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OPINION

In Sudan, more ethnic cleansing of Christians is alleged

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JUBA, South Sudan (BP) -- Alleged ethnic cleansing that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has undertaken against black Africans in the Nuba Mountains also is aimed at ridding the area of Christianity, according to humanitarian workers.
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By targeting Christians in the Nuba Mountains, which also is populated by adherents of Islam and other faiths, military force helps the predominantly Arab regime in Khartoum to portray the violence as "jihad" to Muslims abroad and thus raise support from Islamic nations, one humanitarian worker said on condition of anonymity.

In South Kordofan state -- on Sudan's border with the newly created nation of South Sudan and home to sympathizers of the southern military that fought in Sudan's long civil war -- Bashir's military strikes are directed at Muslims as well as Christians, but churches and Christians are especially targeted, the worker said.

"The ongoing war against Christians and African indigenous people is more of an ethnic cleansing in that they kill all black people, including Muslims," the worker said.

"But they give specific connotation to the war in targeting Christians to secure funding and support from the Arab and Islamic world by saying this war is a religious war," he said. "And in so doing, they get huge support from those countries."

The government in Khartoum is using Antonov airplanes to drop bombs, "coupled with state-sponsored militia targeting churches and Christian families," the worker said, noting that the militias are moving in brutal fashion "from house to house searching for Christian and African indigenous homes as the government continues with air strikes."

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The Satellite Sentinel Project (co-founded by actor George Clooney to provide satellite monitoring of abuses in Sudan) has gathered evidence that Antonov aircraft have indiscriminately bombed civilian populations in South Kordofan, although after a recent crash the government has said it will no longer use the planes.

Aerial bombardment in the Nuba Mountains, for example, killed the five members of the Asaja Dalami Kuku family who belonged to the Episcopal Church of Sudan on Feb. 25, the humanitarian worker said.

In Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan, at least four church buildings have been razed and more than 20 Christians killed, the worker said.

"The Islamic north sees Nuba Christians as infidels who need to be Islamized through jihad," he said. "But the fact of the matter is this war is ethnic cleansing -- a religious as well as political war, indeed a complex situation."

Another humanitarian worker said four church buildings were destroyed between June 2011 and March 2012 in the region; the congregations were affiliated with Episcopal Church of Sudan, the Roman Catholic Church, the Sudanese Church of Christ and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

On June 7 of last year, state-sponsored militia destroyed the office of the Sudan Council of Churches at Kadugli along with its vehicle, sources also told Compass Direct News.

On Feb. 26, three church leaders visited the devastated areas of Kadugli, led by Bishop Daniel Deng of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, and then presented grievances to the government. They were surprised that the government denied the attack on the church buildings.

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"A government official said militia groups were the ones destroying the churches, and not the government," one aid worker said.

Fighting in South Kordofan, a major battleground during Sudan's 1983-2005 civil war, broke out again in June 2011 as Khartoum moved to assert its authority against gunmen formerly allied to the now-independent South Sudan. The conflict between Bashir's forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) spread from South Kordofan to Sudan's Blue Nile state last September.

The United Nations estimates the conflict has displaced 400,000 people, with 300,000 in danger of starving within a month. Additionally, the U.N. Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are 185,000 refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile in South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Sudan's Interim National Constitution regards sharia (Islamic law) as a source of legislation, and the laws and policies of the government favor Islam, according to the U.S. Department of State. On several occasions in the past year, Bashir has stated that Sudan's constitution will become more firmly entrenched in sharia.

When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005, the people of South Kordofan were to decide whether to join Sudan in the north or South Sudan, but the state governor, wanted for war crimes himself, suspended the process, and Khartoum instead decided to disarm the SPLM-N by force.

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"The church and enfeebled women and children have become victims of this fight," one humanitarian worker said. "We as the church have a moral and spiritual obligation to stand with our brothers and sisters who are suffering in the Nuba Mountains."

Simba Tian writes for Compass Direct News (www.compassdirect.org).Based in Santa Ana, Calif., Compass focuses on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.

To read Baptist Press' story on the March 16 protest at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington by actor George Clooney, Southern Baptist ethicist Barrett Duke and several hundred others, go to http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37416.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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