Religious patterns and practices and other social interactions of Sudanese
Since independence in 1956, Sudan had been under the rule by series of parliamentary governments which have been characterized by instability and military regimes e.g. the government that instituted the fundamentalist Islamic law in 1983. Such action has seen the rift between the Arab north and black African animists as well as Christians in the south get exacerbated. These groups have diverse cultural values, speak different languages, different religions, ethnic variations and political power led eruption of a civil war. The conflict exists between the government forces strongly under the influence of National Islamic Army (NIF) and the rebels from the south under the influence of the faction Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA).The civil war has led to violation of human rights, religious persecution and decreasing levels of insecurity making Sudan a safe haven for terrorists and high emigration of refugees to other countries like Egypt, United Kingdom, Kenya, United States among other neighboring countries (Mading, 1973). The onset if the civil war in 1983 has forced many people to be either displaced internally as internally displaced persons or externally as refugees in other countries. In addition to that many people have lost their lives and some scholars now term it as Darfur genocide.
Sudanese Americans are Americans who have a Sudanese descent and statistics reveal that there are more than twenty thousand Sudanese living in America with animist and Christian backgrounds and moat have migrated to United States from their native country mainly as a result of the Sudanese conflict. Sudanese Americans also includes children who are born in American born to Sudanese parent and American parent. The Sudanese community in the United States is both Muslims as well as Christians dwelling in various cities such as Texas, New Jersey, Greensboro, Minnesota, Houston, and Flint among other states. In addition to that not all Sudanese Americans or the Sudanese Americans fled to United States because of the Islamist government and the Sudanese but others came in search of opportunities of education, family and job among others.
Hundreds and hundreds of Sudanese individuals have lost their lives since the conflict started in Sudan. Muslim troops from the north supported by the government have continued to eliminate the minority non Muslim population in south making many of them then flee to the neighboring countries and live in camps where sickness, hunger, water unavailability and poor hygiene causing many deaths as a result, many of them have tried finding ways of surviving in the U.S.
The long established tension existing between the periphery and the centre of the country is much characterized by unjust division of wealth, influence, and investment. Considering the inabilities of the elites in central region to manage ethnic, cultural and religious diversity of the country, there have been some moves by the north to impose narrowly defined identity on the people as a whole which consists of the crude version of Sharia laws to constitute the public and private laws in the region leading to suffering of many Muslims and non-Muslims (Omar, 1996).
High wages and increased security have turned United States to be a promised land for most of refugees fleeing from the Sudan conflict. The conflict has negatively impacted on employment opportunities, services and housing problems have been created by immigrants into thus negatively impacting on ethnicity has their daily interactions has led to erosion of the traditional values in the region. Instead of such erosion leading into a new sense of nationalism, the communities that were new, had no absorptive mechanism and were economically weak, hence reinforcing ethnic anomalies in the region. In olden days, some Sudanese went to US voluntarily for academics or through slave trade but the conflict has accelerated migration of Sudanese into the land of many opportunities as know by most Africans and those from developing countries.
The Sudanese, who succeeded getting an access to the United States, have experienced many economic, social and political adversities including accessibility to education and other basic needs. First and foremost, they are forced to work had too ensure that they overcome the consequent culture shock though making adjustments considered in line with the united states culture which is much different from theirs. For instance, they have learnt that, renting an apartment is better than purchasing similar house a lesson attributed to the fact that, they do not have the sufficient savings and credit ratings necessity for house purchasing. For Sudanese living in America looking for similar jobs being sought by other minority groups in the country, has proved to be a difficult task for them. Therefore, the traditional family values of Sudanese emigrants to United States that contained a close family ties, accordance of maximum respect to education as well as family marriage sanctity, has received challenge by the American culture. Leading to some spouses especially women to question their marriage vows a habit not nor in native Sudan. Such culture clash has accelerated family separation, prompting many kids to be raised by single-parents affecting their traditional upbringing by both parents. Some of these kids have ended up adopting their American classmates’ behaviors which native Sudanese culture and norms find it unethical and sometimes offensive threatening family ties and peaceful coexistence with the extended families.
