fellow Elders Martti Ahtisaari, Mary Robinson and I are going there to try to ensure that the terrible lessons of war are not forgotten - and to share our hope that these two beautiful countries can find a path to peace. We will relay the world's fears of another deadly conflict that would shatter the hopes of both nations and the broader region. And we will tell the leaders that, while it will take time and patience, we believe - as a result of our own experience - that peace can be achieved.
One of our main reasons for going to Sudan and South Sudan now is the humanitarian situation, which must be addressed as a matter of urgency. We are already witnessing an unbearable catastrophe with the fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan in Sudan, and the ensuing outpouring of refugees into South Sudan and Ethiopia."
Read the full article here
From the BBC:
Learn more about the situation in Sudan and South Sudan here
George Clooney and others were arrested on the steps of the Sudanese embassy last week to call attention to the violence in South Sudan. The actor-activist, along with Jon Prendergast, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations committee and conducted a series of media interviews to explain the situation in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation.
I applaud Clooney for using his star power to shine a light on the violence in South Sudan. Now that we see the problem the question for us is: what does this situation require of me personally?
Similarly, when we watch the Kony 2012 video that, for all of its flaws, informs people about the crimes against humanity of Joseph Kony and the efforts to bring him to justice, the same question arises.
The world is full to the brim with tragedy. We see the violence in Syria, people protesting their government are killed by their own government. We see world leaders who cannot come to consensus about the right thing to do.
What action will at once end the violence, protect the people, and depose an illegitimate government while not increasing violence in a complicated and volatile region of the world?
George Clooney has been making the morning-show rounds today, bringing to light the humanitarian crisis happening in Sudan. On a recent trip to Sudan's Nuba Mountains, Clooney witnessed rocket attacks against the Nuban people and the effects of the ongoing violence.
WARNING: This video contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of spending some time at the End Genocide Action Summit, which brought people from all over the world to Washington, D.C., to learn about and fight against genocide, particularly the ongoing genocide being waged by Omar al-Bashir against the people of Darfur, Sudan.
I have gotten so used to stories of violence in the news every morning that I confess they don't move me as much as they should, or used to. Today: Three straight days of killing in Karachi with 42 dead; Syrian tanks shelling the city of Hama, where more than 100 people have died since Sunday; U.N. peacekeepers killed by a landmine in Sudan; daily deaths in Libya; bombings in Baghdad and assassinations in Kandahar. It goes on and on.