May 16th is noted, in our calendar of commemorations, not for a particular saint, but for a whole group: the Martyrs of Sudan.
Originally, this date was chosen to commemorate this group of martyrs because on this day in 1983 the Anglican leaders in Sudan made a public stand for the faith, knowing that under Sharia Law they were destined for execution. And in the two decades of civil war that followed, millions lost their lives for Christ. A further wave of attacks against Christians swept the country in 2011, soon before South Sudan was separated as a new (and Christian-friendly) country.
Many of the Sudanese bishops who survived the wars lived in exile; most of the clergy ministered without pay. Hardly a church building was left standing. To this day, rebuilding destroyed communities and healing broken families and lives is a massive effort. The Sudanese diaspora across the world, including in the United States, also need prayer, ministry, healing, and new life rebuilding.
But the blood of the martyrs has been fruitfully sown: the population of South Sudan has gone from 10% Christian in the 1990’s to 60% Christian in 2012, the majority of whom are Roman Catholics and Anglicans.
As this is a mere commemoration in our calendars, there are no major changes to our daily round of worship, unless you hold a Communion or Antecommunion service for this day. But we can add a Collect to the additional prayers at the end of the daily office, like this one:
Almighty God, you gave your servants in Sudan boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We could also make a point of praying the Great Litany today with the Sudanese church and diaspora in mind.