Sudan (MNN) ― Recent fighting in Sudan threatens to unravel efforts at a lasting peace. The flashpoint is the disputed border region of Abyei.
Matt Parker, Vice President of Operations for Kids Alive International, says, "[Abyei] is an area that's disputed. North Sudan feels that it should be part of the North, and the South feels that it should be part of the South. There was supposed to be a referendum there in January, but that was postponed indefinitely."
Parker goes on to explain, "There's been a simmering tension there. It's an area that is rich in oil, but at the same time, a lot of the issues are tribal issues."
A 2005 peace agreement mandated a similar referendum in oil-rich Abyei, but the referendum was never held. The violence is leading to a humanitarian disaster that puts thousands of lives at risk. "A lot of those have moved down into Southern Sudan, so this is putting increasing pressure on an area where already there are so many people flooding in from the North," says Parker. He notes that the influx is uncomfortably stretching infrastructure, food resources and medical care.
There are fears that the violence could spark more trouble. However, South Sudan's leader has said he will not go into civil war over the disputed region of Abyei. Nobody knows what will happen to the southerners living in Khartoum and the surrounding districts once the separation of North and South takes place on July 9.
As the war of words between North and South escalates to fever pitch, Parker says the situation is having a direct impact on their ministry. "Kids Alive has ministries in the North and South of the country. In the North, with so many Southerners leaving the North for the South, we're not quite sure how long we're going to be able to continue working."
The numbers of children in the programs in Khartoum have decreased over the past two months as many families are repatriated to South Sudan, and it is still unclear exactly how many children will remain following the separation. However, their team is committed to the children they help. "We have a desire to be serving the street children that we work with there. There are kids there who urgently need our help, who would be back on the streets if we had to close our doors."
What is clear is that with the latest series of clashes, the Kids Alive staff needs prayer. Parker says, "These sorts of situations give the opportunity to share the love of Christ with the kids that we work with, where there is so much fear, so much tension. It is an opportunity for our staff to share with the kids that despite all that's going on around them, they do have a heavenly Father who loves them and cares for them."
Pray for peace, especially as the separation approaches. Pray for the Kids Alive projects in Sudan and for the safety of the children cared for by their staff. Pray for wisdom for field leadership and staff, as they manage a difficult and uncertain situation, and for their ministry in South Sudan as it prepares to expand and help more children.