By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KHARTOUM (Worthy News) – Sudanese Christians are mourning after suspected Muslim militants killed the three young children of a deceased Catholic Church deacon in Sudan’s Central Darfur region, Worthy News established late Tuesday.
Details of the July 13 attack on the family home of late Deacon Azrag Barnab in Central Darfur’s Al-Omda neighborhood of the town of Garsila were confirmed to Worthy News by the advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The extremists reportedly torched the house at midnight as they called it the ‘Kafir’s’ (‘Infidel’) House.’
Barnab’s six-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter died in the fire, Christians said. His older son, aged 11, managed to escape but passed away several days later in hospital from his injuries, Worthy News learned.
Deacon Barnab died in hospital in November 2021 from suspected poisoning. The family then filed a police report on his case, but authorities failed to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death sufficiently, CSW said.
CSW’s Founder, President Mervyn Thomas, noted that the “death of a church deacon in suspicious circumstances, followed by the appalling murders of three of his children in an arson attack on their family home, warrant a full and independent investigation.”
He added that the Sudanese authorities, including the military leaders “who are now in de facto control of the country,” must ensure that the perpetrators of extremist violence against the Christian community in Central Darfur are swiftly brought to justice.”
Thomas, who said his group had extended condolences to the victims’ families, also noted that hostility towards Christian communities in Central Darfur has increased.
He said the violence increased “since the October 2021 military coup that brought an end to the civilian-led transitional government.”
Shortly after the coup, church leaders living in camps for internally displaced people in Darfur reported receiving threats from officials. The officials reportedly told them they would face “apostasy charges,” referring to abandoning Islam if they continued to meet to pray.
In July 2022, four men from Central Darfur were charged with apostasy, despite the transitional government removing it from the criminal statute books, according to Christian rights activists. Their case is due in court at the end of August.
“This increase in threats and violence has led to the closure of three churches in Zalingei, Central Darfur this year: the Christ’s Light Church closed in January, the Episcopal Church in April, and the Baptist Church in June,” CSW said.
“SEVERITY OF THREATS”
“In each case, the respective church leaders decided to close their places of worship for the safety of their communities. Another church building in Zalingei belonging to the Catholic Church was given to a plaintiff in a civil dispute in 2016,” CSW added.
Thomas told Worthy News that the fact that church leaders have been forced “to close places of worship” to “protect their community” is an “indication of the severity of these threats.”
He said it also shows “the state’s lamentable failure to protect the right of this marginalized group to the freedoms of religion or belief, assembly and association, and expression.”
He said that CSW has urged the international community “to raise these cases with Sudan’s military leaders urgently and at every level.”
It was time, he suggested, “to respect, protect and fulfill these rights for Christians in Darfur, and every other religious and belief community in Sudan.”
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