Date: Tue, 2 Jan 1996 21:08:00 -0500
Sender: H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@msu.edu>
From: Harold Marcus <email@example.com>
Subject: Comment: Sudan and Christianity
To: Multiple recipients of list H-AFRICA <H-AFRICA@msu.edu>
Date: Wed, 3 Jan 1996
Partially crosslisted from Sudan-l
I believe that there are many issues in the history of the Sudan that are not yet adequately understood. Since I am not a historian myself I cannot claim that I know how much resesarch was done about these issues. However, while reading about history many questions come to mind, and one of them is why did Christianity disappear in northern Sudan?
Well before the seventh century A.D there were at least two Christian kingdoms in northern Sudan. It is well known also that when the Muslims came into northern Sudan in large numbers between the 11th and 15th centuries they came out of Egypt as a persecuted minority after the rise of the Memluks fortunes.It was not reported in history that the Muslims used any violent methods to destroy the indigenous culture. Neverthless, while pre-modern Christianity continued to survive in Egypt where stronger Islamic kingdoms prevailed, it completely disappeared in northern Sudan.
Some explanations I came across include one offered by Professor Yusuf Fadl *The Arabs and the Sudan* in which he indicates that the Muslims exploited the matrilineal system in Nubia to usurp the thrones of the Christian kingdoms and eventually Islamize them.
Another explanation was given by J. Spencer Trimingham *Islam in the Sudan*, who says that in spite of the long history of Christianity in northern Sudan, the Church always remained exotic and never became indigenous in the sense that Islam is today.
The Church had always remained a foreign institution, with foreign priests, using a foreign language and far detached from the general public.
I posted the above piece to the Sudan-l on december 16, 1995 and received the following response from the prominent historian Professor R.S.O’Fahey:
To the best of my knowledge, pre-modern Nubian Christianity had disappeared entirely by the late 16th century. There are some rather vague reports by Italian and Portuguese missionaries of the survival of such groups up to about 1600. Unfortunately the best and most recent work on the subject is in Italian, Giovanni Vantini, *Il Cristianesimo nell Nubia antica*, Bologna 1985.
I wonder if there are any parallels to this case in other parts of Africa, and if there are any comments or explanations regarding the disappearance of the pre-modern Nubian Christianity in the Sudan.
Happy New Year and Best wishes.