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Sudan: Multiple churches attacked amid continued violence

by Heather Preston

A growing number of churches have come under attack in Sudan, as violence in the nation continues to escalate. 

Six gunmen opened fire on a church in Sudan's most populous city, Omdurman shooting four men including a priest and his son.

The Al-Masalma Coptic Church came under attack on Saturday 13th May where the church guard was also stabbed as armed looters took over the building.

All five victims are recovering in a private hospital according to reports from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) but were unable to access the area's largest hospital as it is currently under the control of Rapid Support Forces (RSF) - paramilitary forces formerly operated by the government.

An armed conflict between rival factions of Sudan's military government began on 15th April 2023, when clashes broke out in western Sudan. As of 16th May at least 1,000 people have been killed as a result of the fighting.

In Khartoum, RSF troops have forcibly evacuated all priests from Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church including Bishop Elia, the Bishop of Khartoum and South Sudan to convert the building into a military base. CSW reports that the military forces intimidated and harassed church members for days before forcing them to leave on 14th May.

Another Coptic church experienced a similar incident in Khartoum North (Bahri) while a number of mosques have also come under attack in West Darfur and Khartoum.

On 11th May, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolved to increase monitoring and documentation of all alleged human rights violations in the country to the Human Rights Council. Representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF have signed a declaration of commitment to protect the civilians of Sudan under international humanitarian and human rights law. The commitment seeks to "enable the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance, the restoration of essential services, the withdrawal of forces from hospitals and clinics, and the respectful burial of the dead."

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: "CSW condemns these recent attacks on places of worship across Sudan. The intentional attacks on clergy, the bombing of houses of worship and seizures of religious buildings for use as military bases violate international human rights and humanitarian law, and are among a litany of violations which may amount to war crimes.

"We urge the designated Expert to take note of these events. While the signing of the Jeddah commitment to protect civilians is a commendable initial step, if adhered to, CSW continues to call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire.

"We also reiterate our call to the international community to commit to long-term support for the promotion, protection, and fulfilment of human rights, and to facilitate broad and significant civil society participation in negotiations on a peaceful democratic transition. This is the only way to secure an effective political solution based on an inclusive Sudanese identity, rule of law, human rights and accountability."

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