Gunmen Attack Sudan Churches As Conflict Escalates
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KHARTOUM (Worthy News) – The Sudanese Council of Churches has condemned attacks on church leaders and church buildings as the conflict in Sudan rapidly escalates.
Churches have been looted or used as military bases, while several have been burned down, prompting thousands to flee, Christians said.
In one incident, masked gunmen affiliated to one of Sudan’s warring factions raided one of Khartoum’s oldest churches, opening fire at church officials as they searched for cash, gold, and women, witnesses recalled.
The May 13 raid was one of many reported attacks targeting churches, homes, factories, and banks that residents have blamed on the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The RSF, which denied responsibility for the raid on the Mar Girgis (St. George) Coptic church, stated that its troops were working to protect civilians and that those committing abuses were criminals who had stolen RSF uniforms.
The RSF has been battling Sudan’s official army across greater Khartoum, the capital area, over the past month.
Christians said that the May 13 attack at the church in the Masalma neighborhood of Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, began shortly before midnight on May 13.
WHERE IS GOLD?
They shouted, ‘Where is the gold? Where is the money? Where are the dollars?'” one witness told reporters. They also insulted the church leaders and workers saying, “You are Egyptians, sons of dogs,” calling them infidels and telling them to convert to Islam.
During the attack, the assailants led the priest to his house at gunpoint and menaced him with a dagger before seizing a safe that held gold and cash and stealing a car, witnesses said.
They also reportedly vandalized the church offices and a sanctuary for Bishop Sarabamon, the top Coptic Church leader in Sudan. Christians said the bishop was present during the attack and beaten with a chair and sticks but was not recognized by the gunmen.
The church had an annex with elders and orphan girls, some of whom were hidden as the attack unfolded, reports said.
Just over 5 percent of Sudan’s population of 46 million is Christian, split into 36 denominations, according to data from the Sudan Council of Churches and other sources.
Among other churches targets was an Anglican church in the Al Amarat district in Khartoum, which has seen heavy fighting. It said it had been raided and “occupied” by RSF forces who stole a car and broke the doors of the church offices.
“We don’t know what happened to the rest of the church’s possessions,” Ezekiel Kondo, archbishop of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Sudan, said about the May 15 incident.
RSF fighters also entered the Coptic church of the Virgin Mary in Khartoum, forcing staff to leave, according to local Christians.
The RSF did not yet comment on the Anglican and Virgin Mary churches.
On Thursday, the same gunmen who attacked Mar Girgis returned to raid the apartments used by its priests, witnesses said. Footage showed smashed doors, a broken safe, and scattered clothes and personal belongings.
Rights activists say the violence underscored that Christians remain “a persecuted minority in Muslim-majority Sudan.”
A transitional government implemented reforms, however, in 2020, including the ending of Islam’s status as Sudan’s official religion and the abolition of an “anti-apostasy” law targeting devoted Christians involved in evangelism.
Yet with violence spreading, “Many Christians have now joined an estimated 250,000 who have fled the country,” the charity Barnabas Aid told Worthy News.
“Ask that our God of peace will bring an end to the violence in Sudan,” the group asked supporters.
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