Unreached People Group: Nubian Fedicca-Mohas

Introduction

God is a missionary God. From the time that Adam and Even sinned in the garden of Eden, God has constantly been trying to bring humans back into a relationship with him. God has even promised to restore humanity in the Garden through the seed of the woman. Following the garden of Eden, God tasks Israel with the task of spreading his name to the people around them. Despite their failings in this area, God’s nature never changed and after Jesus died, he gave the instructions that have last become known as the Great Commission where he charged his followers to “make disciples of all nations.” This is something the church has done better than past phases in Christianity.

The majority of the world has been reached by Christian missionaries in some way, shape or form, but there are many unreached people groups still remaining. That number is growing smaller by the day. The Joshua project is one of the leading groups focusing on the unreached people groups. They classify people groups as unreached when less than 3% of the population has been reached with the gospel and the message of Christ. Many of the people in these people groups are living in pockets around the world where the gospel has gone around these groups and they remain untouched. In order to effectively witness to these people groups, there needs to be people that are Christians who become part of that group to win people to Christ. By having more Christians from these unreached people groups, we can explore ways to exponentially increase the effectiveness of the witness of Christ. It is through this that we can see exponential growth based on multiplication ministry. By having an understanding of the culture by joining the culture we can most effectively share the gospel with specific people groups.

As the unreached people groups in the world are getting smaller and smaller as Christians have spread the gospel to many parts of the world. As Christians get better at spreading the gospel to these unreached people groups such as the Nubian, Fedicca-Mohas of Sudan the gospel should spread more quickly and effectively. In order to understand how to effectively witness to the Nubian, Fedicca-Mohas of Sudan, we must look at the historical background of their culture and the many intricacies of their missions work in the past. Following the past missions work and their culture, there needs to be a plan on how to best become part of their culture and also evangelize them with the Gospel of Christ the most effectively.

Background Information

In order to understand the Nubian, Fedicca-Mohas of Sudan, it is necessary to have an understanding of the history, language, culture, economy, religion and familial relationships of the people group. This information is crucial to understand because without this background information, it is impossible to develop a strategy for reaching this people group for Christ.

Region

The Nubian, Fedicca-Mohas of Sudan are a people group that lives in the northern region of Sudan. They are alternately called Nubians and Fedicca-Mohas and the names are often used interchangeably to describe this people group. While this isn’t technically correct because there are a few different variants of Nubians and while the Fedicca-Mohas are smaller than their neighboring Dongolawi Nubians. The region of Nubia is considered part of the southern part of Egypt and the northern part of Sudan. The two groups share a region around the Nile and can be distinguished between the two because of the part of Sudan they live in. The Feddica-Mohas live in the northernmost region of Sudan as well as the southernmost part of Egypt. Figure one details the region in which the Feddica-Mohas of Sudan live.

Figure 1:

From the Joshua Project, we see the Nubian, Fedicca-Mohas are about 127,000 in Sudan and 331,000 in Egypt for a total 458,000 in the world. In Sudan, they are 95% Muslim and 5% ethnic religions while in Egypt they are 99% Muslim and less than 1% claim to follow their ethnic religions. It is defined as a Level 1 on the Global Status of Evangelical Christianity, which can be defined as less than 2% evangelical and some evangelical resources available, but no active church planting within past 2 years. In the Sudan, the entire population is primarily Muslim and as a country, they are less than 4% Christian as a country.[1] This was not always the case, and as the history of Nubia is filled with conquest and change.

History of Region

The Nubian region has continually been a region of conflict and change. It was known to routinely be in conflict with its surrounding neighbors, in particular Egypt but most recently with the other parts of Sudan. During the initial spread of Christianity following Christ’s death, Nubia was won toward Christ as part of the initial flourish of Christianity during the time of Rome. In fact, “the Christian Nubian kingdoms, which survived for many centuries, achieved their peak of prosperity and military power in the ninth and tenth centuries. However, Muslim Arab invaders, who in 640 had conquered Egypt, posed a threat to the Christian Nubian kingdoms. Most historians believe that Arab pressure forced Nobatia and Muqurra to merge into the kingdom of Dunqulah sometime before 700. Although the Arabs soon abandoned attempts to reduce Nubia by force, Muslim domination of Egypt often made it difficult to communicate with the Coptic patriarch or to obtain Egyptian-trained clergy. As a result, the Nubian church became isolated from the rest of the Christian world.”[2] Despite this isolation, the Christian Nubians remained strong for a time, and until the thirteenth century, the Nubian kingdoms proved their resilience in maintaining political independence and their commitment to Christianity. In the early eighth century and again in the tenth century, Nubian kings led armies into Egypt to force the release of the imprisoned Coptic patriarch and to relieve fellow Christians suffering persecution under Muslim rulers.”[3]

