Muslim students from Sudan's Darfur region are volunteering to work alongside a Sudanese Christian athlete and other believers to build new schools and a church in war-ravaged southern Sudan.

Olympic 1,500-meter competitor Lopez Lomong, who came to the United States in 2001 as a Lost Boy of Sudan, gained international acclaim for his advocacy on behalf of Darfurian Muslims during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. As a member of Team Darfur, he spoke out against the Sudan government's campaign to drive Darfur's residents off their land in the country's western region. Lomong was the most prominent Sudanese athlete at the 2008 Olympics, serving as the flag bearer for the U.S. team during the opening ceremonies.

But Lomong also dreamed of helping his remote village, which he had fled in 1992, by enabling southern Sudanese to build a new church there. Lomong partnered with Sudan Sunrise, a Kansas-based ministry that seeks reconciliation between Sudanese Muslim and Christian refugees. During the civil war, Sudan's government conscripted thousands of Darfurian Muslims to fight in the South, so animosity between Darfurians and southern Sudanese runs deep.

Sudan Sunrise founder Tom Prichard started his ministry among Sudanese in Kansas. Now his ministry works inside Sudan and Kenya. In late November, it brought together about 130 Sudanese Muslim and Christian youth in Nairobi, Kenya, for dialogue. "What we are doing is a catalyst to spur people. It is showing the character of Christ," Prichard said.

The event also featured Christian rapper Emmanuel Jal, a former Sudanese child soldier, and Valentino Achak Deng, whose story is the basis for Dave Eggers's novel What Is the What. The attendance of three Muslims from Khartoum, each of whom spoke in favor of self-determination for southern Sudan, was a highlight of the summit.

Sudan Sunrise established new relationships with Sudanese Muslims through its relief work in Darfur. The organization partnered with the Darfur Students Association at the University of Juba in southern Sudan's capital to get donated aid into Darfur's overcrowded camps. Later, Sudan Sunrise asked Muslim students to help build the church in Lomong's village of Kimotong, and many agreed to. "Our eff orts are like yeast. This is an idea that is growing," Prichard said.

Lomong's goal is to raise $129,000 to build Kimotong Reconciliation Church as well as a community center that will provide food and drinking water. Initial construction work has already begun.

Moses Wasamu is a newspaper editor based in Kenya.


Related Elsewhere:

See also Tony Carnes' story about peacemaking efforts in Sudan and David Neff's column about praying for Sudan.

Christianity Today has a special section on Sudan.

Previous CT articles on Sudan include:

Swoope-ing in to Sudan for Orphans' Sake | Profits from rapper's single will help build an orphanage in war-torn country. (December 11, 2010)
Pray for the Peace of Sudan | The World Evangelical Alliance's Geoff Tunnicliffe talks about efforts to ensure a fair and peaceful election in Sudan and calls for a world day of prayer for the safety of believers there. (November 22, 2010)
Suffering in Sudan | Church leaders ask for prayer and advocacy at Cape Town 2010. (October 23, 2010)
Election Jitters | Sudanese Christians hope nation will hold together until 2011 referendum. (April 6, 2010)