A Christian pastor in Sudan has said that despite the escalating severe persecution in the Islamic-majority country, including the killing and jailing of church leaders, the faith is "still alive" and strong there.
"I want to say, as a ministry in Sudan, we want people to know that in spite of the situations that we are going through, that Christianity and the Church in Sudan I think is still strong. What has happened has astonished us," one Baptist pastor identified only as James said in a Mission Network News article on Friday.
"But the simple Christians or simple Church or simple people who believe that God is involved in this situation, they encourage us and give us the hope that Christianity will not finish in Sudan," he added.
"We continue and I want people to know that Christianity in Sudan is still alive."
MNN noted that pastors have been killed, suffered imprisonment, or forced to flee the country over the years, causing a depleting pool of clergy.
"Some foreigners were deported from Khartoum. And pastors from South Sudan, they went to South Sudan. Those who remain in Sudan are few. The pastors who shared the Bible and teach the Bible, they are few," James added.
Just recently authorities arrested five pastors from the Sudanese Church of Christ in an attempt to gain control over the ministry, as International Christian Concern reported.
"It is very disturbing to see the government that we obey, pray for, and pay taxes to harass members of the society just because they belong to a different faith," Rev. Ayoub Tiliyan, chairman of the SCOC, said in October.
"This has become the norm over the years, with threats heightening in the past three years. Several churches have been demolished, pastors arrested, and evangelists warned against preaching the Gospel to Muslims."
Evangelical leaders in America have also spoken out against the plight of Christians in the African country.
The Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse relief organization, and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, of which Russell Moore is president, were among several notable groups who in June signed a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking out against the treatment of believers.
The groups noted that government officials have been destroying churches and restricting freedom of worship all over Sudan.
"There is no possibility of the demolished churches being replaced since in July 2014, Sudan's Minister for Religious Guidance and Endowments announced that the government would no longer issue permits for the building of new churches, stating that existing churches were sufficient for the Christian population living in Sudan following the secession of South Sudan in 2011," the groups pointed out at the time.
James said that the government's agenda is to make Sudan a one-religion nation under Islam, and said that big challenges await pastors such as himself who refuse to back down from preaching the Gospel.
"Those who face the persecution are the pastors who are active — those who have relationships with missionaries or organizations, they're able to go out and travel here and there and have activities inside as preaching — they're the ones who face the persecution," James said, adding: "I'm in the Church, I serve the Church, I do my duty."
The pastor urged Christians around to world not to forget and to pray for the believers in Sudan, asking God to strengthen and encourage them. He also called for prayers for unbelievers in the country to turn to Jesus.