Eventually though, Islam did take over the entire region and has become the basis for the way of life since. During its time as a colony of Britain and after its dependence, Islam has been the prevailing way of life for the Nubians. Even now, Sudan has a “mixed legal system of Islamic law and English common law.”[4]

Since obtaining freedom, Sudan has been a place filled with conflict. And due to the nature of Islam in the country, “military regimes favoring Islamic-oriented governments have dominated national politics since independence from the UK in 1956. Sudan was embroiled in two prolonged civil wars during most of the remainder of the 20th century. These conflicts were rooted in northern economic, political, and social domination of largely non-Muslim, non-Arab southern Sudanese.”[5] With this conflict, Sudan has seen much turmoil and warfare. It has gotten to the point that since the mid 1990s, Sudan has been the recipient of various international embargoes. These embargoes started in response to the civil wars which caused numerous refugees.

During the start of the civil wars, “in the early 1990s, the Nubians were the second most significant Muslim group in Sudan, their homeland being the Nile River valley in far northern Sudan and southern Egypt. Other, much smaller groups speaking a related language and claiming a link with the Nile Nubians have been given local names, such as the Birqid and the Meidab in Darfur State.”[6] The civil wars have kept the people of Sudan in a state of turmoil, and separatism. The government is still seen as divided and nomadic groups are still common.

To the south of the Fiddica-Mohas, “in the White Nile area, more recently settled by nomadic groups, aspects of nomadic social organization persisted through the condominium era. As among the nomads, leadership went to those who used their wealth generously and judiciously to gain the support of their lineages. In this case, however, wealth often took the form of grain rather than livestock. Most major lineages had such leaders, and those that did not were considered at a disadvantage. In addition to the wealthy, religious leaders (shaykhs) also had influence in these communities, particularly as mediators, in contrast to secular leaders who were often authoritarian.”[7]  However, for the Fidicca-Mohans, their lives have generally been better than their counterparts in Egypt as well as the rest of Sudan. They still survive off the Nile, and while the majority of the economy is built around agriculture, men have migrated to the cities to find work due to the flooding of many of their lands with the building of the Aswan High Dam.[8]

 

Survey of Missions Work

The Nubian, Feddica-Mohans are one of the least evangelized people in the world today. There used to be a thriving Christian population, but “by ca. 1500 AD, the last enclave of Christianity, the Alwa Kingdom, collapsed.”[9] Because of this, the land has generally been inhospitable to Christians, and the land has been overlooked as a general rule. This specific group has actually no current missionaries presently serving these people. The Joshua project does depict the most accurate, and dire picture of missions work to the Nubians. Specific to the Feddica-Mohans, there are no ministries reported, and for all of Nubia, there are “few Christian resources or missions agencies working among them. Most of these tribes have not heard a clear presentation of the Gospel.”[10]

Some reasons it is difficult to reach Nubians with the gospel lies in the current political situation for the country. Due to the constant warfare, there are very strict travel restrictions on those in Sudan. In order to go more than 25 km outside of Khartoum, there are special travel permits necessary, and not only do you have to have the permit, but you have to check in with the local police upon arriving at one’s destination. This is true of whatever purpose your trip to Sudan takes the form of whether it is humanitarian, personal or business. The country is very hostile to Israel and Israeli sympathizers. In fact, the Sudanese government routinely denies visas to travelers whose passports have evidence of having been to Israel. Sudan is not considered friendly to anyone that is not a Muslim.

Since 1983, Sharia law has been in effect in all of Sudan regardless of ones religion. There are many factors of Sharia law that have some very important applications for missionaries in Sudan. Some of the most important things to take away from an understanding of Sharia law as it applies to missionaries are the consequences of people converting away from Islam. Easily the biggest problem is that anyone who converts from Islam to another religion is to be put to death. However, in many situations this same death penalty is applied to the people who led the other person to a conversion.

