Christian churches in Khartoum endangered by conflict in Sudan

Several churches were occupied by rebel forces and now serve as barracks. Places of worship are being damaged by the fighting and the celebration of mass has been prevented.

Christians in Sudan are suffering as a result of the conflict that has ravaged the country since April. Some churches have been taken over by the military of one of the two sides at war, while others have been damaged in the aftermath of the fighting. The situation adds hardship to the Christian community, which has already been persecuted heavily throughout history in a Muslim-majority country. According to recent local press reports, the latest churches to suffer the consequences of the war are the All Saints Episcopal Cathedral and the Coptic Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in Khartoum.

Among all the Christian denominations, the capital of Sudan is home to a good number of temples, including three cathedrals: Coptic, Anglican and Roman Catholic. According to local media, the Evangelical Presbyterian church suffered a fire when ammunition exploded in an adjacent market. The Coptic Orthodox church was hit by a missile. The Anglican All Saints Cathedral was occupied by militant forces to serve as a military barracks. In addition to these three churches, Khartoum is also home to St. Matthew's Cathedral, the seat of the archdiocese of the Catholic Church in the country.

In the case of the Anglican church, it was completely looted by the Rapid Support Forces, the side that allegedly started the fighting in mid-April. According to statements by the bishop of Khartoum, the fighters forced their way into the temple and took everything they could, ultimately settling in the church. They also confiscated several vehicles belonging to the Church, including the bishop's car.

"They threatened the guard with a gun and stole the diocese's vehicle. No one knows what happened to the rest of the church property," claims Bishop Ezekiel Kondo in a Facebook post. "We demand the immediate departure and withdrawal of these forces from the cathedral grounds. These acts must cease and must not happen again in any place of worship," adds the bishop, who also assures that the presence of FAR (Rapid Support Forces) constantly endangers the integrity of the temple and those who live inside it.

Yet another incident took place when armed men, with no clear affinity for either side, broke into another Greek church of St. George in Khartoum. According to a Reuters correspondent in Cairo, these four men robbed the oldest church in Khartoum at gunpoint. They shot at the parishioners, and the priest was assaulted. They also took the vehicle that the church priest used for his duties.

The invasion of Christian temples by the military has seriously worsened the situation for Christians in Sudan. Followers of Christ make up only 5% of the total population, despite the country's strong Christian past. With the end of British colonial rule and the rise of Islamists to power in Sudan, the situation of Christian minorities worsened. The southernmost half of the country, where most Christians reside, gained its independence from the north in 2011. The north has always been characterized by a more radical Islam present in its institutions.