Introduction / History Sudanese Arabs originated in the Khartoum region of Sudan many centuries ago. Today, they live primarily in northern and central Sudan and in Egypt. A few groups are also scattered in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Libya, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates.
The first "pure" Arabs were called "Bedouins." They were tribal nomads from Saudi Arabia, famous for their love of poetry and war. The Sudanese are a tribe who branched off of the Bedouins. They are a heterogeneous people with a mixture of diverse blood and cultures.
Since 1983, conflict between the predominately north Arab and southern animist and Christian regions of the Sudan has accounted for more than two million deaths. Also tragic are the recent atrocities to non-Arab African groups on the Western Sudan/Chad border in the region of Darfur. Killings, mass rapes, looting of livestock and burning of villages by the Arab militia, Janjaweed, have devastated the area. It is estimated that over 70,000 have lost their lives due to hunger and disease alone.
What are their lives like? Over the years, many "Arabs" have emerged by either assimilating into Arab culture, religion, and language, or by intermarrying with groups in their areas. The Sudanese Arabs have intermarried with the African tribes of Sudan.
Most Sudanese Arabs live in small rural villages. They grow grains, vegetables, and cotton, and raise livestock, all of which are used for food or trade. Clusters of mud-brick homes with dirt floors make up the villages. The homes are built close together, which reflects the close ties between the family members within the communities. Although farming is the chief occupation of the villagers, some of them have jobs as skilled carpenters, tailors, religious leaders, or barbers.
Some Sudanese Arabs live in towns or cities. They have a greater variety of occupations, but weaker family ties than those who live in the villages. These Arabs have more concern for such things as economic prosperity and education. Today, many of them work in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, attend universities in neighboring countries, or use trucks instead of camels.
Other Sudanese Arabs have continued living the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors. They have temporary dwellings and move from place to place with their herds. Camels are used to transport them across desert lands, and their economy is based primarily on livestock production and trade. Rigid codes of honor, loyalty, hostility, and hospitality are among those values that have remained strong throughout the centuries.
In the Arab culture, children are considered to be a family's greatest asset, providing both workers and security for the parents as they grow older. Although boys and girls may be raised together when they are young, they are treated differently. Mothers show great affection towards the boys, pampering them and responding to their every wish. Girls are shown some affection, but are not pampered. The boys are taught by their fathers to obey and respect older males. Girls are taught the values of obedience to their future husbands. Teenagers are not permitted to have any contact with the opposite sex until after marriage.
What are their beliefs? The Sudanese Arabs are Muslims, as are most Arabs. Identification with the Islamic religion is one of the primary cultural characteristics of most Arabs. They are devoted to their faith, and this is evident in their daily life.
While the men gather in the local mosque five times a day for prayer, women meet in homes and have their own religious services, conducted by female religious leaders. Only on certain occasions are the women permitted inside the mosques.
According to Islamic law, a man may have up to four wives. Rules concerning marriage and divorce are held in accordance to what is written in the Koran. Regulations regarding inheritance, taxation, wartime, submission to those in authority, and the roles of family members can also be found there.
What are their needs? Sudanese Arabs live in a country engulfed by tension, terror, and war. Even more than the physical provisions that are so badly needed in the Sudan, Sudanese Arabs need to hear about the saving love of Jesus. They have some Christian resources available to them. But churches are often closed, destroyed, or not allowed to be built. Converts from the Muslim faith are not well accepted. They will need courage and grace to withstand persecution from their Islamic relatives.
Prayer Points * Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect church planters, especially the women workers.
* Pray for additional Bibles and Christian literature to be provided and placed.
* Ask God to bring natural and spiritual peace to this needy country.
* Ask the Lord to call out prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that God will raise up long term workers to join those who have already responded.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will complete the work begun in their hearts through adequate discipleship.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint Christian broadcasts as they are aired among the Sudanese Arabs.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Sudanese Arabs for the glory of His name!