By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KHARTOUM, SUDAN (BosNewsLife)– Sudanese Christians have urged fellow believers around the world to pray for them as armed groups are kidnapping and killing church leaders and other Christians, an advocacy group with close knowledge about the situation told BosNewsLife Tuesday , September 15.
In one of the latest known incidents, an unidentified armed group attacked the town of Wernyol on August 29, killing “many people” including Archdeacon Joseph Mabior Garang “who was shot at the altar while conducting a service,” said Middle East Concern (MEC).
Earlier, three people, including an Episcopal Church lay leader, were murdered August 12 in the town of Ezo of the country’s Western Equatorial State during a raid by the militant Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), according to MEC investigations.
“In addition to the murders, several children were kidnapped. The town’s clinic was attacked, with medical supplies being stolen and equipment destroyed, which made care of the wounded more difficult,” MEC added.
The LRA is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the “spokesperson” of God and a spirit medium. Rebels aim to overthrow neighboring Uganda’s government and to establish a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments of the Bible’s Old Testament and local traditions, but have also stepped up their presence in Sudan.
Over the last two decades, the LRA has been accused of widespread human rights violations, including mutilation, torture, rape, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers, and a number of massacres. Thousands of people have been displaced.
In recent months there has been an increase in violent incidents across provinces of southern Sudan, especially near the Ugandan border and parts of the border dividing the autonomous southern states from the rest of the country.
“Everywhere, people are being killed” including at least one church leader, said Bishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak in remarks aired by Radio France International (RFI), monitored by BosNewsLife. “This is why we are appealing to the United Nations and governments in the world like the U.S. Germany and Norway. They should come in now, so that peace can be implemented like it was written.”
There has been concerns that militants of LRA and other groups in the south of this predominantly Islamic country try to disrupt a peace agreement that ended 20 years of civil war. Analysts say rebel groups may try to expand their territory as a bargain chip ahead of further talks.
“Sudanese Christian leaders request our prayers that the bereaved will know the comfort of Jesus” and that the “wounded and traumatised will know the healing touch of Jesus,” while the “displaced will know the Father’s provision,” said MEC in a statement to BosNewsLife.
MEC added that local believers have also urged prayers for church leaders, national and international peace efforts and that those responsible for the latest bloodshed will renounce violence.
Christians, who comprise just about 18 percent of Sudan’s mainly Muslim population of nearly 39 million people, are increasingly in the crossfire as many of them abandoned Islam, rights groups say.
“There is still great pressure on Muslims who choose to follow Christ,” explained Open Doors, a group supporting Christians facing difficulties because of their faith. (Follow BosNewsLife via Twitter. twitter.com/bosnewslife )