Prayers are being urged for Sudan, where fighting in the capital Khartoum between military factions has led to the deaths of one hundred civilians, with many others injured.
“We hold the nation of Sudan in our prayers at this time”, tweeted the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
“Lord God, protect the civilians, bring peace to this appalling crisis in the nation’s life, and allow political stability to return”, he wrote.
Speaking on Sunday from a window over-looking St Peter's Square in Rome Pope Francis said he was "following with concern the events unfolding in Sudan."
“I am close to the Sudanese people, already so tried, and I invite you to pray so that they might lay down their arms and pick up the path of peace and harmony,” he added.
The clashes in Sudan are part of a power struggle between General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, commander of the Sudanese army, and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group.
The competition for power in Sudan follows dictator Omar al Bashir’s removal in April 2019, linked to nationwide demonstrations. A short-lived transitional administration, that should have taken the country to democracy, fell to a military coup in 2021 led by the two men, who had been allies.
“There are no good guys in this fight”, commented Dr Khataza Gondwe, Head of Advocacy at persecution charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
“They're both really unsavoury characters who only want power so that they can themselves oppress the people of Sudan”, Dr Gondwe told Premier Christian News.
“Even before this fighting started under this military regime, rights that had been given to Christians or improvements that have been made in the situation for Christians in the north, were steadily being rolled back”, she added.
Explaining the challenges of being a Christian in Sudan, Dr Gondwe described the difference between the civilian administration and control by the military:
“Church property seized by illegitimate committees was then upheld by this regime. People were beginning to be attacked for conversion, which was no longer a crime.”
“Four men in Darfur were actually taken to court for having converted. Thankfully the courts threw it out, but not before these men had been held incommunicado and mistreated”, she told Premier.
“There had been there's a rising kind of intolerance, I'd say, under the military rule. And things have been getting difficult for Christians in many areas. However, now we have this war, we don't know what's going to happen next.”
“We just watch and see how the situation transpires for Christians”.