By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Christian rights activists are concerned about tensions in Sudan, where at least 14 people were reportedly killed in recent violence in the disputed oil-rich region Abyei.
Sudanese broadcaster Radio Dabanga said a dozen people died in a May 16 attack by Misseriya tribesmen on Dungoup village after two others were killed by the same group on May 14.
The region’s Deputy Chief Minister Kon Manyiet said seven people were also injured in the May 16 violence.
On May 17, the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) condemned the attacks. Its Acting Head of Mission and Force Commander Maj. Gen. Kefyalew Amde Tessema urged all parties to endorse UNISFA’s peace initiatives and defuse tension.
UNISFA also reported that the two individuals killed on May 14 were Manuon Akot Manuon, 75, and Wud Bol Malek, 65.
The oil-rich Abyei region lies on the border of Sudan and South Sudan, and administrative arrangements for the troubled area are yet to be settled.
Clashes come despite a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 between the Sudanese government and the rebellious Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Under the CPA, Abyei’s people were to hold a referendum on whether to join heavily Christian South Sudan or remain part of mainly Muslim Sudan.
But 19 years after the referendum was to occur, UNISFA still has a military presence in the restive region. Rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) urged all parties to implement the peace deal.
The appeal came as the latest clashes were due to adding to concerns among minority Christians in Sudan. President Omar al-Bashir’s ouster in April 2019 also contributed to uncertainty about the leadership of Sudan and how it would impact Christians.
Advocacy groups are pleased that Islamic law is due to end after 30 years, as Christians from a Muslim background no longer face the death penalty.
However, Christian converts who were Muslims in the past still face “extreme persecution from their families,” says advocacy group Open Doors. “And communities are still at risk of attacks, ostracism, and discrimination against if their faith is discovered,” the group added. “Church buildings are often attacked or even demolished.”
Many of the nearly two million Christians in Sudan “still keep their faith secret, for the safety of them and their family,” the group explained. “Some converts even choose not to raise their children as Christians, wary of retribution from community leaders. This fear of exposure even means some Christians from a Muslim background have Islamic funerals in Muslim cemeteries.”