There are approximately more than one hundred tribes in Sudan with each tribe having its own language and the majority of those residing in United states are chiefly members of the nilotic tribes which include Nuer, Dinka and Shiluk. Most of these different tribes communicate generally in Arabic or English which is their second language despite the long-standing inter-tribal conflicts appear to sometimes strain the relationships between the groups. Both the regional and individual expressions of culture among the various groups vary widely. Sudan has over 597 tribes with hover 400 languages and dialects being spoken. These tribes are split into two groups the largely Sudanese Arabs of the north and the largely animist nilotes and Christians of the south, the two groups are further sub divided into hundreds of ethnic as well as tribal divisions and languages. Most of the Sudanese’s are Arabic linguistically and by cultural association and descended from the ancient Nubians which shares same culture with Egypt. Hence the northern Sudan has been Arabicised hence the Arabic language and culture is very predominant in the region thus the shifting in of the Arab ethnic identity. Further more the process of arabicization was fueled by the spread of Islam, immigration of peninsula Arabs as well as the intermarriage between the two communities.
On the other hand the people of the southern Sudan have been enormously affected by war and many were displaced and majority of the population practice traditional beliefs and some Christianity. Culturally Sudan is described as one of the world’s most linguistically and ethnically diverse country with nearly 200 ethnic groups which speak over 900 dialects and languages. Some of the smallest ethnic and linguistic groups dispersed in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a result of migration due to war which led to assimilation by other languages in their new homes. Mostly, Sudanese were assimilated by addition as they came to learn English as their second language after their native languages. Another simulation that took place is primary structural assimilation where the Sudanese changed their personal relationships e.g.; taking of their children to schools where they freely interacted with Americans. This assimilation process has been much affected by numerous social factors like; education, housing and employment.
Elements of Sudanese American culture
The culture of facial scarring was an ancient custom practiced by Sudanese but its increasingly becoming uncommon in the modern days. Most of the Sudanese Americans still poses such tribal markings and they serve as a sign of bravery and beauty and each of the tribes have their distinct markings for instance the Shilluk tribe have lines of bumps along their foreheads, Ja’aliin make some on their cheeks while the Nuer have six parallel lines on the forehead. Some times Sudanese women have marks scarred on their bodies to reveal the number of children they have had and even reveals on their marital status. Female circumcision was heavily practiced by the Islamic tribes from the northern part a custom contrary to the cultural requirements of the south where women had greater freedom from male-dominance and even got consulted on disputes. Despite the freedom women in the animist tribes of the south underwent through some rituals were involving consultations with the spirits as it regards to issues of the households. Modernization especially with Sudanese in a America such traditions like female circumcision have been abandoned based on the life threatening effects on women during child birth and even later lives (Roden, 1974).
In traditional realms of Sudanese culture cattle played a critical cultural role particularly to the southern cultures and the number of cattle owned indicated wealth and status and basically served sued for payment of bride prices. In addition to that cattle played a significant role when it came to religious rites as they were sacrificed during traditional animist rituals and even served as shrine as well as gathering place amongst the nilotic tribes and the Dinka. Most of these traditions have been abandoned fro modern lifestyles where money has taken the value of cattle in bride pay and churches religious sacrifices becoming outdated in the modern era.
Animism: Sudanese believe in animism which is a system of belief which it ascribes spirits to natural objects for instance trees, rocks and rivers while attempting to use rituals in manipulation of spirits to escape trouble while achieving health and prosperity. Sudanese belief that multiple spirits as well as gods controls various aspects of life and those ancestors can be worshiped and belied to influence daily life. Such belief and practices varies by different region and tribes and modern Sudanese from most tribes have a common practice of wearing of amulets which they believe serves to protect against such troubles.
