Sudan's ignored atrocities
Geoff Metcalf interviews Peter Hammond on world's longest war

Editor's note: Barely a blip on the radar screen of America's mainstream media, the persecution of Christian blacks in south Sudan by the Muslim government continues to worsen. The war in Africa's largest nation has raged for over 45 years, yet many in the West have little knowledge of Sudan's genocide. Dr. Peter Hammond, director of Frontline Fellowship, is a leader in informing the world about the oppression of Christians in Sudan and bringing pressure to bear on those responsible.

By Geoff Metcalf
Question: What is happening in the Sudan right now? How bad is it?

Answer: What we are talking about is the longest war still raging. It's been going on since 1955. There was a short cease-fire in the late '70s, and it restarted again in full fury in 1983. Two million people have died in the last 17 years. It is a high-intensity war between the Muslim-Arab north and the Christian-black south. The Muslim-Arab north is the majority, but the Christian-blacks are the majority in the south. Even though they are a minority in the whole country, the Christians are the majority of the population in southern Sudan. So effectively, you've got two countries -- you have a Muslim-Arab north and you have Christian-black south. Culturally, religiously, ethnically, they are completely separate people. Yet the government of Sudan wants to enforce Islamic law on the Christians in the south. When the Christians resisted this, the government started bombing their hospitals and schools and enslaving their children. It's very bad.

Q: If it weren't for my reading WorldNetDaily, I wouldn't have had a clue about what is going on there. Africa in general is kind of a mess. You report that churches have been bombed. Men, women and children have been raped, tortured and killed, limbs cut off, yet we haven't seen anything about this tragedy in the mainstream. This is the kind of atrocity that normally news-gathering organizations are all over like white on rice. Why is this story being ignored?

A: That is an excellent question. I think it's outrageous. How does the world media miss the largest country in Africa? How do the war correspondents miss the longest war still raging? More people have died in the conflict in Sudan than died in all the conflicts in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Somalia combined. This is an extremely high-intensity war and Christians are being targeted.

Q: There was a big deal made about alleged ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, yet in Sudan, you have a real religious crusade.

A: The Muslim government calls it a jihad, a holy war. They call their warriors who are fighting against the south "holy warriors" or mujahedin. They call those who die in battle from their side "holy martyrs." To the government of Sudan, this is definitely a religious war. They even have the official policy of "Arabization" and "Islamization." Everyone must become Arabic in language and culture and Islamic in religion, or they must be enslaved, killed or driven into exile. That is the official policy that the leaders of Sudan have publicly stated.

Q: One obvious, albeit crass, reason the West should be concerned about the atrocities in Sudan is because oil is there. The Chinese have troops in Sudan protecting oil fields. There is a lot of oil there, right?

A: Yes, there is no doubt oil is "fueling" the war. This is again blood for oil -- the blood of Christian Blacks for oil. The Canadian, Calgary-based Talisman Energy and China Petroleum -- those two companies are fueling the war right now by putting in massive investments of hundreds of millions of dollars into this National Islamic Front government, which has stated publicly that most of the revenue from the oil exploration and exploitation of the country is going for more munitions that they can use in their war against the south. They have publicly stated that is what they are going to do. And to secure these oil fields, they've destroyed the homes of over 40,000 people. They've implemented a "scorched earth" policy around it and cleared out the people with forced removals so that these oil companies can exploit the oil without having to worry about any local inhabitants.

Q: I don't mean to sound indelicate about this, but this has been going on so long ... are there any significant numbers of Christians left in the south?

A: Oh, yes. I just returned from the Sudan, and in the last seven months, I've made six mission trips, four of them to Sudan. I was just there the end of April, and the Christians are growing strong. This is an amazing thing. Here we've got the largest country in Africa in the grips of the longest war of the 20th century, the oldest community of Christians in Africa. They're suffering the worst persecution, yet they have the fastest church growth. Churches are growing so fast you can't believe it. One denomination grew from two congregations to 140 congregations in just 10 years. One pastor I know has added to the church 18,000 people in the last two and a half years. It is tremendous growth of the church. Muslims are even coming to Christ there. But there is a lot of death and suffering and tremendous amounts of atrocities taking place in Sudan.

Q: Beyond the remarkable spiritual growth in the south, are they getting any assistance with bullets and beans?

A: Not much. They are getting some relief aid through some agencies but not through the United Nations. While they seem to have the most money for it and claim to be doing the most, most of the United Nations relief aid is going to the very government causing the suffering. The United Nations, through Operation Lifeline Sudan, is literally fueling and prolonging the war.

Q: How so?

