(Photo: REUTERS/Adriane Ohanesian)
Evangelist Franklin Graham has agreed to hold an evangelistic event in South Sudan next month, answering a plea from churches in the violence-ridden region who believe that their only hope for their new country is a spiritual revival.
"The churches in South Sudan have asked that we come and hold an evangelistic Crusade so that people will hear the 'hope of the gospel' (Colossians 1:23)," wrote Graham last week in a statement from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "They know this is the only message that can change lives for eternity and shape the course of their country's future."
South Sudan declared independence a little more than a year ago. Its capital, Juba, sits along the banks of the Nile River. Last May, the government of Sudan, a mostly-Muslim East African nation, began airlifting thousands of people to the mostly-Christian South Sudan, after all ethnic Southerners were dismissed from Sudan's civil service following the country's secession last year.
With increased violence in the region, the countries appear to be on the brink of a full scale war, according to Graham.
"In Acts chapter 8, verse 1, the Bible tells us, 'At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria' (NKJV)," Graham wrote. "Today, 2,000 years later, the church is still under attack. Christians are still being scattered. In Iraq, Syria, Egypt – especially in the Islamic world – Christians are suffering and being forced to flee their homes."
In recent years, there is no place where the persecution has been greater than in Sudan, where 2 million people have been murdered over the last 20 years, he said. "Churches have been burned; pastors have been nailed to trees and their wives and daughters raped in front of their eyes by the soldiers of the Islamic Republic of Sudan. Thousands of refugees have fled across the border into South Sudan, many barely escaping with their lives," he described.
In his online letter with the heading, "We Can't Say No," Graham announced that the evangelistic crusade in South Sudan will be Oct. 26-27.
"We're calling this Crusade 'Hope for a New Nation.' This wasn't something we had in our budget, but God had it in His plans. Yes, it will be hot and dusty, and the mosquitoes carry malaria – but what a privilege to stand with these pastors who have been persecuted so many years and to preach Jesus Christ, the Son of God, dead, buried, and risen to life," he wrote.
"In Acts 5:19–20 the Bible gives us the account of Peter and the apostles being thrown in jail for preaching. They were under severe persecution. During the night, an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and set them free. Then immediately the angel gave them this command: 'Go, stand and speak to the people ... the whole message of this Life.' (NASB). That's the same message these churches in Sudan want as many people as possible to hear."
On the Web: http://www.billygraham.org