While the Joshua project does offer some glimmers of hope, a look at recent news headlines for Sudan makes the picture look less optimistic. The Feddica-Mohans are not able to even get a clear picture of the gospel because of intense persecution from the Sudanese government. According to persecution.org, through Morning Star News, that as of February 26, in addition to having deported Christians as fast as possible, the government is now also confiscating Christian Literature. This comes after telling one of the few Christian organizations in Sudan (the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church), the National Intelligence and Security Services was going to search the organization for Christian Literature.[11]

This shows the extreme level of difficulty for having an effective outreach to the Feddica-Mohans. Luckily not all is lost. Despite the intense persecution throughout Sudan, there are still Christian organizations working in the country. But more importantly, God has a heart for all the lost people of the world. This is the most important part of reaching the Nubians. God is powerful enough to bring His Word to all the people of the world despite any persecution. God does warn Christians to expect persecution and will strengthen those who are working for him. However, the persecution does not give Christians an excuse to not share the gospel with those in Sudan. Therefore, we must find ways to fulfill his command to us to tell the world of Christ.

Proposed Strategy

In order to implement a strategy to reach the Nubian, Feddica-Mohans of Sudan, there are three primary groups who each have to have a separate task and role in reaching them with the Gospel. The first group is specific to a missionary who works directly with them. The missionary is the primary tool God will use to teach the Nubians of the Christ. The next group is of a missions organization who by necessity of the situation in Sudan has to be starting a mission to the Nubians. The last group is what every Christian can be part of. It is the group composed of a sending church who sends laborers to work among them, specifically sending the missionaries that work directly with the Nubians as well as who fill the roles of a new missions organization. Biblical principles are necessary, so while there are a couple of specific Biblical principles, which necessitate mention, primarily this section will be devoted to the practical steps which must be taken.

Perspective for a Missionary

The missionary is going to have some of the most difficult situations to face in Sudan. In order to reach the Nubians, there are many legalities they will need to follow to remain in Sudan, and there will always be high risk for anyone who enters the country and is not a Muslim. As a Christian in Sudan, the missionary must be prepared for anything. Before talking about the spiritual aspects of missions work in Sudan, it is first necessary to discuss some basic practical considerations.

Sudan is one of the most violent countries in the world at this point and also has tense relationships with foreign countries. As a foreigner coming into Sudan, the missionary must not only create a reason to enter the country, but also in many aspects must be incognito. They can’t have any entry or exit stamps from Israel in their passport, probably should not declare their religion as Christian on entry papers, and must follow laws for checking in with local magistrates and police while in Sudan so as to be able to stay there. Making sure the missionary is current on all laws is going to be paramount. Having followed all the laws possible to gain entry into Sudan it will be necessary to be a tentmaker following the example of Paul is highly beneficial. As a tentmaker, we must remember “working was not a ‘necessary evil’ for Paul, or a ‘cover,’ but rather was an essential part of his missionary strategy.”[12] Truly being a tentmaker is important in Sudan for several reasons. First, as a tentmaker, it must be known that you are supporting yourself through whatever the business is. This is important not only for providing food, but also because “foreigners are often viewed as potential spies or subversives and in country already hostile to Christian Missionaries, there is little preventing such companies from being expelled from the country.”[13] With this in mind, it is necessary to keep in mind the current religion of not only the Nubians but also all of Sudan.

Since the predominant religion is Islam, it is necessary to keep in mind several aspects of Islamic society, which will impact any missions. In consideration of the society in which the Nubians live, we must have grace due to the extreme persecution they will face as they convert from Islam to Christianity. As a convert from Islam, it must be realized they will eventually face persecution (possibly even death) as they seek to follow Christ, but that does not mean a Muslim who converts should remain a Muslim in disguise. Phil Parshall  does a great job describing how a new convert may be able to wisely leave Islam whereby they use “a transitional period wherein the new believer, while maturing in his adopted faith, slowly pulls back from mosque attendance. Too sudden of a departure may spark intense antagonism and subsequent alienation.”[14] This is where it is necessary to be sensitive to the cultural needs of the Nubians because if a new convert faces intense persecution for converting to Christianity as should be expected in the culture, there can be a tendency to potentially revert back to Islam or just run from the persecution. While running from the persecution can be good, it does not help with enabling a church plant, even if it is just a small meeting in the home of the missionary. This leads into the next important aspect for the life of the missionary: the Church.

