Sudan and South Sudan - Country profile
|High persecution||Situation worsened|
More than two years on from the formal division of the country to form Sudan and South Sudan, progress has been slow regarding the people's desperate struggle for basic rights and resources.
The widespread optimism that greeted the 9 July 2011 secession of the South to form Africa's newest nation has in many cases quickly and comprehensively turned to disappointment and even despair. A mass movement of millions of people to find a new future in the new country led to a humanitarian crisis as a fragile infrastructure still reeling from the 1983-2005 civil war proved itself incapable of meeting many people's basic needs including jobs, schools and roads.
Pressure to leave the north
The pressure to move from the north was prompted by a shake-up in citizenship rights and residency permits, putting pressure on people of Southern Sudanese extraction to return to their ancestral homelands. But, unable to find work, homes, healthcare, education and other essentials, many went back north. Christian-run schools which feared closure continued to run, catering for youngsters whose families had abandoned the South.
But the country to which they returned was by now asserting a radical agenda, one deeply intolerant in its attitudes towards minority groups. Just months after the South's secession, Sudan's Islamist President Omar al-Bashir declared his intention to create a fully fledged Islamic state. Bashar stated that the new constitution then under review was intended to reflect the new position that "the official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source". Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2009, clearly had no intention of making life easy for Christians and other non-Muslims.
Vigorous enforcement of Shari'a law in north
Even before the introduction of the new constitution, evidence showed the regime was enforcing the existing one much more vigorously. In line with Islamic Shari'a law under Article 126 of the 1991 Criminal Act, apostasy from Islam is punishable by death. Such a sentence has not been carried out for 20 years, but even so there have been a number of apostasy cases in the last two years.
By the summer of 2013, reports from the Fides news agency described how, between 2011 and 2012, 170 people were imprisoned or indicted for apostasy. In some instances converts to Christianity were being "hunted down". Similarly human rights groups noted how government officials had ordered doctors to perform a number of amputations involving people found guilty of robbery.
Increasing Islamisation and anti-Christian attacks
Increasing Islamism is being linked to a media campaign warning of the rise of "Christianisation", an unlikely phenomenon given the extent of Christian emigration to the South. By mid 2012, reports were coming in of churches being attacked and clergy being arrested.
Sources close to Aid to the Church in Need warned that for clergy in particular the situation was worse even than before 2005, during the civil war. One leading charity for persecuted Christians noted "an increase in arrests, detentions and deportations of Christians and of those suspected having links to them" particularly in the capital.
For some groups, the loss of rights and status was so great that they feared speaking out at all, sensing the government was looking for an excuse to carry out direct and heavy-handed retaliation. In many cases attacks against Christians and others are inextricably linked to a growing intolerance of minority tribal communities. There has been widespread targeting of African ethnic groups, apparently showing the government's determination to pursue an agenda dominated by Islamisation and Arabisation.
"Ethnic cleansing" in Nuba mountains
Of particular concern was the government's violence towards the Nuba people. Human rights observers highlighted the intensive bombing campaign of the Nuba mountains, mainly populated by Christians, saying that it "reportedly amounted to ethnic cleansing".
As the political divide between north and south becomes wider, with worsening clashes over disputed territory, the outlook for most communities in Sudan, perhaps especially Christian ones, seems particularly bleak.
After decades of civil war and the recent creation of South Sudan, barely anyone has escaped the psychologically damaging effects of upheaval, suffering and grief. Priests are no exception. But regardless of their own suffering they are called to be community leaders and need to draw deeply on personal strength to minister to their flocks. Against a backdrop of aggressive islamisation in Sudan, ordinary parish priests urgently need spiritual renewal to support them in their vocation.Read More
Persecution and Islamism in Sudan
June 2011: Nimeri Philip Kalo, a student at St. Paul Major Seminary, was seized and killed by a Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) intelligence unit and detained. He was fleeing the town with other Christians after Muslim militias, working with the SAF, attacked and looted at least three church buildings. The same day, militants killed 33-year-old Adeeb Gismalla Aksam having previously fired shots at a Catholic Church. SAF agents then arrested Fr Abraham James Lual, holding him in custody for two days, torturing him and accusing him of preaching opposition to the Islamic government.
