A MOB of 300 people attacked a church compound in Sudan on Saturday of last week, prompting fears that the political rhetoric accompanying clashes along the border with South Sudan had inflamed religious tensions.
Witnesses told IRIN, a news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, that the mob attacked a Presbyterian church compound in al-Jiraif district, in Khartoum, setting light to parts of the premises. The compound includes a home for the elderly, a medical clinic, Bible school, and accommodation for priests. On Sunday, Muslims joined Christians who gathered on the premises to encourage one another.
The attack has been condemned officially by Muslim religious leaders and the government of Sudan, which has promised an open investigation into the incident by the Ministry of Religious Guidance.
Two independent churches in the district were also attacked on Saturday, the leader of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, the Revd James Par Tap, said.
The Sudan Tribune reports that, on Monday, Sudanese security forces shut down the offices of Sudan Aid and the Sudan Council of Churches in Nyala, Darfur. The Roman Catholic clinic that serves those living in camps surrounding the city was also closed.
Although South Sudan has now withdrawn from the contested Heglig oilfield (News, 20 April), tensions between the two countries remain high. South Sudan accuses Sudan of bombing oil-producing regions along its border, while Sudan says that its soldiers, released from prison by South Sudan, have been beaten. Both sides claim that the other is supporting rebels in its country. On Sunday, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan declared a state of emergency in the Sinnar, White Nile, and South Kordofan states.
The international community is increasing pressure on the two countries to return to the negotiating table to resolve continuing disputes about oil and the demarcation of the border. On Tuesday of last week, the African Union warned that it would issue binding rulings unless Sudan and South Sudan resumed talks within two weeks. The UN Security Council is currently drafting a resolution to support this.