By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
KARTHOUM, SUDAN (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Sudan expressed concern about their future as South Sudan’s army said northern warplanes bombed its territory on Monday, June 13, following fighting in a tense border area.
“The North-South border remains disputed at several points. A referendum should have been conducted in the province of Abyei on whether it will remain within the North or join the South. However, the referendum has been postponed indefinitely,” explained Christian aid and advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
“Sudanese Christians request our continued prayer as the North and South become separate countries on July 9,” after a recent vote on the issue, MEC told BosNewsLife in a statement.
The Northern army has been battling Southern-aligned troops in Southern Kordofan, the north’s main oil state, since June 5. Humanitarian organizations fear a mounting death toll, although few casualties have been confirmed so far.
“Last month Northern forces asserted control following an ambush in which Northern personnel were killed by the South’s army. The Government of South Sudan has stated that it will avoid further military confrontation over Abyei” another region, said MEC, which has close contacts in the region.
However, “There have been violent clashes in other provinces along the North-South border, notably South Kordofan, and also an increase in violence in Darfur in western Sudan,” causing thousands to flee, the group added.
Over 53,000 thousand people, including Christians, have so far fled the fighting, according to United Nations estimates.
Besides the clashes, minority Christians in the North fear the authorities’ stated intention “to implement Shari’a”, or Muslim law, “more strictly, potentially reducing the limited freedoms given to Christians and other non-Muslims,” MEC said.
The group also cited Churches in the North as saying they are concerned “about the potential for further restrictions” on their “freedom of worship.”
There continues to be lack of clarity on the status to be given to Southerners living in the North, many of whom are Christian, according to MEC and other rights investigators. “There is a fear that as many Christians leave, those remaining will be in a more vulnerable position.”
Yet, the Sudan Council of Churches and the two largest churches, the Roman Catholic Church and Episcopal Church of Sudan, have reportedly decided to remain united covering both future countries. “They request our prayers as they adapt to operating under two legal systems,” MEC said, suggesting that this may be difficult.