Marriage and family
In traditional Sudanese families polygamy was common though it has waned with time. Traditional marriages are often arranged by families and matches were made between cousins and relatives thus marriages are usually made between the boundaries of particular tribe and a significant age difference exists between the wife and the husband who is must first become economically self sufficient before marriage as well as must be able to pay for the pride prices. Extended family lives together under similar roof or even nearby and newly weds typically moves in with the family of the wife until they bore their first child. extended families provided social services and the family unit was tasked with taking care of the mentally ill, sick and the old but such role shave been erode by urbanization and especially to Sudanese who live in American but despite the liberation from most tradition, certain parties of tradition still remain rooted in most families on Sudanese as husbands often go vesting their male friends in cafes and even market places while servant take care of the house chore but the woman whether married or unmarried does not get an exception from the traditional restrictions and supremacy of the muslim husband and her jobs and education doesn’t giver her a licenses to trespass into the male dominated social norms (Roden, 1974).
Men and women traditionally in Sudanese culture led largely separate lives and socialized with members of their own sex primary but field world work is shared by both genders. Except for the elite, liberate and educated women girls remained with in the household and often segregated at festivities where they eat after men have finished eating particularly on the Muslim households. Women served a greater role in the household just as the male counterparts did in the public circles and thus their domains were at home and the caring of children as long as upheld the male-dominated social norms (Early, 1996).
The traditional family values of Sudanese communities contained close family ties, according maximum respect to education, and family marriage sanctity, have received challenge from the Americans. This has led some spouses to question their marriage vows, hence separating, leaving kids to be raised by a single-parent, as an effect, they ends up lacking required supervision and nurturing. Some of these kids have ended up learning their American classmates’ behaviors, that in one way or the other, they question the authority of their homes.
Elements of sexism in Sudanese culture is the culture of men dominating the public cycles and the family decisions while women being restricted to household chore and caring of the family as they are believed to weaker sex than men. This is particularly evident in the tribes from the northern part of Sudan who are heavily influenced by Sharia laws. Women are not allowed to make decision even for their families and girls are confined to family territories and get involved with all sorts of domestic chores (Duany, 1998). In addition to that another element of sexism in Sudanese culture is the expectations that a woman should remain loyal and submissive to their husbands despite having got educated and become elite. Such privileges are not believed by the males and the culture to give woman any license to question her husband’s behaviors especially as it regards to issues affecting he family.
The outside world always view the stereotyping in Sudan to be between the Africans and the Arabs and that the victors of the vice are Arabs and the victims are the Africans who end up displaced from their homes and face other atrocities. On the other the reality of stereotyping is that both groups have stereotyped each other as not belonging to the other or the different group (Muslim and Christian). Another example of stereotyping in Sudan is where the northerners mainly the Arabs referring the southerners as Abid which is a derogatory term referring to slave which is viewed as an insult on the black people by the Arab culture. Like wise the southerners stereotype the northerners as mundukuru and minga and such stereotyping is a reflection of the Sudanese slave trade which people say still persists to this era especially with regard to the blurred distinction between slavery and cheap labour (Baumann, 1928).
As a result of moving to live in United States Americans of Sudanese native lost several things relating to their native culture including: traditional food preferences, dress codes, gender relationships inside homes including changed identity from being called Africans to Black Americans. Others include female circumcision which older women were not able to change their thoughts about the advantages that were to be accrued from female circumcision; however, they saw it as much detrimental to the girls’ health in the US. In addition, Sudanese wedding traditions also changed. Despite the modernization of Sudanese culture in United states some of its elements of culture still got preserved and includes; radical creativities in music, literature, art, and cosine.
In conclusion, the Sudanese in the United States have had some historic triumph despite facing adversities. Most of their children are doing well in American schools, i.e. in both the private and public schools where some of them have ended up winning scholarships. Despite their modernization of some elements of their cultures alienating them from their native traditions and norms on various aspects of their culture their ties to Sudan remained strong, and they continuously seek support for the mission programs in Sudan to build schools, churches and even hospitals among other essential facilities.
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