“Spreading the message of justice must continue for the termination of every power-hungry, resource-exploiting, humanity-demeaning and truth-silencing force.”
Sudan, a country cornered by Ethiopia, Egypt, and now South Sudan, is in battle for economic stability, government integrity, and freedom of expression. With protests taking a particular rise in late December of 2018, citizens demanded the removal of long term President Omar-al-Bashir. Unfortunately, military backlash from the Transitional Military Council (TMC), in response to Bashir’s removal and arrest, resulted in the deaths of many protesters and even children, according to UN News. In addition to the violence, Al Jazeera reports the Sudanese government declared “a blackout on communications, including blocking social media access, disrupting phone traffic and severely restricting the spread of information.”
Living in a Dark Spot
Oftentimes, media censorship, particularly during times of conflict, is one of the many tactics used on the playground for power. Silencing the messenger not only impedes time spent alleviating injustice(s), but it also enables the perpetrator to continue.
What is our moral and spiritual responsibility towards a crisis like this? When a country is experiencing a media blackout and its citizens and residents are restricted from sharing the injustices happening to them, does the Christian story-teller have an obligation to share their story on their behalf? Sources say Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram are all blocked in Sudan. With Sudan in a “dark spot,” who becomes responsible for sharing the message of Sudanese injustice? Who shares the message when they silence the messenger?
Several verses in Scripture command us to speak up for injustice. More specifically, they highlight our responsibility to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. In fact, the prophet Isaiah writes about this while extremely frustrated with the silence of the children of Israel. He said, “No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth…Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:4,14 NKJV).
In Sudan it seems that truth has fallen in the street and the media restrictions of the government prevent equity from entering in. In these verses Isaiah is looking for the Israelites to do justice and can’t find anyone willing. Isaiah is expressing the divine expectation God has that His children speak up for the oppressed, while challenging our tendency to remain silent on matters of injustice. It’s texts like these that show us that it is the Christian’s responsibility to share the message of justice when injustice silences a fellow messenger.
Scripture Demands We Share
The New Testament, also provides insight and examples on speaking up for justice, even when we’re in a dark spot. For example, Luke records in Acts 4:13-21 that religious leaders tried to silence Peter and John. In a predominately Jewish region many early Christians experienced injustice for believing and teaching about Jesus. Facing public beatings, the destruction of property, religious persecution, character defamation, unfair prison sentences, and much more, the early Christians experienced great injustice. In fact, some would even say their experiences seem eerily similar to those of the Sudanese today.
In Acts, we see the Sanhedrin monitoring Peter’s proverbial Facebook wall as he passionately shared the gospel of Jesus Christ, while the Council marveled watching every truth-soaked, Holy Spirit-filled, and rightly divided YouTube video on his channel.
His preaching about a Jesus who healed the sick on the Sabbath, cared for the poor, drove moneychangers out of the Temple, preached liberty to captives, and rose from the dead infuriated the religious leaders. His message of a liberator from oppression, and freedom from injustice was far too threatening. And so the Sanhedrin didn’t just remove Peter’s posts. They removed Peter. The Council who perceived Peter as “uneducated and untrained” silenced him before he shared too much. They unanimously agreed:
A notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name. So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus (vs. 16-18, NKJV).
Speak The Things You See and Hear
Peter and John sharing the liberating message of Jesus Christ infuriated the Jewish leaders. And the Sudanese sharing of injustice and State violence is infuriating the TMC. Both leaders attempted to silence both groups. The beauty is that right now we can resist the silencing of the Sudanese with the words of Peter:
Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (vs. 19-20, NKJV).
This verse teaches us that some of the most important times to speak up is in the face of harm and conflict. The unrest in Sudan is the period of harm and conflict in which many Sudanese currently find themselves. Many have shared and continue to share what they have seen and heard all over social media. But as of today, many truth-tellers are muzzled. Such attempts at censorship mean that it is now our responsibility to share. We must use our social media and other platforms to call for prayer and justice in Sudan.
You Cannot Silence Injustice
The Sanhedrin thought they won when they threatened Peter and John. The Council thought they won when they blocked the media in Sudan. But the message is alive. The message of a resurrected Christ was not contained to Judea and Samaria. And the injustices of Sudan cannot be contained to Northern Africa. As people of faith in Jesus Christ, we have the authority of Matthew 28:18-20 to share His truth of a liberating gospel. In other words, we have divine permission and divine authority to speak up and speak out.
Acts 4:27-31 confirms this responsibility in Peter’s prayer for boldness. After being released from interrogation Peter prayed, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
And the Bible says that when the accompanying believers prayed this prayer with Peter “the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
They, (the Sanhedrin, the Council, Social Media Regulators, Political Institutions, Governments, fragile systems, etc.) may try to silence what you do or say. They may even try to regulate where you go. But they can never silence injustice. Injustice has a way of soaring above restrictions and demanding a response. Today, the world sees what is happening in Sudan. We hear the cries of injustice across oceans and deserts, and we will no longer remain silent. Instead, we will speak with holy boldness for justice in Sudan.