The threat of an all-out war between Sudan and South Sudan is putting Christians in both nations in great danger, Barnabas Fund has warned.
Clashes in the oil-rich territory over the past month have been described as the worst fighting since South Sudan gained independence in July 2011.
According to a statement from the organisation, the UN Security Council is extremely concerned about the escalating conflict and said the situation threatened to return the countries to full-scale war.
Sudan has said that if Southern troops do not comply with a UN order to withdraw from the Heglig oilfields, Khartoum ‘will chase them out’ and ‘hit deep inside South Sudan’.
The tensions threaten a return to the deadly civil war that devastated the South and left more than two million people, mainly Southern Christians, dead.
The independence of South Sudan was meant to herald a new dawn of peace, but issues between the two countries remain unresolved, including disputed border territory, oil revenue and citizenship rights.
The hostility between the two nations has left any of Southern origin (mainly Christian African) who are marooned in the north’s overwhelmingly Muslim and Arab Republic of Sudan in a state of limbo and danger.
They were stripped of their citizenship after the South voted to secede in January 2011 and given until 8 April to sort out their papers. That deadline has now passed, and, treated as foreigners in Sudan, they have been denied work permits, while South Sudan has not yet started issuing identity documents. These Southerners have been left without an official nationality.
Barnabas Fund said it was helping to meet the practical needs of Christians in Sudan and South Sudan by providing returning refugees with emergency supplies, including sorghum (grain), salt, plastic sheeting for shelters, mosquito nets, blankets, water drums and cooking pots.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Fund, said, ‘A return to war would be a tragedy, especially for Christians in both territories who, during the long civil war, were particular targets of Khartoum’s aggression’.