Three hundred Christian missionaries were expelled from the Sudan this month. Their departure emptied the entire southern part of the country of foreign religious workers.
The order from the Sudan government affected 272 Roman Catholic priests and nuns and 28 Protestant missionaries.
Major General Muhammed Ahmed Irwa, internal affairs minister, charged that “this grave step” was “justified” because of the missionaries’ “responsibility” for disorders which had broken out recently in the southern provinces.
In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, Irwa produced copies of Frontier Call, a periodical of the Verona Fathers Mission published in Cincinnati, and other literature allegedly opposing Sudanese unity. In Cincinnati, Father Olive Branchesi, editor of the publication, denied that it had ever gone into Sudan’s political difficulties.
The internal affairs minister said at a press conference that the expulsions were intended, not to curb the freedom of southern or northern Christians, but to restore the stability and state security of the Sudan. He said that all churches and mission stations in the south will be taken over by Sudanese priests and clergymen, who will have “full freedom to carry out their religious rites.”
Catholic observers, however, labeled the promise that the foreign missionaries would be replaced by native priests as “sheer pretext.” They said that there are only ten or twelve such native priests, far too few to do an adequate work.
Among Protestants, the deportation orders were expected to apply to missionaries serving under the Sudan Interior Mission, the Church Missionary Society, and Missionary Aviation Fellowship. The SIM has had twenty-five missionaries in Sudan; they come from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Eight CMS missionaries have been on furlough and are not expected to be able to return. The MAF has had two Britishers and two Canadians in the Sudan with one aircraft.
In taking action against the 300 missionaries, the government climaxed earlier measures which have resulted in similar expulsions over the past two years. Most of the difficulty has been in the south, where most of the country’s Christians live.
In February, 1963, 143 missionary teachers were ordered to leave the country. This followed Vatican charges that Arab political leaders were attempting to extend their influence over the Negro tribes in the southern provinces, where there are some 620,000 Christians, of whom 500,000 are said to be Catholics.
Christian leaders have repeatedly pointed out that since independence was gained in 1956, the predominantly Muslim Arab leaders of the north have sought to “Islamize” the chiefly Negro and pagan south, which has a total population of about 4,000,000.
Recently, the International Commission of Jurists announced in Geneva that Sudan’s government had declined to grant it permission to investigate human rights problems—particularly religious freedom—in that country. The commission, which has consultative status with the United Nations, previously charged that the Sudanese government had followed a policy of forcing Christian missionaries out of the country. Reviewing the ouster of many Protestant and Catholic missionaries, it said the Sudanese government was guilty of ignoring basic tenets of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Officers of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs immediately issued a statement expressing regret over the deportations.
Sir Kenneth Grubb, chairman, and Dr. O. Frederick Nolde, director, charged that “evidence against two or three individuals is being used to cast suspicion on many devoted servants of the country and its people.”
Their statement declared that “the Christian church in Sudan will, of course, continue under its able Sudanese leadership, but a serious blow is being struck at the standard of theological education available for the future.”
Some observers note an increasing tendency among Islamic countries to bar Christian missionary effort. Tunisia, long a bright spot in the Muslim world in the minds of missionaries, has also shut the door. So has Somalia. Christian education in the United Arab Republic is becoming ever more difficult under nationalization of schools. Malaysia gained independence without relenting its policy of no Christian witness to the Moslem Malays.
In the United States, meanwhile, an offshoot of Islam was attracting public attention. Cassius Clay, newly crowned heavyweight boxing champion, declared himself a part of the movement of Black Muslims, an American Negro group that is unrecognized by mainstream Islam. Soon after, the deputy chief of the movement, Malcolm X, announced that he was withdrawing from the organization to form a rival party emphasizing “black nationalism as a political concept and form of social action against the oppressors.”
On January 31, two Canadian Jesuit priests landed at Bowen Field, Haiti’s international airport at Port-au-Prince. As a result of a baggage inspection by immigration officers, the Haitian government later in the week expelled all Jesuit personnel and terminated the order’s work, which had been authorized by special agreement in 1958. Identifying the two priests as Father Paul Larame, director of a radio station, and Brother Francois Xavier Ross, an electronics specialist, the Foreign Ministry explained the deportations in an official statement two weeks later in La Nouvelliste, a Port-au-Prince daily. It accused the Jesuits of having brought into the country propaganda material in the form of a “series of articles and writings, defamatory to the Haitian people, their government, and the national institutions,” the ultimate object of which was the overthrow of the constitutional government of President François Duvalier. While rejecting a protest by the Canadian government, the Haitians professed their support for the work of other Roman Catholic orders and priests “in the exercise of their ministry, so long as they do not interfere in the internal politics of Haiti.”
Nothing was said of the Protestant churches, which include Episcopal, Baptist, Mennonite, and Methodist. The latter is the most firmly established; its first missionaries came in 1817 on the invitation of Haiti’s first president, Alexandré Petion. In 1939 the Methodist Church launched a literacy campaign by preparing a phonetic system of spelling with the intention of teaching the people to read Creole (a French patois which is the only language spoken by 85 per cent of Haiti’s four million). In 1960 a school staffed by French-speaking Protestant teachers was opened in the capital, and it now has an enrollment of over 900 students. This number will be more than doubled on the completion of a new development project—a staggering venture of faith (not least from a financial angle) in an unsettled situation. Three months after the school opened, the President, a Roman Catholic, sent his own two children to be educated there; they attended for about two years until violence flared up again in a shooting incident outside the school when five of the children’s escorting party were killed or wounded. The children miraculously escaped unscathed, but all schools were dosed for a time thereafter.
