THOUSANDS of civilians in the disputed Abyei region of Sudan have been forced to flee after a weekend of looting and violence.
The oil-rich Abyei state is contested: both North Sudan and the newly formed, largely Christian South Sudan are staking a claim on the area. A direct vote on the future of the region when the country splits in early July has been postponed.
The UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) reported a weekend of burning and looting by northern forces in Abyei town. Members of the UN Security Council have demanded that North Sudan withdraws its 5000-strong force.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide said that the number killed in the fighting had yet to be determined. Thousands of civilians, it said, had been displaced after the occupation of Abyei town by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). Twenty thousand civilians had fled across the river.
CSW’s advocacy director, Andrew Johnston, said: “The indiscriminate attacks on civilians by the northern army, and its occupation and looting of Abyei town, are unacceptable actions that . . . should be condemned in the strongest terms.
“While appreciating the Security Council call for northern withdrawal, it is clearly time for words to be translated into effective action. UNMIS must become far more proactive in protecting Abyei’s civilians, in enforcing peace in the area, and in ensuring that the future of Abyei is decided not by force of arms but in accordance with international rulings.”
The Anglican Alliance is calling for urgent support for civilians, who, it says, are “lying on the ground without medical attention, shelter, food, or water”. The organisation calls on An-glicans to contact the government department in their country with responsibility for international aid and urge it to support emergency relief.
Nigerian Christians “live in fear”
The Bishop of Gusau, in Nigeria, the Rt Revd John Danbinta, said that Christians in the Muslim-dominated north are living in fear of death, and could not carry a Bible openly.
After the elections in April, 84 churches were burnt to the ground and dozens of Christians were killed in rioting in protest at the election of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, as President.
Bishop Danbinta told the synod of the Remo diocese: “Those of you who are Christians in the South here do not know what it really means to be Christians. In the North, we live daily preparing to be killed for the sake of Jesus Christ. And we suffer a lot for Christ’s sake. When we are in church, we wonder whether we will be able to finish a service without our church being burnt down. In the midst of all this, we still go to church.”