Brown is the colour of Khartoum. There’s some red around, but basically it’s brown! The scorching sun bleaches the colour out of most things, and dust manages to get onto and into almost everything. The sky, however, is almost always blue. Khartoum is the second largest city in Muslim Africa. The city is not built up like most modern cities, but comprises largely simple, mud-brick, one-storied houses stretching for miles in all directions. There are some exceptions of course, including “Gaddafi’s Egg”, the nickname of the 5 star hotel Libya built (pictured here).
The name Khartoum means “Elephant’s trunk”. It is situated around the junction of the White Nile and the Blue Nile, which resembles the trunk of an elephant. The city is divided into three parts by the rivers. Khartoum in the south contains the main government and business offices. West of the river, Omdurman maintains its traditional Islamic character with narrow streets and large souks (markets). Khartoum North (Bahri) was originally developed as an industrial area, but, like the rest of the city, continues to grow with more and more houses.
Life in Khartoum, Sudan
Sudan has huge cultural diversity, with over 240 ethnic groups making up a population of 33 million. Khartoum accommodates 12 million of these people, two million of whom are displaced (refugees) from the Nuba Mountains and southern Sudan. Over the past 15 years these people have fled from the war in the south. Most live in refugee areas around the edge of city. Life in these areas is hard; many people have no job, though others manage to find work as house servants, guards or labourers in the city (if they can find adequate transport).
International organizations have worked tirelessly to promote basic services such as food relief, water, sanitation, health and education in these displacement areas. Government services such as electricity and roads are now appearing. Life is tough, but for some there is the hope of a better life through education and jobs. Others dream of going back to the green south.
The War of Khartoum, Sudan
The war in the south was a reaction to the government seeking to impose Islamic sharia law. Ironically, the result has been to bring Christians by the thousands to a once Islamic city. In 1997 there were officially 171 churches in Khartoum, now there are many more. Despite the war, the poverty and the cultural differences, Khartoum is a remarkably peaceful city where God is at work spreading the Good News of salvation and reconciling people to Himself and to one another.
The Future of Khartoum
After the signing of the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLA), the Government of Sudan has begun a massive development project. Khartoum has a thriving economy. In the last few years Khartoum has seen significant development, driven by Sudan’s oil wealth. However, the threat of war also looms on the horizon. As late as May 2008 the Darfur rebel group of the Justice and Equality Movement moved into the city where they engaged in heavy fighting with Sudanese government forces. Their soldiers included minors and their goal was the toppling of Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s government, though the Sudanese government succeeded in beating back the assault.
Now that South Sudan has officially broken away and become its own country, many are concerned that war will again break out. There are deep and bitter sentiments between south and north Sudan. Tribal clashes, poverty, political problems and of course the “Christian / Islam” issues threaten the very fragile peace which Khartoum enjoys today. Many Christians in Khartoum believe that God will have to intervene for Khartoum’s future to remain bright.
Pray for the Muslims in Khartoum, Sudan:
* Pray that the leaders of Sudan will have vision and determination to promote peace and justice (including freedom of thought and expression for all cultural groups in Sudan).
* Pray for leaders who will champion and insist on a sustainable peace agreement so that the two million displaced people around Khartoum may have the opportunity to return to develop their homelands in the south.
* Pray that the Muslim majority may have many opportunities to see and hear the Gospel.
* Pray for the calling and equipping of Khartoum’s Christian leaders, who can start, nurture and multiply many small indigenous fellowships.