For the missionary to the Nubians, it is important to realize the standard concept of a church may not be what we originally think of it as. Especially when coming from a western background, it is commonly thought the church needs to have a building and is centered around a place. However, while part of this is true for the Nubians, there are several aspects where it will be necessary to remember the church “is, first of all, Christ’s church, both locally and as part of his universal body. He has promised to build it, and he is its leader.”[15] This will be important because as a missionary in Sudan to these people, the missionary is the start of the Church body. There will be few if any other Christians to meet with and gain encouragement from. Truly, the missionary must realize that while they are a missionary here, they are also a church planter in the same manner the first Christians were who went to a new people, where there wasn’t any type of understanding of Christ.

The last main point of consideration for the missionary is simply the sacrifice it is going to take. For a missionary to the Nubians, for it to be a truly effective ministry to the Nubians, the missionary must be able to devote their whole life to the Nubians. There is a high likelihood of facing much persecution and even death while ministering in Sudan. This is why the missionary to the Nubians needs to understand the commitment needs to be a lifelong commitment with Jesus at the center of everything. This task of evangelizing the Nubians, needs to be done by someone with a lifelong commitment because without that, the country of Sudan will essentially squelch any inroads made over the short term due to persecution. Therefore, by having someone that is able to set up a church plant and start discipling the Feddica-Mohans, there can be true progress made for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Perspective for a Missions Organization

While the previous focus was on the individual missionary, without the support of a church or missions organization, the evangelism of the Nubians is likely to fail. While a missions organization will initially have very little impact in Sudan itself, there are many things that can be done regardless of the hostilities the Sudanese hold against Christians and non-Muslims in general. The first thing to be done before anything else is simply to pray. Prayer is the most effective tool God gave Christians for anything. This spiritual endeavor must be coupled with practical endeavors though so a missions organization can bear fruit.

The first practical principle is simply to partner with missionaries currently serving in the country on a long term basis. When this is done, and no strings are held to limit the missionary, both the missionary and the missions organization can grow and participate in an effective ministry for the spreading of the gospel. However, getting supplies and other resources to the missionary can be difficult in Sudan under the best circumstances, and this is where the political makeup of Sudan will play a large part in the role a missions organization can take.

Due to the nature of Sudan’s political climate, a missions organization will have a hard time if they don’t bring something to the table besides Christ just to get into the country. Christ is the most important thing a missions organization can bring, but in order to be allowed into the country, the organization must bring other supplies to the country. While there is always the chance the Sudanese government will confiscate any Christian literature the organization brings in, there is much that can still be done for Nubians. To be effective in reaching the Feddica-Mohans, the missions organization ought to focus on the ministry of reconciliation. This can be a very effective tool due to the constant warfare in Sudan as well as the recent split into North and South. “As the church of Jesus Christ, our goal, of course, has always been to see people reconciled to God through the gospel.”[16] This ought to be the focus of what the missions organization does. Through attempting to first reconcile people to God and then to each other there will be more doors that are opened to them in Sudan. While in the process of providing relief to those wreaked by years of war, a missions organization can intercede and attempt to create a situation of peace. One missionary could describe ministry to a country similar to the situation in Sudan (the Maori tribes of New Zealand) where there was constant warfare and the “young followers of Jesus constantly risked their lives to avert intertribal conflict, often placing their bodies between war parties bent on Utu (revenge killing). It was the ministry of reconciliation which gave credibility to the gospel more than anything else.”[17] This focus on reconciliation and being a peacemaker will be essential for a missions organization to be effective.

Perspective for a Sending Church

The last organization that needs to be present in ministry to the Nubian, Feddica-Mohans is the church who sends the missionaries serving the people. While local church planters in Sudan are the best way to go, they need supplies, partnership, spiritual refreshing, and most importantly prayer so the missionaries can do what is necessary. In order for a church from another part of the world to be helpful the missionaries serving the Nubians, there are several things to be done. First, while the church may not have the same ability to get supplies and materials to the Nubians, it is best to keep in mind that material support is not the most important thing to be doing for the missionary. First and foremost must be a commitment to the missionary through prayer and continual support. The church needs to set aside time to not only have the entire congregation praying for the Feddica-Mohas, but if possible having a time where a small team can come together solely for the purpose of prayer for the missionary they have sent. Both of these can be coupled with missions updates for the congregation.

