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Christian Mother from Sudan Beaten in Refugee Camp

Hawa Ismail Abdalla, 44, received medication for head injuries after her Muslim husband beat her on Dec. 27 at the Wedwiel Refugee Camp on South Sudan’s border with Sudan. Still, she lacked money for necessary treatment, an area source said. The camp is north of Aweil in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, South Sudan.

Hawa Ismail Abdalla, 44, received medication for head injuries after her Muslim husband beat her on Dec. 27 at the Wedwiel Refugee Camp on South Sudan’s border with Sudan. Still, she lacked money for necessary treatment, an area source said. The camp is north of Aweil in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, South Sudan.

“My husband told me, ‘Why did you believe in Issa [Jesus]? You are an infidel,” before attacking her, Abdalla said, adding that she had forgiven him.

“I ask you to pray for me to recover from the injury,” she told members of a house church in the camp.

Her family had lived many years in a camp for Internally Displaced People in southwestern Sudan’s Nyala town, South Darfur state, before the military conflict in April drove them to the new refugee camp in South Sudan. She had put her faith in Christ while in the camp in Nyala, and her pastor was among the refugees who fled to the heavily populated Wedwiel Refugee Camp.

About 9,000 refugees live at the camp, mainly from the state of South Darfur.

He said the 2,000 refugees and internally displaced people in Sudan who have converted to Christianity from Islam all face the threat of persecution.

He said Abdalla has returned to the Wedwiel camp, though difficult living conditions there–food rations are in short supply–may drive her family to return to Sudan.

Fighting between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), which had shared military rule in Sudan following an October 2021 coup, has terrorized civilians in Khartoum and elsewhere, leaving over 12,000 people dead and displacing an estimated 7.7 million others inside and outside the country.

Christian sites have been targeted since the conflict began.

The SAF’s Gen. Abdelfattah al-Burhan and his then-vice president, RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, were in power when civilian parties in March agreed on a framework to re-establish a democratic transition in April. Still, disagreements over military structure torpedoed final approval.

Burhan sought to place the RSF–a paramilitary outfit with roots in the Janjaweed militias that had helped former strongman Omar al-Bashir put down rebels–under the regular army’s control within two years, while Dagolo would accept integration within nothing fewer than ten years. The conflict burst into military fighting on April 15.

Both military leaders have Islamist backgrounds while trying to portray themselves to the international community as pro-democracy advocates of religious freedom.

In Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List of the countries where it is most challenging to be a Christian, Sudan was ranked No. 8, up from No. 10 the previous year, as attacks by non-state actors continued and religious freedom reforms at the national level were not enacted locally.

Sudan had dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in six years when it first ranked No. 13 on the 2021 World Watch List.

After Bashir was ousted from 30 years of power in April 2019, the transitional civilian-military government managed to undo some Sharia (Islamic law) provisions. It outlawed the labeling of any religious group “infidels” and thus effectively rescinded apostasy laws that made leaving Islam punishable by death.

With the Oct. 25, 2021 coup, Christians in Sudan feared the return of the most repressive and harsh aspects of Islamic law. Abdalla Hamdok, who had led a transitional government as prime minister starting in September 2019, was detained under house arrest for almost a month before he was released and reinstated in a tenuous power-sharing agreement in November 2021.

The U.S. State Department in 2019 removed Sudan from the list of countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and upgraded it to a watch list. Sudan had previously been designated as a CPC from 1999 to 2018.

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