A: Because they are taking relief aid to the very government that has caused the famine. This famine is not due to climactic or geographic reasons; this is a man-made famine. The government is burning the crops, poisoning the wells and wiping out or looting the livestock. It is scorched earth. Food, in a war -- especially a scorched-earth war, is a weapon. And here's the United Nations taking the food aid, giving it to the government that is causing the famine and trusting them to distribute it in a fair and free way. Of course, the government of Sudan is using the United Nations food aid for forcible Islamization and Arabization. People have to convert to Islam and beg for the food in the name of Allah before they receive it.

Q: And what happens to those people who do not comply?

A: Many of them starve. People have sometimes pretended they have converted in order to get the food aid. But in an Islamic country like Sudan, they have anti-apostasy laws. So people who make even a very superficial profession of faith, reciting the creed of Islam -- "There's no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet" -- if thereafter they apostatize or turn away from Islam and revert to the Christian faith, then they are guilty of a capital offense. According to the law in Sudan, they can be executed, and many have been executed for the crime of apostasy in Sudan. The Supreme Court of Sudan some time ago found that crucifixion of apostates -- that's people who used to be Muslims but converted to Christianity -- is constitutional.

Q: It's what!?

A: It's constitutional! It is in accordance with their constitution. And this is the government that has replaced the United States on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Q: The division between north and south in Sudan -- do they have separate and apart legislative forms, or is the north controlling the whole country?

A: The north is technically controlling the whole country. But practically, the south is a separate country. They've got their own institutions set up. The south has effectively seceded from the north, although it is not recognized by international maps or even international governments or the U.S. State Department. But the fact is, I see it as two countries. The people of the south have their own separate court systems, their own county commissioners; they've got their own town mayors and members of Parliament. So the south is continuing as though the north is another country invading them. And in a real sense, it is. You can't look to a government as your government when they are bombing you.

Q: For those readers who may think this is hyperbole, Dr. Hammond has up-front and personal experience with the atrocities in Sudan. I recall the piece Julie Foster wrote about one of your episodes during a church service, but why don't you tell our readers what happened?

A: What happened was I was leading an Evangelism Explosion training team in southern Sudan, and we were training pastors, chaplains and teachers. We had a very good turnout. On our way to church that morning, we heard the Antanov Soviet-made bomber of the Sudan Air Force, and we could see it clearly. We thought it was on a reconnaissance mission, so we headed to the church. Some people were a little nervous, but we sang and we prayed. Then we suddenly heard the bombing about 12 miles away. We ran outside, and we could see the nearby settlement (to which we were going to go and have a worship service later that afternoon), and it was being bombed. They dropped about 14 bombs on about three runs over that community. We gathered and prayed for the people who were being bombed, and then we read Psalm 91.

Q: What happened next?

A: Then we went through the Evangelism Explosion outline, which starts off with, "If you were die today, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?" And at that point, somebody ran in and shouted, "The Antanov is coming!" Everyone scrambled to evacuate the church, and I was the last one to leave. As I stepped outside, the terrible screaming of the fast-approaching bombs was so intense, such a crescendo. I knew I didn't even have time to look up, so I just dived to the ground and flattened myself immediately. As I hit the ground, five bombs hit in quick succession. The ground shook. Pillars of fire and smoke erupted alongside the church. The church is the only structure within about a mile of any direction.

Q: So this obviously was not a mistake.

A: The church was obviously the target. This was Sunday morning. Plainly, they were bombing the church. Just in case we doubted it, the plane circled and came back for a second bombing run. On this occasion, I could actually see it. I saw the plane as clear as day right over us. I could see the two engines. It was an Antanov 32. I could hear the metallic sound, and I looked up and could actually discern the three dots getting bigger and bigger -- three bombs heading straight down on our position. Your heart kind of stops. Here we are on a Sunday morning at a church to worship the Lord and we're getting bombed by a government air force bomber.

Q: Amazingly, no one was killed.

A: That's the incredible thing. Every one of those eight bombs landed within a hundred meters of the church. We had 300 people gathered for worship at the church that day, and there was a lot of shrapnel. We're talking about hundreds of pieces of jagged, sharp metal flung all over the place. The trees were pockmarked with shrapnel. I was literally buried under debris from a bomb that landed only 17 yards away from me. When I got up, I was just astounded that I wasn't hit. I started to rush around to treat the wounded and there were no wounded. Three hundred people, eight bombs in a small area and nobody was hit. That was a miracle.

Q: You claim that wasn't the only miracle.

A: The next miracle was that within an hour, all 300 people gathered in the church, and we continued the service for another four and a half hours, despite the very real danger of the bomber returning. Where in the world would you find people who would regather in a church that had just been bombed?

Q: Apparently, in southern Sudan. Since about 1989, and notwithstanding the protestations of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton and others, the slave trade is flourishing in the Sudan isn't it?

