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Sudanese Christians suffering amid humanitarian crises and persecution

Sudanese Christians suffering amid humanitarian crises and persecution

January 26, 2012

Christians are suffering in escalating humanitarian crises caused by conflicts in South Sudan and the border regions, while Christians and churches in Sudan are facing increased hostility because of their faith.

An estimated 3,000 people have been killed and over 100,000 displaced in ethnic violence that has engulfed South Sudan's Jonglei state. Entire villages have been burnt to the ground and, as aid agencies struggle to reach those who have been forced from their homes, many people have resorted to eating wild fruit.

Christians and church leaders have been among those killed; churches and other buildings used for Christian ministry have been destroyed in the violence.

One Christian leader who was among the evacuees from the town of Pibor said:

I saw children, women and many people resting under the trees, suffering from hunger, mosquito bites, lacking sleeping materials and drinking unclean water sometimes from the swamps and rivers... It was a tragic and miserable situation that I ever witnessed in my life.

Troubled border region

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the contested border region is also deteriorating rapidly. Fighting, which broke out after the Sudan Armed Forces occupied Abyei last May, has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, and there are fears of a large-scale famine in the states of Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile. The US special envoy for Sudan said that more than a quarter of a million people could be on the brink of famine by March.

Christians, especially church leaders, have been targeted in this brutal campaign because they are presumed to oppose Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir.

Anti-Christian hostility

In Sudan, which is 98 per cent Muslim, Christians and churches have been facing increased hostility since mainly Christian South Sudan gained independence in July 2011. There have been reports of church leaders being threatened, arrested and abducted. On 16 January, two church leaders were seized in Rabak, south of the capital Khartoum; a ransom of 500,000 Sudanese pounds (US$180,000) was demanded for their release.

Christian leaders fear that the situation for the Church in Sudan will only become more difficult. President al-Bashir has repeatedly stated his intentions to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution and increase the reach of sharia law, making life and ministry increasingly dangerous for Christians.

END

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