Christian leaders denounce attack on Sudan Presbyterian Church
Global Christian leaders have condemned the destruction on April 21 of the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church Bible School in Khartoum, an incident that occurred amid escalating hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan.
Nearly 500 people, said to be members of a fundamentalist Islamic group, attacked the church compound in the West Gerief district of the Sudanese capital, burning Bibles and destroying and looting property. The attack increased fear among Christians in the north.
“We express a grave concern over the increasing incidents of attacks on Christians and destruction of Church property in Sudan,” said the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) general secretaries in a joint statement on April 24.
The organisations reported that security forces have also taken over the Sudan Council of Churches premises in the town of Nyala in Darfur province, where another conflict between government and rebels is occurring. The official confiscated vehicles and bicycles, according to the organisations.
“We regret to note that despite the rhetoric about freedom of religion and protection of the minorities by the government of Sudan, threats and discrimination against Christians in Khartoum and its environs are increasing,” said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary, and the Rev. Andre Karamaga, the AACC general secretary.
The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) said it was about to issue a call to prayer on Sudan, when the organisation received information detailing the burning and destruction, according to the Rev. Setri Nyomi, general secretary.
Nyomi said on April 24 the Sudan Presbyterian Church’s moderator, the Rev. James Par Tap, wrote that before the attacks, Ansaar Alsoona, a fundamentalist Islamic group, had announced “al-jihad” against Christianity and its members attacked the school and church.
With the attack, some Muslims apologised to Christians saying the actions did not represent the spirit of Islam. In solidarity, some Muslims joined Christians for prayers in the church compound and condemned the incident.
At the same time, church organisations warn that similar groups to the one that burned the church are marauding in Khartoum and being encouraged by the inflammatory speeches by Sudan government leaders.
The two nations are embroiled in a dispute over oil and borders that is threatening to develop into full scale war. South Sudan broke away from Sudan last July, after a two-decade-long civil war.
As the hostilities increase, refugees have begun streaming into Kakuma, the refugee camp in Kenya where many lived during the civil war, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Archbishop appeals for peace
The Anglican archbishop who was instrumental in delivering peace to Sudan raised the spectre of full-blown war and appealed for restraint from the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan.
Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak, leader of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, urged the two presidents to pursue peace in spite of the difficulties following the major clashes threatening the fragile peace that churches helped to broker in 2005.
In a statement released April 24, he wrote that he was deeply concerned that the conflict between the two countries has escalated close to full blown war. The current civil war began in 1983 and is one of the longest running conflicts in the world, costing nearly two million lives.
After a long history of violence and war since independence, a second major conflict broke out in 1983 between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan.
Archbishop Daniel’s statement came at a low moment in the peace process. The signatories of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the agreement which provided the path for the countries to separate last year, have lost momentum to follow through with their commitments.
Archbishop Daniel urged presidents Salva Kiir Mayardit and Omar Al Bashir not to lose the great amount of goodwill from their peoples shown during the process that led to the independence of South Sudan. He appealed to the people of both countries to refuse to be incited to return to war by their leaderships.
“We should learn from the 55 years of war not to return to it so hastily. The blood of those who fought for peace should not have been poured in vain. We call on all sides to exercise restraint and pursue peace at all costs. God is on the side of those who seek peace.”