Missionaries are especially encouraged by the extent and enthusiasm of the indigenous church, which has now produced two Haitian ministers (another graduates this year) and a Haitian deaconess, and believes in the efficacy of a 6 A.M. prayer meeting. Last fall, just before the hurricane Flora devastated the country and killed some 6,000 people, eighteen young people came to Haiti from the Swiss Reformed churches. Calling themselves the Gay Companions, they paid their own expenses, will receive no salary during their year in Haiti, and will work under a minister-leader wherever the need is most urgent.
J. D. DOUGLAS
An All-Christian Philippines?
By 1969 every one of the 27,500,000 citizens of the Philippines will become a Christian. This was the qualified prediction of the Rev. Onofre Fonceca, a bishop of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. The qualification was that beginning this year, every member of the UCCP will win at least one Filipino to Christ. The UCCP is the largest Protestant denomination in the Philippines with 1,026 churches and 910,399 members.
While the bishop’s arithmetic was mainly intended to accentuate the role of the laity in evangelism, his conclusion was viewed as a direct challenge to the entire UCCP constituency for a more dynamic and intensive lay ministry.
If the each-one-win-one effort could be successfully extended to the whole Protestant population, the Philippine archipelago would be completely Christian by 1966. Protestants in the Philippines now number 3,564,667.
Electronic Rescue Operation
Several thousand people in Sydney, Australia, dialed 31–0971 during the last twelve months, and most of them were calling for help. The calls were to the Life Line Centre, founded a year ago this month to reach people in trouble: drug addicts, potential suicides, people with family or social problems, and others.
The man behind this venture is the Rev. Alan Walker, superintendent of the Central Methodist Mission in Sydney, which operates the Centre. Walker, known in Sydney for other unusual ventures, including the Teen-Age Cabaret and the Christian Floor Show, said a year ago that the Centre was designed to “come to grips with the changing emotional, physical, personal, family and spiritual problems of a modern society.”
“For twenty-four hours a day a lifeline will run out to the people along the telephone cables,” he said. “The Centre will say: ‘Help is as close as the telephone.’ ”
“For some reason many people hesitate to turn to neighborhood churches in spiritual need. They will use the more anonymous telephone call to seek spiritual help and counsel.”
His prediction has proved correct. Within the past year, some 12,000 persons were reached through telephone calls and other means.
Last month the mission suffered a crippling setback when its headquarters, which are separate from the Life Line Centre, were destroyed by fire. Rebuilding costs were estimated at a million dollars.
Walker says that the Life Line Centre is designed to be used as a referral point, and that the staff would call in professional help when necessary. The Centre is located in the downtown area, where the suicide rate is said to be the highest and the established church the least effective.
The Life Line movement has been described as “Discipleship in Depth.” “Behind every act of witness and service,” the aim is that “Jesus Christ shall be accepted as Saviour and Lord,” a representative said.
The rallying place for Life Line activities is the Sunday evening service at the Central Methodist Mission, reported to draw the largest Sunday evening congregation in Australia.
“It is here, where Christ is offered and open commitment to Him is sought, that members look expectantly for the conversion of all who have been served through the Life Line Movement,” said a worker.
The mission has an-extensive social service program in Sydney, the largest city in Australia, with a population of over two million. It operates homes and hospitals and has recently established a $50,000 emergency care center for abandoned children. The Life Line Centre cost nearly $88,000 for building and renovation. Besides the 96 counselors, over 200 other volunteers help run the Centre.
It offers a home nursing service, a youth advisory service, a marriage guidance counselor, a chiropody service for aged pensioners, a clothing store, and a two-way radio car for emergencies.
Missing In Action
A converted Jesuit scholar, Don Francisco Lacueva, disappeared from his home in England this month.
The former priest was reported missing following a trip to London on evangelistic work. His wife had expected him to return to their home in Kent the same day. Instead she received a telephone call from a man who said that Don Franciso would not be back. The mysterious caller refused to identify himself.
Inquiries revealed that Don Francisco evidently had gone to London Airport and taken a plane to Paris, where he was picked up in an automobile.
His Protestant friends in England are emphatic that he would never have gone of his own free will. Knowing of his recent evangelistic activities, they tend to place a sinister interpretation on his disappearance.
Don Francisco served for fourteen years as a professor of theology in a Roman Catholic seminary in Spain. He was converted through the witness of a Protestant pastor about two years ago, on the eve of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, October 12, 1962). Most recently he has been serving on the staff of the World Protestant Union.
In an article written several weeks ago, Don Francisco charged that drug and electric shock treatment had been administered to a Spanish Jesuit priest who was showing interest in evangelical doctrine. The article concludes: “The Roman inquisition is not yet only a fad reminiscent of the past. In spite of the ecumenical movement, the practical rule of the Jesuits that ‘the end justifies the means’ is still up to date.”
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more