Northern Sudan Christians face challenges after South’s secession

Nairobi, Kenya (ENI)- As Christians in South Sudan mark one

month after independence, churches in the Muslim North are facing pressure

from government officials and members of the public who are demanding their



The development is causing some church leaders to close schools and

congregations and consider moving to the South, but even those actions are

difficult because they see themselves as Northern Christians.


“Some churches are being left empty and those in the outskirts without

proper documentation are being forced to close. Some individual government

leaders are going there and telling pastors to close them down,” said the

Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches,

in a telephone interview.


South Sudan became an independent state on July 9, creating hope for many

Christians, especially in the  North, where they were never allowed full

freedom to operate. But they face increased threats from individual groups, according to Chan, a Baptist.


“The groups have collected names of pastors and are warning them against

conducting church services on Sundays or they would be killed,” said the

leader of the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox church grouping.


He said that renewal of identity cards and other important documents for the

leaders and the South Sudanese were being denied. “The people are not being

allowed to take property like refrigerators and cookers. Money is also being

taken away by the soldiers at the border points,” he said.


Government officials in Khartoum are generally barred from speaking with the

Press, and an official at the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi said he had no

knowledge of any harassment.


Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Adwok, the Archdiocese of Khartoum auxiliary,

said church schools were considering closing since church0-based charities

had reduced funding after most people traveled to the South. “Many parents

who are displaced persons are not able to raise the required school fees

given their little income. So the church is finding it difficult to continue

running the schools without enough resources,” said Adwok.


President Omar Hassan al-Bashir declared Sudan would embrace Sharia law and

Islam as the official state religion after the breakaway. On August 7, Qutbi

al-Mahdi, the political bureau officer of the ruling National Congress Party,

told the Sudan Tribune that the decrees would soon be issued.


In the war-torn South Kordofan region, the Anglican cathedral and offices in

Kadugli have been ransacked and looted, according to Bishop Andudu Adam

Elnail of the Kadugli Episcopal Diocese.


“I am told that armed men went house to house, searching for me, calling my

name,” Elnail told the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Africa

on August 4 in Washington. He said a member of his congregation

had witnessed the Sudan Armed Forces and Northern militia groups burying 100

or more dead bodies in mass graves in Kadugli.


“If I were not here today to testify before you, I do not know whether I

would be in a mass grave in Kadugli now,” he said. Elnail said he has

received frequent reports of the bombing of civilians in the Nuba Mountains

by the Sudan Air Force. He expressed the people’s fears that a

state-sponsored ethnic cleansing campaign was unfolding there.