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Sudanese raids condemned as war crime

10 November 2023

Province of Sudan

The gutted Church of Our Saviour, Omdurman

The gutted Church of Our Saviour, Omdurman

A CHURCH used by two different Christian congregations has been destroyed in the shelling of Sudan’s second largest city, during the continuing conflict between the Sudanese military and a paramilitary faction.

The Church of Our Saviour, in Omdurman, which dates back to the 1900s, and was the second largest church building after the Coptic church, has been almost completely destroyed. Local reports have blamed the Sudanese military force for the attack.

The church was used by both Episcopal and Evangelical denominations. No one was injured in the attacks, but the inside was completely destroyed. Further bombing of the market in Omdurman five days later killed dozens of people.

Two days later after the shelling of Our Saviour, a building belonging to the Roman Catholic Comboni Missionaries was bombed, and five nuns and several children were injured.

Omdurman has suffered devastation in the conflict, which broke out earlier this year. Its location on the west bank of the Nile makes it a key target. Much of Khartoum near by, including residential and historic areas, has also been destroyed.

The Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces have been in conflict since April (News, 21 April), when the two forces were due to merge as part of an internationally supported framework agreement on a transition to democracy. Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions more have been forced to flee, whole villages have been burned, and sexual violence has been reported.

The charity Christian Solidary Worldwide (CSW) said that it believed that the attacks on churches were deliberate. “The land is valuable, and it will be easier to seize if the buildings have been destroyed by war,” the charity said.

Three weeks ago, the Evangelical Commercial School and the Evangelical Secondary School in Omdurman were bombed.

St George’s Coptic Church, Omdurman, was raided by gunmen on 14 May, and five nuns and worshippers were injured. Two days later, militants raided an Anglican church in the Al Amarat district of Khartoum, and the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary, which they occupied and turned into military bases.

Mervyn Thomas, of CSW, said that the intentional targeting of places of worship was a war crime. “The intentional targeting of places of worship not only violates international humanitarian law, but also constitutes a war crime. We continue to call for a full and comprehensive ceasefire, and urge the international community to hold both warring parties accountable for the violations and abuses they have committed against Sudanese citizens, both during the conflict and before it.”

In Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Sudan was ranked tenth, up from 13th the previous year. The Christian population of Sudan is estimated at two million, or 4.5 per cent of the total population.

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