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Michael Ireland is an international British freelance journalist. A former reporter with a London newspaper, Michael is Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Lake Forest, California. Michael immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a US citizen in September, 1995. He is married with two adult children. Michael has also been a frequent contributor to United Christian Broadcasters , a British Christian radio station. His stories for ASSIST News may be viewed at ASSIST News Service Michael's writing activities are a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of Artists in Christian Testimony (ACT) International where you can donate online to his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.'

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fears for Christians in North Sudan ahead of South Sudan's Independence


The kidnap and detention of a Darfuri woman accused of "Christianizing" children in displaced persons' camps has raised concerns about the threat to Christians in North Sudan as the South looks forward to independence.

Pictured: President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir

Hawa Abdalla, a staff member of the United Nations/African Nations peacekeeping mission, was arrested on May 6 and faces further accusations of apostasy -- a crime punishable by death under Sudanese law -- proselytizing, and other crimes. She was kidnapped by security agents and later taken to Khartoum, where her place of detention remains unknown, even to her lawyers.

On May 8, Sudan's state news service published a photograph of Ms Abdalla holding a Bible. Human Rights Watch said there appeared to be bruises on her face and she was displaying visible signs of fatigue, suggesting the photo was taken after her arrest. It may be intended to frame her for the alleged offences. Concerns have been raised that she will be subjected to ill-treatment and torture.

“Sudan has been turned into an incubator for Muslim fanatics,” the Sudan Tribune newspaper reported.

The activist was previously arrested, in 2009, following the International Criminal Court's (ICC) announcement of charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur; she was accused of disseminating information that led to the ICC ruling. Ms Abdalla was held for six days and was seriously injured during interrogations.

"Wave of Hatred" Against Christians

Ms Abdalla's latest arrest comes amid growing concern about the strengthening of Islamic extremism in North Sudan and "the current wave of hatred against what Sudanese fundamentalists call ‘Christians, Jews and Crusaders,'" the Sudan Tribune said.

The newspaper pointed to the country's official mourning of Osama bin Laden, which it says "came pretty close to shutting down Sudan", as evidence of this. As the speaker of Khartoum's National Assembly, Ahmed Ibrahim Tahir, addressed a parliamentary session praising bin Laden as a Mujahid (fighter engaged in jihad), he was interrupted by MPs chanting, "Martyr, Martyr."

The Tribune newspaper said, "Sudan has been turned into an incubator for Muslim fanatics," blaming the President and his government for breeding and nursing this worrying development.

All this raises concerns for North Sudan's's sizable minority of Christians ahead of official independence for the predominantly-Christian SouthSudan, scheduled for July 9.

Al-Bashir has declared that the North will be 100 per cent Arab and Muslim, and has made clear his intention to reinforce its Islamic character following the split. He previously said that the constitution would be changed to make Islam the country's only religion, sharia its only law and Arabic the only official language. Sharia is already in place in the North, making conditions extremely difficult for the Christians -- especially converts from Islam -- living there. Christians face discrimination in education and employment as well as restrictions on their activities; it seems likely that these will only worsen following Southern independence.

So while Christians in South Sudan, who endured two decades of brutal civil war in which the North fought to impose sharia on them, are looking forward to a new dawn of freedom and peace, the future for Christians in the North looks much more threatening.

(Source: Barnabas Aid -- http://www.barnabasaid.org/)

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