Welcome to South Sudan! Despite decades of unrest, the people of South Sudan extend a culture of hospitality towards outsiders. The Republic of South Sudan is a land of extremes, from high altitude plateaus to rain forest, from the metropolis of Juba to quiet nomadic camps scattered across the grassy savanna. More than 60 separate and indigenous languages are spoken and, since the split from Arabic-speaking north, English is the official language of government and business. Above all, it is a nation of people who are known and loved by Jesus Christ.
SIM Sudan’s vision for the South is, by faith, to see church growth and Sudanese Christians growing towards maturity in Christ. Under the banner of Rebuilding Southern Sudan: Church and Nation, our multicultural team is addressing education, health, and clean water to improve Sudanese lives all within the context of discipleship.SIM Sudan partners with like-minded missions, churches, and organizations as we serve the Lord—sharing our faith through skills, evangelism and church planting, discipleship, theological education, and Bible translation.
SIM’s Partner Church
As of 2005, about 130 SIC churches are organized in South Sudan, with another 25 refugee churches in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Unreached People Groups
Seventy-three people groups inhabit Sudan. Much of the population follows traditional African religion or animism. Islam is present as a minority religion.
History of Christianity
Roman Catholic missionaries began work in Sudan in 1842. Today the Catholic church is the largest church in Sudan. The Anglicans (Church Missionary Society) entered in 1899. From 1916 onward, tens of thousands were converted. Presently the Anglican Church is the second largest church in Sudan. In 1900 the United Presbyterians initiated work in both the north and the south. From their work, the Presbyterian Church in the Sudan emerged in the south, and the Evangelical Church of the Sudan (which was linked with the Egyptian Coptic Evangelical Church) emerged in the north. Sudan United Mission (SUM) opened work early in the 20th century, founding the Sudanese Church of Christ. The Africa Inland Mission entered in 1949, forming the Africa Inland Church.
SIM entered the country in 1937. Work began among the Mabaan, Uduk, Dinka, Jum Jum, and Koma peoples in that order.
With the independence of Sudan from the Anglo-Egyptian condominium rule in 1956, the two distinct communities of northern and southern Sudan were put together as one nation against the wishes of the vast majority of the southern Sudanese, who were never given a choice in the matter. This resulted in successive civil wars between the south and the northern Sudan government soon after independence. These wars destroyed southern Sudan beyond imagination.
In 1964, however, missionaries of all agencies were expelled from the south as the civil war escalated. By 1970, SIM had only five workers in Sudan, all in the north.
After the war ended in 1972-1973, an agreement allowed missionaries to engage again in limited activities in the south. SIM workers returned to the Upper Nile Province in 1978. They helped in relief, primary health care, agricultural and development work.
In 1983, Sudan was declared an Islamic state governed by Sharia (Islamic) law. Southerners “rebelled.” The Muslim government in the north proclaimed a jihad, or holy war, against the south, the home of the majority of Sudanese Christians and African Traditional Religion adherents. In February 1984, due to increasing political disturbances, all SIM ministry in the south was again suspended. The war lasted 21 years and was termed the longest civil war in Africa. The discovery and subsequent sale of oil pumped from areas located in southern Sudan further complicated the resolution of the war.
In 1986, 38 SIM-related churches, known collectively as the Sudan Interior Church (SIC), existed in Sudan. These churches were located among three people groups: the Dinka, with their main centers at Melut and Renk along the White Nile, the Mabaan based at Doro and the Uduk based at Chali, both near the Ethiopian border. An additional 20 developing churches or preaching points were also established. In 1987, however, the civil war spread into the areas in which SIC churches were functioning. As the people fled in every direction, they re-established churches in the towns of the North where they settled temporarily. Some were displaced to the far south of the country where they established churches near the border with Uganda. They crossed as refugees into Kenya where they established one church and into Ethiopia where they now have 14 churches. A good number of SIC churches functioned at that time even though it was difficult to gather statistics or identify locations. Some of these churches were “discovered” only recently.
Between the North and South, including some of the Sudanese refugees in other countries, 255 fully organized SIC churches are in existence. These churches are composed of about 51,000 baptized members with 29 pastors and 39 evangelists.
On January 9, 2005, a historic comprehensive Sudan peace accord was signed between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the government of Sudan designed to end virtually 50 years of bloodshed between the people of the north and the people of the south. The agreement includes wealth sharing, power sharing, political autonomy for South Sudan, and a referendum on independence for and by South Sudan after six years. On January 6, 2011, the people of Southern Sudan, in country and in the Diasporas, voted in a referendum exercise to determine whether South Sudan was to remain part of the larger Sudan or whether it was to secede. Southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly for cessation and on July 9, 2011 became the world’s newest country.
The wars resulted in the deaths of more than two million people, displacement of five million people, and destruction of virtually the entire infrastructure of southern Sudan. Fighting continues in the Western part of the country of Darfur as well as in the transitional states which span the North-South divide. These include Abyei, Southern Khordofan (Nuba Mountains) and Blue Nile states.
The governments of the North and South are yet to resolve the tense issues of border demarcation, nationality of those serving in the military as well as governance of these different areas. There are almost no hospitals or schools in all of southern Sudan, which holds a population of more than 12 million people. Vast areas of fertile lands lie uncultivated. Beautiful towns, villages, schools, hospitals, and churches are in ruins. SIM’s main ministry in South Sudan is participating in rebuilding southern Sudan.