A: Yes it is. Here we are in the 21st century, and the slave trade is not only flourishing in Sudan but it is doing so with the encouragement of the government of Sudan. The government of Sudan is involved in encouraging the slave trade for two reasons. One reason is so it can actually work as an economic incentive to Arab troops to be willing to go into the south to enrich themselves through both looting and through the slave trade. They enrich themselves through the people they can take back as slaves, either for themselves or to sell off. Secondly, the slave trade is used as a weapon of terror to destabilize the south.

Q: I complain often about the malfeasance of the mainstream media, but this situation in the Sudan is a genuine atrocity. The same leftist wonks that say, "How could no one have done anything when Hitler conducted his genocide?" are the same people who are quiet now as the genocide continues in the Sudan.

A: Yes. Louie Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson have both visited Sudan and have said nothing about the slave trade. In fact, they both have been guests of the Arab slave traders and the regime that not only allows but encourages it. These are "champions" of the black people and of "justice."

Q: By the way, Al Sharpton recently had some kind of epiphany while sitting under a tree in Sudan and now has declared he is going to enter the Democratic primary for the presidency of the United States.

A: Oh, my. When Bill Clinton went to Africa back in 1998, he apologized for the American involvement in the slave trade back 180-odd years ago, and yet he said nothing about the slave trade that is going on in Africa today. It seems very cheap to apologize for other peoples' sins long ago in another time and place and to ignore what is happening right now.

Q: Excuse me, but "cheap" kind of personifies the guy you reference. What, if anything, is the United Nations doing to mitigate the tragedy in the Sudan?

A: The United Nations has this incredible ability to go into a bad situation and make it much, much worse. I've seen them in Angola. I've seen them in Rwanda. We know what they did in Somalia. In Sudan, they claim that since 1989, when they opened up the Operation Lifeline Sudan, they have spent over $3 billion. Here's the point: According to their own report, people are dying of starvation at the same rate now as when the U.N. started. I mean for that amount of money, they could have built a McDonalds in every village in Sudan and given the food away free for the last 12 years and still had money to spend.

Q: So what have they been doing with all that aid?

A: All the people I've traveled to in the Nuba Mountains say they have never, ever received anything from the U.N. or any of the Operation Lifeline Sudan conglomerate. The people in most of the areas I've been to have never received anything. Most of the U.N. food aid is going to the very people causing the famine, burning the crops and poisoning the wells of the people of Sudan.

Q: Does the U.N. have any presence there?

A: Not really. They have a couple of bases here and there where they fly in their whiskey and beer and where they pretend they are doing something to help the folks, but the local people hold the U.N. in contempt. In fact, in Sudan, the people have noted the U.N. is well-named. You can put "un" in front of a lot of words: ungrateful, unregenerate, uncooperative, unreasonable, unfriendly, unaccountable -- that's the U.N.

Q: Regarding the communist Chinese connection in Sudan, is it symbiotic or is it more a marriage of convenience?

A: That's a good question. There is no doubt that the Red Chinese are the number one supplier of weapons for the National Islamic Front government of Sudan. The bombs being dropped on us, the aircraft they are flying, the weapons they are using -- Red China is supplying the weapons to the people in Sudan. But I don't think they are doing it for free. From what we've understood, Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia are the ones actually paying Red China for the weapons to go to Sudan government to bomb the people in the south. But now there is a new dimension. With Red China coming in with their Red China Petroleum, they are helping to exploit the oil, along with the Canadian Talisman. On one side, you've got the Chinese supplying weapons. On the other side, you've got them providing investment and getting oil in return, and most of the money from that oil is going straight into buying more weapons again. So Red China is connected in this in quite a few different angles.

Q: There was a recent network story about a group of young boys, over a thousand of them, walking out of Sudan to avoid slavery.

A: The Lost Generation, yes.

Q: After being rejected by Ethiopia and Kenya, several of them apparently were adopted or sponsored into the United States and what had to be dramatic culture shock. Do you have any idea how these kids are doing?

A: From experience of other people who have been uprooted, it would seem every time you bring people like that from a situation like Africa to a modern first-world country like America the results are negative. You've been brought up all your life with how to handle this extremely materialistic rat race, a society filled with all kinds of temptations and all kinds of excesses. Generally speaking, we have found that people who come over here from a third-world country end up spiritually vastly worse. They lose on the deal. They are very disoriented. They are separated from their family structure, their support structure and their congregations -- everything that gave their lives meaning and purpose and stability. It is actually often quite a disaster because many of them wind up getting sucked into an extremely destructive lifestyle.

Q: Wait a minute. Are you suggesting they would be better off staying in Sudan?

A: Not in the place where they were under the slave traders. But there is a free Sudan, too. There is a new Sudan that is controlled by the Christian freedom fighters. The government of Sudan's policy is to depopulate southern Sudan by killing them or by driving them into exile or enslaving them. But 85 percent of the south is under control of the resistance. They are fighting for their lives; they are fighting for freedom; they are fighting for an independent Christian southern Sudan. So to take away people who could strengthen that whole attempt to bring about a free Sudan I think is a negative move.

