KHARTOUM, SUDAN (BosNewsLife)– Dozens of Sudanese Christians were thought to be trapped in a Sudanese prison Saturday, February 23, as violence raged in renewed fighting between two Arab tribes, killing scores of people.
At least 55 Christians were detained by the government of Sudan over two weeks ago on “false accusations” of allegedly receiving money from foreign countries, including Israel, according to Christians with close knowledge about the case.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said the group, which has no political affiliations and includes church leaders, was jailed as part of a wider crackdown on Christians in the volatile Islamic country.
“CSW is deeply concerned at these arbitrary arrests” of 55 Christians and the wider news “of an escalating crackdown
on Christian citizens in Sudan,” explained CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston.
“We urge the Sudanese government to release these prisoners and end its campaign of harassment against the Christian community,” he told BosNewsLife in a statement.
It came amid reports that 60 people died Saturday, February. 23, in what the state news agency called “the worst” since a cease-fire was reached between rival Arab tribes fighting over mining rights in the northern Darfur region.
The United Nations said fighting broke out last month in the Jebel Amir area, leaving 100 dead in January and forcing 70,000 people to flee their homes.
Saturday’s fighting broke out when a group of armed tribesmen in vehicles and riding camels attacked the El-Sireaf area in North Darfur, news reports said.
The violence added to concern about detained believers and other minority Christians, many of whom were forced to flee Darfur and other areas of Sudan because of clashes and Islamic pressure by the government, church groups say.
Besides detaining church leaders and other devoted Christians, authorities reportedly closed down several Christian-affiliated schools, colleges and training centers.
Additionally, some 100 foreign workers were deported in recent weeks, including Christians, according to aid groups.
The repression has been linked to a state-run media campaign against “Christianisation” of the country.
CSW said it has been concerned about increasing pressure on churches in Sudan, since the creation of South Sudan as a separate state in 2011.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir had reportedly pledged to make his African nation’s new constitution 100 percent Islamic.
He was quoted as saying that “all parties, religious sects and Sufis” would be represented in the constitutional drafting committee, but CSW cautioned no further details have been given about its progress.
CSW has urged the government to once again undertake “broad consultations” during the drafting of the new constitution and to ensure that it recognizes the rights of all Sudanese citizens.
The group said that should include freedom of religion or belief, as outlined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is a signatory.