SOUTH SUDAN (ANS) -- Hundreds of thousands of people originating from the mainly Christian, mainly African South Sudan are effectively being forced out of Sudan, having been stripped of their citizenship.
Barnabas Fund says the believers have until April 8 either to leave the strongly Islamic and Arab northern country or to be treated as foreigners under a regime that is extremely hostile to non-Muslims and non-Arabs. The deadline was announced last month.
In an e-mail to ANS, Barnabas Fund says that an estimated 500,000-700,000 people, who are mainly Christians of Southern origin, are affected by the ultimatum. Many of them fled north during the long civil war and have been there for decades. Few have ties with the South.
A senior church leader said: “We are very concerned. Moving is not easy … people have children in school. They have homes. … It is almost impossible.”
Barnabas Fund stated that after the South voted to secede in January 2011, Sudan removed citizenship rights from all those of Southern origin. The Khartoum government considers that people in the North whose parents, grandparents or great-grandparents were born in South Sudan, and those who belong to any Southern ethnic group, are nationals of that country.
In its report, Barnabas Fund said: “There are fears that Christians who remain in Sudan after the deadline may face increased persecution or even forced repatriation. An influx of hundreds of thousands of people to South Sudan is likely to trigger a humanitarian emergency.”
Barnabas Fund has been supporting Christians in what are now the separate countries of Sudan and South Sudan for many years, and is on hand to help meet their needs in this latest crisis.
New State Under Strain
The situation comes as the nascent state of South Sudan is struggling to cope with escalating needs and problems. A major food shortage is pending, as drought has ruined crops. The UN World Food Program (WFP) says that nearly five million people in South Sudan could suffer from food insecurity in 2012, with an estimated one million in severe need.
Barnabas Fund went on to explain the country’s resources are also strained by the arrival of refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile in the border region between Sudan and South Sudan.
The Fund stated: “Around 185,000 people have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia to escape the ongoing aerial bombardment of civilians by the Sudan Armed Forces. Many more, over 400,000, are internally displaced. The region has been under attack since mid-2011. The Nuba Mountains area, which is around 30 per cent Christian, has been one of the worst hit.
“This is the latest genocidal campaign by the Sudanese government, which wants a purely Arab and Islamic state."
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said: “Despite the end of the long civil war and independence of South Sudan, Christians in both nations continue to suffer grievously.
“South Sudan is taking the strain as hundreds of thousands of people flee from President Omar al-Bashir’s ongoing brutal campaign to Islamize and Arabize Sudan completely. Our brothers and sisters need our help and prayers as they are forced to leave their homes and rebuild their lives elsewhere.”
Michael Ireland is the Senior International Correspondent for ASSIST News Service. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China and Russia.
Publication date: March 26, 2012