By BosNewsLife Africa Service
JUBA/KHARTOUM (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in South Sudan and neighboring Sudan are mourning their dead, amid new revelations of massacres by Muslim fighters.
Among those who died are scores of female church workers who were killed last month while seeking refuge at a church in the central South Sudanese town of Bor, Christians said.
The women, several of whom were elderly, had reportedly fled rebel attacks to hide in the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church compound, when rebels descended on them, raping several of them before shooting them at close range.
Witnesses said several churches have been attacked and looted, and pastors harassed.
In Malakal, the St. Francis Catholic Church compound was reportedly attacked and looted in mid-January, and the priest robbed, while the local Anglican and Evangelical churches were also looted.
News reports said the most affected areas are the north-eastern states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile.
Bor, the headquarters of Jonglei State, was totally destroyed, with houses, food stores, shops, banks and churches burnt down and looted, according to World Watch Monitor, the news agency of Christian aid and advocacy group Open Doors.
"The women were from different parishes in the diocese and had converged in the church compound when they were killed," the Anglican Bishop of Bor, Ruben Akurdit Ngong, was quoted as saying. "This is very painful. They destroyed most of the churches in the diocese, but God is with us," he told World Watch Monitor.
Five of the murdered women – Dorcas Abuol Bouny and Akut Mayem Yar, both 72, Tabitha Akuang, 60, and Mary Alek Akech and Martha Agok Mabior, both 70 – worked as pastors in the church. A prominent lay leader, Agel Mabior, 72, was also killed, Christians said.
"They were all clergy. They all worked at the church. They did different jobs, [including] Bible reading," South Sudanese Anglican Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul told reporters.
South Sudan has been in turmoil since December 15, when a dispute within the army sparked fierce fighting in the capital city, Juba.
Violence spread quickly across the country and soon took on an ethnic dimension after President Salva Kiir alleged that his former vice-president, Riek Machar, was planning a coup.
The fighting has pitted army forces loyal to President Kiir, who is a member of the Dinka tribe, against rebel forces aligned to Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe.
The Dinka tribe is the largest in South Sudan; the Nuer is the second largest and boasts a deadly tribal militia known as the "White Army" because its fighters rub white ash, extracted from burnt cow dung, over their bodies, experts say.
The White Army has been linked to the massacre of Christian women and more than 2,500 others in Bor, a largely Dinka town.
WHITE ARMY KILLED
"I believe the White Army attacked and killed the women hiding in the church compound. It is very disturbing to know they were abused before being killed," said Reverend Mark Akec-Cien, deputy general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches. "I don’t think they were killed because they are Christians. The militia had also attacked, looted and destroyed shops, businesses, homes and other churches," he noted in published remarks.
The conflict, which forced 900,000 people to flee their homes since December, has added to a sense of insecurity among Christians who also suffer attacks in neighboring Sudan.
In Sudan, the Sudanese Air Force bombed more civilians in South Kordofan state last week, killing a Christian man and injuring others including a 13-year-old girl, Christians said.
The killed man, identified only as 30-year-old Timotuos, was a member of the Sudanese Church of Christ, as are two others who sustained burns and other injuries in the bombing, 13-year-old Zaienab Jebril Turomba and 27-year-old Salim Kuku.
Christians say the attacks are part of President Omar al-Bashir’s campaign to rid his mainly Islamic nation of Christianity and the ethnic Nuba people.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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