While much of the recent focus on Sudan has been on the escalating violence in the disputed border areas of South Kordofan, little is being reported about the growing persecution of the church in Khartoum and of the fate of Christians living in Sudan.
According to a Compass Direct News story last week, sources report that as tensions between Sudan and South Sudan turn into military combat on the border, predominantly Christian citizens of southern origin trapped in Sudan fear the Islamic government and Muslims in general will turn on them. Though officially deemed foreigners since South Sudan seceded from the north in July, many of the half million southern Sudanese living in Sudan have never lived anywhere else, victims of the decades long civil war.
On April 8th, ethnic southerners were given only 30 days to register or leave the country, but hundreds have been forbidden from boarding planes for Juba because they need documents from the southern capital to leave. On April 9, one day after the announcement, South Sudanese Christians were shocked to learn that all flights and land routes to South Sudan had been closed to them, with no information forthcoming on when they would be allowed to leave. The Sudanese government’s declaration of war with South Sudan last week only intensified the fears of the trapped southern Sudanese.
Church leaders who wish to remain in the north said they have not been given enough information on how to register for legal status to complete the process by the deadline, and many South Sudanese fear that registering will only help officials monitor their movements. While the government at once orders and prohibits them from leaving, Islamic groups insist that ethnic southerners must be deported.
In Khartoum, an Islamic mob with a bulldozer threatened to demolish Gerief West Bible School on April 9, saying it was located on land that should be returned to “the land of Islam” because southern Sudanese were no longer legal citizens. Claiming that the school was located “in the land of Islam of our grandfathers,” some 100 angry Muslim extremists brandishing clubs had first threatened to take over the school as well as harm students and staff members on March 30, according to a school employee.
“On April 9 at 8 a.m. the mob came again, but this time with one big bulldozer in a clear attempt to raze the school building, but students and school administration protested and called the police to protect them,” he said. The school, which sits on nine hectares of land, belongs to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church and trains church leaders from various denominations. “It was an answer to the prayers the worshipers were offering that made the Muslims go away without injuring a brother or a sister,” the student said. “They wanted to raze the building; the situation is difficult, and you cannot imagine how bad it is.”
The school was again attacked over the weekend. This time all of the buildings were destroyed by the fire, along with office equipment, library books and students’ personal belongings. Gereif students are being accommodated at another location, but they have lost everything. Other attacks on churches and schools have occurred recently, and one worship service was interrupted over the weekend with worshippers being told to end the service because of an alleged disturbance to those praying at a local mosque. Though no physical injuries have been reported from these incidents, much property has been destroyed and tension has mounted.
Thank You, Father, that the lives of Christians in Khartoum have been protected. Grant wisdom to the church leaders as they respond to government demands. And we pray for all the Christians as they face growing hostility around them. Show them the reality of Your presence in their midst. We lift up the churches and schools that have been destroyed, giving thanks for protection from injury. Sustain the students, Father, who have lost all of their worldly goods. And we pray that You will give opportunities to Your church in Khartoum, that they might find ways to show love and care for their neighbors. In the name of Jesus, Defender of His church, Amen.