Attacks Against Christian Communities In Sudan

Back in April 2023, a power struggle erupted between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). These are the two groups largely responsible for the revolution that deposed Sudan’s long term dictator Omar al-Bashir.

The RSF are a powerful paramilitary group who came to be in 2013 after the Janjaweed reorganised themselves. The Janjaweed militia were an armed group of mostly Arabs who were funded by Bashir to fight the South Sudanese and in the Darfur War. The Janjaweed are infamous for their brutality especially in the Darfur war where over 200,000 people died in the first two years alone. In 2013, the various Janjaweed militias restructured and formalized themselves under the leadership of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo aka Hemedti.

Standing on the other side of the conflict is the SAF led by General Abdel Fattah al Burhan, who for all intents and purposes is the current ruler of Sudan. While Hemedti and al Burhan together removed al Bashir from power, they have since been unable to work together to give Sudan a stable and peaceful government.

The result has been a deadly war that has claimed over 13,000 lives. More than 8 million people have been displaced from their homes, with many of those leaving the country altogether.

As the war has escalated, this conflict has deeply affected Christian communities in the country. Armed fighters, mostly from the RSF, have been deliberately destroying and damaging Church buildings. It’s been estimated that over 150 Churches have been damaged in the conflict. A Coptic Christian Monastery in Wad Madani was attacked by the RSF and converted to a military base back in December. Five priests and five seminarians who were at the property have not been heard from since.

The RSF expanded its military operations to Gezira State where they burnt down an Evangelical Church. It was the oldest and largest religious structure in the state. Before this, earlier in April 2023, the RSF had captured an Anglican Church in central Khartoum for use as a military base. They forcibly removed the Archbishop and his family from the compound.

The following month in May, the RSF captured another Church, the St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Khartoum, again with the intention of using the place as a military base. The Bishop of Khartoum and all the priests there were forced to leave the place.

This tactic by the RSF of taking over Churches to use as military bases means that the SAF now consider Church buildings as legitimate targets in their fight against the RSF. For example, when the SAF bombed the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Wad Madani, many believed that this happened because it was considered a potential RSF base.

Christians are a religious minority in the country and their persecution has been ongoing long before the war began. Both armies in the conflict at one point reported to the Islamic Dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir.

International humanitarian law (Article 53) states that houses of worship and religious sites are to be protected, even during armed conflict.

For the sake of our brothers and sisters in Sudan, we at the EACLJ pray that the warring parties would end the violence and find a speedy resolution to the conflict.

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