Another basic thing is simply to attempt to keep up the spirits and encourage the missionary through simple things such as letters from the congregation as well as from the leadership of the church. This can be coupled with care packages so as to encourage the missionary as well as help promote the gospel.

Conclusion

Ultimately the Nubian, Feddica-Mohas of Sudan are going to be one of the hardest people groups to reach. Due to the past history of Christianity having been overwhelmed and the current political climate where Christians are not welcomed in the country, this people group will be hard to reach no matter how one goes about it, but by having a missionary become part of the culture and join the people, a local church plant car arise and through the work of God create a movement of Christians of Nubia sharing the gospel with their neighbors and possibly even bringing peace to Sudan. This will not be an easy task, and cannot be done idly as it will take the full commitment, up to and potentially including the life of the missionaries. However the task is worth the challenge and if the souls of the Nubians are saved, it will be worth the any sacrifice necessary to achieve that aim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. Africa: Sudan. Cia.gov. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/su.html (accessed March 8, 2013).

Hassan, Fekri A. The Aswan High Dam and the International Rescue Nubia Campaign. The African Archaeological Review , Vol. 24, No. 3/4 (September/December 2007), pp. 73-94. Published by: Springer. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40743449

Joshua Project. Nubian, Feddica-Mohas of Sudan. Joshuaproject.net. http://joshuaproject.net/people-profile.php?peo3=18895&rog3=SU (accessed March 7, 2013).

Library of Congress. A Country Study: Sudan. Loc.gov. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sdtoc.html (accessed March 8, 2013).

Moreau, Scott A. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical survey. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 2004. 222.

Persecution International Christian Concern. Sudan’s Campaign To Wipe Out Christianity. Persecution.org http://www.persecution.org/2013/02/26/sudans-campaign-to-wipe-out-christianity/ (accessed March 8, 2013).

Winters, Ralph. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (Pasadena: William Carey Library. 2009) 626.


[1] Joshua Project. Nubian, Feddica-Mohas of Sudan. Joshuaproject.net. http://joshuaproject.net/people-profile.php?peo3=18895&rog3=SU (accessed March 7, 2013).

[2] Library of Congress. A Country Study: Sudan. Loc.gov. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sdtoc.html (accessed March 8, 2013).

[3]Library of Congress. A Country Study: Sudan. Loc.gov. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sdtoc.html (accessed March 8, 2013).

[4] Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. Africa: Sudan. Cia.gov. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/su.html (accessed March 8, 2013).

[5] Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. Africa: Sudan. Cia.gov. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/su.html (accessed March 8, 2013).

[6] Library of Congress. A Country Study: Sudan. Loc.gov. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sdtoc.html (accessed March 8, 2013).

[7] Library of Congress. A Country Study: Sudan. Loc.gov. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sdtoc.html (accessed March 8, 2013).

[8] Joshua Project. Nubian, Feddica-Mohas of Sudan. Joshuaproject.net. http://joshuaproject.net/people-profile.php?peo3=18895&rog3=SU (accessed March 7, 2013).

[9] Hassan, Fekri A. The Aswan High Dam and the International Rescue Nubia Campaign. The African Archaeological Review , Vol. 24, No. 3/4 (September/December 2007), pp. 73-94. Published by: Springer. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40743449

[10] Joshua Project. Nubian, Feddica-Mohas of Sudan. Joshuaproject.net. http://joshuaproject.net/people-profile.php?peo3=18895&rog3=SU (accessed March 7, 2013).

[11] Persecution International Christian Concern. Sudan’s Campaign To Wipe Out Christianity. Persecution.org http://www.persecution.org/2013/02/26/sudans-campaign-to-wipe-out-christianity/ (accessed March 8, 2013).

[12] Winter, Ralph. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (Pasadena: William Carey Library. 2009) 761

[13] Winter, Ralph. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (Pasadena: William Carey Library. 2009) 762

[14] Winters, Ralph. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (Pasadena: William Carey Library. 2009) 664.

[15] Moreau, Scott A. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical survey. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 2004. 222.

[16] Winters, Ralph. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (Pasadena: William Carey Library. 2009) 623.

[17] Winters, Ralph. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (Pasadena: William Carey Library. 2009) 626.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s