In response to Charles Carlson of “We Hold These Truths” based in Arizona who has published numerous articles denying the persecution in Sudan and slandering missionaries who are serving the persecuted, we wrote this letter:
Dear Mr Carlson
Greetings in the precious Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Some mutual friends forwarded me your article“Why churches in Sudan are not bombed”. While I can only agree that many are abusing the issues in Sudan, especially slavery, in corrupt and disgraceful fund raising scams, I must challenge your assertion that churches in Sudan are not being frequently and deliberately bombed by the government of Sudan Air Force.
There is no doubt a real need for a “Pharisee Watch”, but you have been unfairly smearing even sincere and genuine missions with the accusations which are, unfortunately, pretty true for some slick marketing agencies.
Despite your claims, Frontline Fellowship has never made use of any paid publicity agents, or public relations firms, nor have we even engaged in any direct fund-raising. In the 19 years of Frontline Fellowship, we have never even taken up an offering. Not in the field, nor at our base of operations, South Africa, nor in the US or anywhere else overseas. We do not even have one person on our staff who raises funds. Others may have used our photographs and stories, testimonies and statistics in their slick marketing campaigns to raise vast amounts of funds for their operations, but we have never benefited from anything like that.
Unlike some of the slick marketing scams, generally based in the USA, that are seeking to exploit Sudan for profit, we can be very specific about what our mission has accomplished and what it has cost. And we have photographic evidence for each of our deliveries and training courses.
In the last seven years, Frontline Fellowship has delivered and distributed over 200,000 Bibles and Christian books, in 21 languages, throughout 14 different regions of Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. We have conducted regular Leadership Training courses, which have succeeded in training over 680 primary school teachers, who have established 120 primary schools, with 18,000 students. We’ve also trained 200 pastors, who are responsible for over 380 congregations. We’ve also trained 70 chaplains and chaplain’s assistants, and 50 medics and nurses. We’ve helped repair, establish and stock three medical clinics, and we’ve delivered over 12 tonnes of medical supplies to Southern Sudan. We’ve also delivered a 4-wheel drive ambulance to one of the only hospitals in Southern Sudan.
We’ve also presented well over 3,000 sermons, lectures and Bibles studies within Southern Sudan. We are one of only two Evangelical missions with permanent mission bases inside Southern Sudan. The other is Samaritan’s Purse, which runs the hospital at Lui.
You claim that any religious organisation that operates in Southern Sudan, should also operate in Northern Sudan. But this is a practical impossibility. Sudan is in the grip of a vicious civil war, and the government of Sudan does not tolerate any organisation to operate in the North that also operates in the South. By definition, those ministries that operate in the liberated zones of Southern Sudan, are entering Sudan illegally, at least in the eyes of the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum. How then can a mission operate safely on both sides of a civil war, in a country like Sudan?
You state the Sudan is “a classic guerrilla war.” Actually, it is more of a conventional war with trenches, tanks and artillery on both sides. The “guerrillas” control 80% of the South – including all of Western Equatoria.
Let me state clearly, and for the record, that neither myself nor anyone else in Frontline Fellowship has been involved in providing weapons to the SPLA or to any other rebels or combatants in Sudan, or in any other conflict in Africa. You claim that I frequently am photographed with, and associated with John Garang, however, you’ve been misinformed. I’ve never even met John Garang. Nor has Frontline Fellowship delivered any money to the SPLA.
I do not recall, at any time, referring to myself as “an enemy of the Sudanese government”. I’m also not sure how I can be described as a “self-appointed Rambo”, as I’ve never referred to myself in any such way, and never would. Nor do I understand how you can describe me as a “financially successful mail-order missionary”, when our mission is continually struggling financially. You say that one of our pictures is worth a $1,000,000. Well, maybe to someone else, but not to us. (Our entire budget for the last 7 years doesn’t even come close to half that amount). You claim that we have been involved in the slave redemption programmes, but at no time have I, or anyone else in Frontline Fellowship, ever been involved in the placing of money in the hands of slave traders. I regard that as unethical and counter-productive. Because of the law of supply and demand, if there is an increase in demand for purchasing slaves, there will be an increase in the supply of slaves. We would rather follow the example of William Wilberforce and David Livingstone, who fought against the slave trade their whole lives, yet without ever financially rewarding slave traders. I have frequently and consistently spoken out against Slave Redemption.
No matter how noble your motives, or how righteous your indignation against the disgraceful conduct of all too many, you have failed to do adequate research, and you have unjustly accused us. In your publications you have borne false witness against your neighbour.
I’ve never claimed to be “the chaplain of the insurgency army”. What I have done is train pastors and evangelists to be chaplains in the SPLA. The training these chaplains have received has been from our Discipleship Training Course manuals, Biblical Worldview Seminar manuals, Evangelism Explosion clinics, Great Commission Course manual, Muslim Evangelism Workshop, Reformation and Revival seminar.
