Introduction / History The first "pure" Arabs were called "Bedouins." They were tribal nomads, famous for their love of poetry and war. The Sudanese are a tribe that branched off of the Bedouins. They are a heterogeneous people with a mixture of diverse blood and cultures. The Sudanese Arabs originated in the Khartoum region of Sudan many centuries ago. Today, they live primarily in northern and central Sudan and in Egypt, though some have migrated to what is now South Sudan. A few groups are also scattered in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Libya, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates.
Since 1983, conflict in Sudan between the predominately Arab north and southern animist and Christian regions 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, devastated the area. It is estimated that over 70,000 have lost their lives due to hunger and disease alone.
In 2011, Sudan split into two countries, the northern part is Arab-dominated, and the southern part is mainly African. As you could imagine, the Arabs who remain in what is now South Sudan are not popular with the African population.
What are their lives like? Over the years, many "Arabs" in South Sudan 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 and South Sudan.
Some 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.
Other 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.
A large number of Sudanese Arabs have continued living the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors. They have temporary dwellings and move from place to place with their herds. Their economy is based on livestock production and trade. Nomadic Arabs in South Sudan have trouble finding adequate water for their livestock or medical care when they need it. Local people are rightfully afraid that the livestock of these nomadic Arabs will spread diseases to their herds.
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.
What are their beliefs? The Sudanese Arabs are Sunni 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.
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 in the Koran.
What are their needs? The Sudanese Arabs in South Sudan live in a country engulfed by tension, terror, and war. Even more than the physical provisions that are so badly needed in South Sudan, the Arabs need to hear about the saving power of Jesus. They have some Christian resources available to them, but churches are often closed or destroyed by the constant fighting. Converts from the Muslim faith are not well-accepted and viewed with suspicion by church members in South Sudan.
Prayer Points * Ask God to bring natural and spiritual peace to this needy country.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect church planters, especially female workers.
* Pray for appropriate Christian materials to be provided for Arabs in South Sudan.
* 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 of Arabs in South Sudan through adequate discipleship.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint Christian broadcasts as they are aired among Sudanese Arabs.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Sudanese Arabs for the glory of His name!