Introduction / History One of the most striking characteristics of Sudan is the diversity of its people. The Sudanese are divided into a large number of people groups, speaking more than 100 different languages and dialects. The Rufaa of Sudan are one of the many "Arabized" groups living in the northern part of the country. Although it is known that they speak a language called Sudani, the location, culture, and history of the Rufaa are not known. Further investigation is an essential prerequisite before any missions work can begin among this people group.
Sudan's leaders proudly boast that they are the leaders of the Islamic revolution in Africa. The Arab minority have used this as a tool to strengthen both their personal control of the economy and their political power. The tragic cost of this has been more than a million people killed, an economy devastated, and a country divided.
What are their lives like? Those Sudanese who consider themselves Arab are generally racially mixed, and many are indistinguishable from blacks living in southern Sudan. Despite a common language and religion, the Arabs are not a unified group. They differ greatly in occupation and way of life and are composed of city dwellers, village farmers, and nomadic herdsmen. Arabs have historically been divided into tribes based on presumed descent from a common ancestor. Each tribe (or cluster of tribes) is assigned to a larger tribal grouping, with the two largest being the Jaaliyin and the Juhaynah. Today, this system has largely disappeared in the cities and villages and exists only among the nomads of the plains.
Little is known about the specific lifestyle and culture of the Rufaa; thus, some assumptions have been made in this profile based on other groups that live in this region. About two-thirds of Sudan's population is engaged in subsistence farming or grazing, but only about five percent of the land is arable. Many farmers live in the southern part of the country or in the grasslands of central and western Sudan. Sorghum and millet are the main crops grown there, but wheat, corn, and barley are also raised. As a whole, the main crops grown in Sudan are cotton, peanuts, sesame, gum arabic, durra (a type of sorghum), sugarcane, coffee, and dates.
Since water is scarce, rural communities in Sudan are usually clustered near sources of water. The types of houses built vary from north to south. In the north, villages are often strung out along the rivers, and houses are made of sun-dried bricks and have flat-topped roofs. In central and southern Sudan, there are round huts with thatched, cone-shaped roofs made of grass, millet stalks, and wooden poles. In central Sudan, walls made of millet stalks often surround compounds.
Though towns are few and widely scattered, only about a fifth of Sudan's population can be considered urban. Southern Sudan was the least urbanized region in 1956 but has since seen much urban growth.
What are their beliefs? A major rift exists between the northern and southern peoples of Sudan. The north is dominated by Muslims, most of whom speak Arabic and identify themselves as Arabs. The people of the south are primarily Africans (blacks), who for the most part follow traditional African religions. Also, some Christians can be found in the south.
The Rufaa are almost exclusively Sunni Muslim. Sunni Islam in Sudan, as in much of the rest of Africa, has been characterized by the formation of tariqas, or Muslim religious brotherhoods. The oldest of these tariqas is the Qadiriyah, which was introduced to Sudan from the Middle East in the 1500s. Another major tariqa is the Khatmiyah, or Mirghaniyah, founded in the early 1800s.
What are their needs? The Rufaa have some Christian resources available to them. More information, fervent intercession, and pioneer missions efforts are all required to win the Rufaa to Christ.
Prayer Points Ask the Lord to open the doors of Sudan to the preaching of the Gospel.
Pray that many of the Rufaa will hear and respond to Christian radio programs being broadcast in their area.
Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Rufaa who will proclaim the Gospel to their own people.
Pray that God will strengthen, embolden, and protect the few Rufaa believers.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Rufaa.