Source: CDN, 17/6/11; 19/9/11
June 2011: The governor of North Kordofan, Mutasim Mirghani Zaki El-deen, declared jihad against the predominantly Christian Nuba people.
Source: CDN, 17/06/12
July-August 2011: Muslim extremists sent text messages to at least 10 church leaders in Khartoum warning that they would target Christian leaders and buildings. One message read: “We want this country to be purely an Islamic state, so we must kill the infidels and destroy their churches all over Sudan.”
Source: CDN, 13/9/12
September 2011: Following a five-hour interrogation, Fr Abraham Lual went into hiding. He had been detained three times in the past three months and on two of those occasions he had been tortured, receiving injuries to his left leg.
Source: CDN, 19/9/11
December 2011: A Christian teenager was kidnapped and physically assaulted and raped by a gang of extremists. After a year in captivity, she convinced them that she had converted to Islam and they relaxed their guard. Escaping, she found her way back to her family and reported the gang to the police who refused to act unless she converted to Islam.
Source: International Christian Concern/Voice of the Martyrs, 22/12/11
February 2012: Heiban Bible College was bombed in South Kordofan. Nobody was hurt. It came under fire on its opening day. Eye-witnesses reported that it took four fly-passes before the building with its cross on the top was hit. Samaritan’s Purse, a charity supporting the college, said the Sudanese Air Force carried out the attack, adding that in the previous six months, four churches built had been destroyed by bombing action.
April 2012: A Muslim mob set fire to a Catholic church frequented by Southern Sudanese. The church was on disputed land and the attack was linked to a fall-out connected to hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan over control of an oil town on their ill-defined border.
Source: Daily News America, 22/4/12
June 2012: Government officials in Khartoum gave the go-ahead for the demolition of two church buildings: St John’s Episcopal Church in Hajsecond and a Catholic church building. A local source said: “The government wants to remove all churches from Khartoum. Tell churches, all churches, to stand in prayer for the Church in Sudan.”
Source: CDN, 29/6/12
November 2012: Armed forces attacked at least 26 villages in the Nuba Mountains, home to the country’s largest Christian population. Satellite images showed burned-out huts amid reports that schools, homes, churches, food crops and grasslands were destroyed in a 54 square mile area.
Source: CBN News, 14/12/12
February 2013: 55 Christians linked to the Evangelical Church in Khartoum were detained without charge. The cultural centre of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Centre in Khartoum was raided by the National Intelligence and Security Services and three people, all from south Sudan were arrested. Books and media equipment were confiscated.
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 18/4/13
March 2013: In the latest attacks on mainly Christian communities in the Nuba Mountains, a church building was destroyed by bombs apparently dropped by government, Russian-made Antanov airplanes, two months after two Christians were killed and six others were injured. Local Christian sources state that the Khartoum regime’s armed struggle against rebels has the secondary aim of ridding the region of non-Arabs and Christians.
Source: Morning Star News, 27/03/13
April 2013: Fr Maurino, a Catholic priest from South Sudan, and two expatriate missionaries, working in Khartoum, were deported. According to Fr Maurino, no reason was given.
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 18/4/13
April 2013: Al-Fatih Taj El-sir, the Sudanese Minister responsible for overseeing religious affairs, announced that no new licences for building churches would be issued. He stated that declining numbers of Christians, emigrating to the South, and an increase in abandoned churches meant no new churches were necessary.
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 18/4/13
July 2013: Converting from Islam to Christianity in Sudan has become more dangerous since the secession of South Sudan with about 170 people imprisoned or indicted for apostasy between 2011 and 2012. A Christian who fled from the Nuba Mountains stated he was arrested in Khartoum and questioned extensively by the National Intelligence Security Service. The Barnabas Team reported “the persecution of Christians in Sudan has increased sharply… churches are demolished, Christian institutions and schools closed, Christians arrested, foreign Christian workers expelled and Christian publications. seized”.
Source: Fides, 27/6/13
Last updated: 14/10/2013