By BosNewsLife Africa Service
KHARTOUM, SUDAN (BosNewsLife)– Christian aid workers warned Monday, April 16, of a looming “all-out war” between Sudan and South Sudan with thousands of Christians in both nations seeking shelter.
Sudan has been “indiscriminately dropping bombs in the border regions” and in South Sudan for almost a year, said the Barnabas Fund which supports Christians in the region.
The group said it learned that Karthoum has threatened “to chase Southern troops” and hit them deep “inside South Sudan” if they do not comply with a United Nations backed order to withdraw from the Heglig oilfields.
These tensions threaten a return to the deadly civil war that devastated the South and killed over two million people, “mainly Southern Christians”, explained Barnabas Fund’s International Director, Patrick Sookhdeo.
“A return to war would be a tragedy, especially for Christians in both territories who, during the long [previous] civil war, were particular targets of Khartoum’s aggression,” he told BosNewsLife in a statement.
Following South Sudan’s independence, disputes remained over border territory, oil revenue and citizenship rights, he added.
The hostility between the two nations has left people of Southern Sudanese origin, who are mainly Christian and mainly African, in the overwhelmingly Muslim and Arab Republic of neighboring Sudan in “a state of limbo and increasing danger,” according to Barnabas Fund investigators.
They were reportedly stripped of their citizenship of Sudan after the South voted to secede in January 2011 and given until April 8 this year to sort out their papers.
“That deadline has now passed, and, treated as foreigners in Sudan, they have been denied work permits, while South Sudan has not yet started issuing identity documents. Thus they have been left without an official nationality,” Barnabas Fund said.
A planned presidential summit between the two nations leaders was called off this month, due to violence in the border region.
Local Christians have said that thousands of people are homeless with hundreds of them living on wasteland around Sudan’s capital Khartoum as they were forced to give up their homes.
Many have apparently not enough money to transport their families and possessions to South Sudan. Around three-quarters of them are Christians, Barnabas Fund said.
In published remarks one local community leader, who did not want to be identified apparently due to security reasons, said “We’ve been out of our homes for three months. We’re going to South Sudan, but we need the help of the two governments to return to our country.”
The official described people as “very tired” as “men have no work, no food”.
Barnabas Fund said it was helping to meet the practical needs of Christians in both Sudan and South Sudan, providing returning refugees with emergency supplies which include grain, salt, plastic sheeting for shelters, mosquito nets, blankets, water drums and cooking pots.
“Families and individuals are experiencing … lack of shelter, medicine, schools and food,” the community leader said in a distributed statement.
Sookhdeo said he fears the “humanitarian situation will only deteriorate as the latest conflict intensifies.” Christians, the he added, “are already suffering greatly as a result of the unresolved tensions between the two countries; many have been left homeless and in great need.”