Q: Beyond the outrage of media malfeasance in not reporting what is really happening, what is the biggest problem as you see it?

A: One of the biggest problems we have in Africa is foreign aid going to governments. Governments are the problem; they are not the solution. If people want to help people in Africa, give directly to the free enterprise or to the personal groups or to the individuals or the churches. They are the ones who will see that the money is properly administered. When you give it to governments, all you're doing is fueling corruption and oppression. We need to defund the U.N. We need to defund these agencies that are helping the governments to oppress their own people.

Q: What, if anything, can our readers do to bring pressure to bear on the mainstream media to report what is really going on in Sudan? And secondly, if readers want to, how can they help you and the Frontline Fellowship?

A: There are three "I"s: We need to be Informed; we need to be Involved; and we need to be Interceding. People are destroyed for lack of knowledge. We need information. That's why we need and shows like yours that are informing the American people. We cannot depend on the mainstream media for our source of information. They don't care about Christians being persecuted or crucified or enslaved halfway around the world in Sudan.

Q: Yeah, but this isn't the pimple on the backside of a flea. This war has been going on for a long time.

A: Absolutely! There is a conspiracy of silence. I think it is the "ABC" mentality -- "Anything but Christianity." When Christians are the victims, I think many of the secular media have inbuilt prejudice, and they do not want to tell the story. Let's be informed by independent lines. We invite folks to visit our website to get updates on what's going on in Sudan from our perspective.

Q: What is it?

A: That's our website. We've got updates of what's going on in Sudan and reports going back quite a long way. You can see the photos and hear the stories. Also, people can get information from us, like our newsletters or books. Let me highly recommend the video that is promoting, "Sudan: The Hidden Holocaust." It is an excellent tool to inform and motivate and mobilize your congregation and community to work for Sudan. This video is a powerful weapon for freedom in Sudan. One of the best ways to help is to get this video, see it and show it. Lend it to neighbors.

Q: Let me add that folks can order the video online, or they can call 877-909-1776.

A: Additionally, if folks are interested in getting the book on which the video was based, I wrote "Faith Under Fire in Sudan" in 1998. This book has got 140 pictures, seven maps and it gives the background to what is going on with the worst persecution in the world today.

Q: Preaching in Sudan is dangerous business.

A: In the last year, I have been bombed twice while preaching at a Sunday service in a church. Additionally, our mission station, which includes the only Christian high school in southern Sudan, has been bombed nine times by the government of Sudan. We have had MiGs and Antonovs coming, and they have dropped over 100 bombs on the community, which includes our mission station. There is no doubt that Christians are being targeted.

Q: What kind of casualties have you suffered?

A: Every time that they've come and bombed, we've been astounded that there hasn't been one casualty at our school. We've had 100 bombs land at our base, and we have not had one person in the community killed. And that is extraordinary. Afterwards, we've said, obviously people are praying. Don't underestimate the power of your prayers. We have no protection from the air. We have no stinger missiles, no anti-aircraft there. People are totally vulnerable and helpless before the bombers. The only air force we have is your prayers and God's angels.

Q: I certainly don't mean to denigrate the missionary aspect of it, but is the south getting any help at all in waging the very real martial activities of fighting the abuses of the north?

A: Unfortunately, no. All the weapons are what they have captured from the enemy. I see no evidence they are getting help from the outside. The people down there actually say, "The Muslim world helps the government of Sudan in fighting, but why does the Christian world not help us?" It is very hard for them to understand why the Islamic nations are happy to rally behind a jihad against Christians but why Christian nations are not willing to rally behind Christians to survive.

Q: One of the biggest obstacles that needs to be overcome is a lot of those Christian nations that may have the capacity to help in some way flat out don't know about it!

A: That is absolutely true. And that is where we come in. And readers can make a major impact by contacting congressmen and recommending several things. I was in Angola back in 1985 when we were being strafed and bombed by Cuban assets. One night, I heard on BBC in Angola Ronald Reagan's speech in which he said the U.S. was going to send stinger missiles to the freedom fighters in Afghanistan and to the freedom fighters in Angola. And it did happen. Reagan was good to his word. Stinger missiles came in, and they shot down a whole bunch of communist helicopters and jetfighters. Strafing and bombing of churches and villages went out of fashion. One thing Americans can do is suggest that defensive weapons be sent to protect the villages, churches and schools in Sudan from this terror bombing.

Q: How about one more suggestion?

A: An air exclusion zone. For the last 10 years, American pilots have been enforcing a no-fly zone over the north of Iraq to protect Muslim Kurds from being bombed by their own government. Why not have an air exclusion zone over southern Sudan to protect Christian blacks from being bombed by the Muslim government of Sudan?