We are, in no sense, “keeping the war going.” What we have done is save lives, even the lives of captured enemy troops, whom we have taught the chaplains to ensure that they are well-treated and protected. We have met with captured GOS troops and seen them receiving the best medical treatment and good food at the hospital.
Frontline Fellowship is a Christian mission that, for the last 19 years, has been assisting suffering Christians in Moçambique, Angola and Sudan. Our work in these countries is a matter of public record – which you can read for yourself in our published books, including In the Killing Fields of Moçambique and Faith Under Fire in Sudan, and others. We are no “fly by night”, ‘Johnny come lately’’, slick marketing ministry, exploiting the tragedies of Sudan for our own ends. We have a consistent track record, going back almost two decades – unlike the opportunists who seek to profit from Sudan’s misery.
Nor are we inventing or exaggerating the extent of the suffering of Christians in Southern Sudan. Just on my last two mission trips to Sudan, I’ve had the privilege of preaching in the Fraser Cathedral, the birthplace of Christianity in Southern Sudan, which was first destroyed by the government of Sudan ground forces in 1965. Completely destroyed. It was later rebuilt by 1983, but when the NIF government forces swept into Lui, the congregation had to again flee into the bush, and the church building was vandalised. In 1997, the church was restored. In the last year, the church has come under aerial bombardment eight times. Forty-seven bombs being dropped around it. On 29 December 2000, it was again bombed; one bomb blew a huge hole into the West wall of the church building, flinging parts of the corrugated iron roof high up into the sky. Most of the West wall is pockmarked with holes from hundreds of pieces of shrapnel. All of the glass windows on all sides of the church were blown out. Most of the doors were splintered. Almost every wooden beam on the roof of the church has cracked. This beautifully built, brick church building was no mud hut as your article demeaningly refers to the churches in Southern Sudan. This was the third time that this church building will have to be rebuilt because of government assaults.
I also preached in the church at Kotobi, which had been destroyed by helicopter gunships back in 1996 and rebuilt since. This church has been bombed several times on Sunday mornings in the last year.
I also preached at the church in Jambo, where we were bombed during the Sunday morning service on 5 November – the church was subsequently bombed on Christmas Day, during the morning service, and on January 7th, during Sunday morning service, and several times subsequently as well.
The community, which includes our mission base, and the Christian Liberty High School, has been bombed nine times in the previous 14 months – by MIG’s and Antonov’s.
In your article, you use some very strange logic, starting out with the premise that it is a “physical impossibility” for the government of Sudan to have bombed over 150 churches.
You do not give a time period for this, but proceed to use as evidence the fact that, according to Bishop Makram Gassis (not Max Kasis as you misspell his name), that his public relations agent claimed that the Sudanese Air fleet consisted only of six Antonov’s (not Antonoff, as you misspelt them). You then proceeded to theorise that six Antonov’s would not be sufficient: “it appears the GOS is not even capable of purposely bombing churches in Sudan, even if they desired to do so!” You make no mention of what Janes Defence weekly, or any authoritative source say about the extent of the air power available to the government of Sudan. Why would you choose to use someone who is obviously no authority on the military capabilities of a country, to establish your basic premise?
You also make no mention of the MI-24 helicopter gunships or MIG 23’s, which our missionaries have personally come under attack from. We have vast amounts of photographic documentation, including on video, of unexploded, 250-pound and 500-pound bombs, steel bombs – with tail fins, yet you claim that the only bombs used are “very crude barrel bombs”, and apparently, in contradiction “anti-personnel fragmentation weapons” which, by the way, can all be very deadly.
You ignore the deadly toll which these bombs are taking upon the civilian population of Sudan, which I have seen and documented with photographic and video footage. You compare the chances of hitting a church with one of these bombs to making a hole in one with a golf ball from a back of a moving truck! The fact is that bombs don’t need to make a “hole in one”, in order to kill people. In fact, people have been killed up to 80 yards, or more, away from the point of detonation of even a 250-pound bomb.
I had a 500-pound bomb explode 17 yards from me. You trivialise this experience in your article, but the fact is that we were pummelled and buried by the huge amount of debris thrown up by this explosion, and the trees and ground around us was littered and pock-marked with shrapnel. It is only God’s grace that many of us were not killed that day. Eight bombs were dropped all within 100 yards of the church.
Upon reflection, your article “Why churches in Sudan are not bombed”, is not based on any facts, just presumptions and convoluted logic. You have ignored the hard evidence and rather built your article upon ill-informed quotes by ignorant individuals, and upon prejudice and unbalanced, dogmatic assertions.
If you are seriously interested in what is going on in Sudan, we will gladly take you in and show you personally. Or, if you prefer, we can provide you with documentation – both written and photographic, to prove that there is deliberate and systematic bombing of churches, schools and hospitals, by the government of Sudan Air Force.
May the Lord lead you into all truth, and may He bless you body, mind and spirit, as you seek to stand up for what is right and expose what is wrong.
Yours for Faith and Freedom.
Dr. Peter Hammond