Christian charities are warning the conflict in Sudan could lead to a wave of displaced people crossing into neighbouring countries such as South Sudan. Christian Aid says it fears the conflict in Sudan could lead to a wider humanitarian and refugee crisis exacerbating already desperate circumstances.
It comes as UK nationals as well as those from the US, France and China prepare to be evacuated out of Sudan by military transport planes as the situation in the capital Khartoum deteriorates.
The United Nations says more than 400 people have been killed there in the last week, with more than 3,500 people injured. The fighting between the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary force first erupted a week ago.
The capital city Khartoum is at the centre of the conflict, with many of its residents still stuck in their homes without access to water or electricity amid air strikes, gunfire and shelling. A three day ceasefire to mark the Muslim holiday Eid al Fitr is not thought to be holding.
Kinga von Schierstaedt, Project Co-ordinator for ACN in Africa and Head of Projects in Sudan said there are also confrontations in Merowe, El Obeid and in the Darfur region. She describes the situation in El Obeid :
“Heavy fighting is taking place. The square in front of the cathedral became a battlefield because there is an RSF camp right next to it. On Thursday two big explosive devices fell on the premises of the church; one blew out the windows of the cathedral and the other destroyed the adjoining priest’s house. Thank God, nothing happened to the priest, as he was no longer in the house.
“The Catholic Church in Sudan is very small, as over 95% of the population is Muslim. As this is not an ideological or religious conflict, all citizens are equally affected. Believers, priests and religious are unable to leave their houses. Mass on Sunday has been stopped, and priests are no longer celebrating daily Mass in the church. In the crisis zones the life of faith continues only in people’s houses.”
The conflict is also leading to fears over South Sudan’s fragile peace process because of disrupted cross border trade, including food and fuel supplies. The country is dependent on neighbouring Sudan’s oil infrastructure for its exports.
James Wani, Christian Aid South Sudan Country Director, said:
“South Sudan is already facing a severe food emergency. There is a significant shortfall in humanitarian funding. If this conflict in Sudan doesn’t stop soon, and refugees start crossing the border in large numbers, then this will exacerbate an existing humanitarian crisis.”
Kinga von Schierstaedt says Christians need to be praying for the situation :
“We are all praying that a government will come to power in Sudan that seeks justice and peace. That is what all our contacts are asking for. They tell us that at the moment we cannot support them with material help. They tell me: ‘The one thing which can give us strength now is knowing that we are carried in prayer.’”