A systematic campaign of persecution has been escalating against Christians across Northern Sudan, Barnabas Fund has warned, especially since the mainly Christian South voted to secede from Sudan in January 2011.
Barnabas Fund reminded prayer partners that President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had always made it clear that the North would become 100 per cent Islamic, with the place of sharia law being strengthened.
Churches are being demolished, Christian institutions closed, Christians arrested, foreign Christian workers deported and literature seized. President Bashir, who has been in power since leading a successful coup in 1989, introduced sharia law in Sudan in 1991.
After the secession of the South, where the North had fought to impose sharia law in the long and bloody civil war that ended in 2005, harassment and attacks against Christians in Sudan steadily increased. But towards the end of 2012, these developed into a targeted and ruthless campaign.
Already, according to Barnabas Fund, there has been a media drive against alleged ‘Christianisation’, which included reports in the state-controlled press that foreign missionaries were planning to convert Muslims.
Following a story that a Muslim girl had been baptised, numerous foreign workers were deported, reportedly around 100 people. Sudanese Christians have also been detained. In January, at least 55 Christians were arrested, falsely accused of receiving money from foreign countries.
Those involved in Christian ministry are particularly vulnerable. A number of church leaders have been arrested and youth group leaders summoned for interrogation. Upon their release, at least three youth group leaders were ordered to report to the national security services each day.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Fund, said, ‘Sadly, it was only a matter of time before President Bashir began to deliver on his vow to strengthen the Islamic character of Sudan following the secession of the mainly Christian South.
‘And the church, as Christians understandably feared, was always going to be one of the primary targets of this campaign. Bashir continues to demonstrate the ruthless disdain for human rights that has previously seen him charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity. The rights of all Sudanese citizens must be upheld, including the Christian minority’.