The Sudanese regime of Omar al-Bashir has detained approximately 55 Christians without charge, perhaps to curry favor with Islamic forces in his country, reports the advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
CSW says the arrested Christians have no political affiliations yet are accused of receiving donations from foreign nations, including Israel.
The arrests are the latest in a string of anti-Christian acts in Sudan. Heritage Foundation Africa analyst and Allison Center Director Steven Bucci believes that by ramping up persecution, Bashir is seeking to appease his supporters.
Bashir’s base of power is the Muslim north, Bucci pointed out.
“He plays to them, and going after the Christian south and Christians throughout the country is a winning strategy for him and his backers,” he said.
Bucci estimates that the persecution will continue because Bashir’s regime is firmly in control of the Khartoum government.
“At this point he does have a firm hold on power, among the people in the north, and they have the monopoly (or at least a significant advantage) on the means of violence and control,” Bucci said.
He believes Bashir’s hold on power is firm enough to ensure that there won’t be any coup attempts.
International Christian Concern’s Africa analyst William Stark said Bashir’s connections to Saudi Arabia and Iran only strengthen his hold on power.
“Bashir is likely repressing Christianity to shore-up Sudan’s perceived connection to the Islamic world,” Stark said. “Sudan occupies an area that is geographically very close to Saudi Arabia and borders Egypt, two of the more influential Islamic nations in the Middle East.
Stark said that by declaring Sudan a purely Islamic nation, Bashir is attempting to strengthen ties with countries in the Middle East and distinguish itself from Sub-Saharan Africa.”
“This can be seen in terms of religion as well as in terms of ethnicity. Arab ethnic groups in Sudan are favored over African ethnic groups,” he said.
The ethnic group in Sudan that most likely to be on the receiving end of Bashir’s attacks is the black Africans.
WND reported in November that Bashir’s regime was again launching airstrikes against the Nuba people within Sudan’s borders.
“There have been repeated airstrikes there since the separation of the north and south,” Stark reported. “Many of the people living in the Nuba Mountains are Christian, but there is also a rebel group active there, so there are many reasons the Nuba Mountains are being bombed.”
Sudan is strategically close to Saudi Arabia, and WND has reported Bashir’s regime has the support of Iran as evidenced in the border war between Sudan and the recently formed nation of South Sudan.
Middle East analyst Joseph Puder explains the boundary area between Sudan and South Sudan has become a battleground for Jerusalem and Tehran to quietly exchange blows.
“Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, eager to win over the Sunni-Arab world, has been more than happy to comply and provide Khartoum with arms, ideology and strengthened economic ties, including oil exploration,” Puder writes.
“For Tehran, Bashir’s Sudan is a major Shiite Islam success story,” Puder writes. “Sudan is both an Arab and Sunni-Muslim [nation] previously allied with the West (under President Jafaar Numeiri). Omar Bashir transformed Sudan into an Islamic theocracy allied with Iran and turned it into a base of operations for Tehran in Africa and the Middle East (supplying arms to Hamas in Gaza through Sudan).”
Stark says that with Iranian and Saudi support, Bashir is in a strong position to further Islamize the country.
“Since Sudan and South Sudan split in 2011, President Al-Bashir has declared that he is going to make the country purely Islamic. In pursuit of this declaration, the al-Bashir regime has been ratcheting up its enforcement of Shariah law,” Stark said.
Christian women, for example, have been arrested for not wearing a veil in public, he said, while Christian schools and institutions have been closed by the government..
Stark added that being a Christian is enough to get someone arrested in Bashir’s Sudan.
Stark also pointed out, however, that Bashir has opposition at home.
“How much support al-Bashir has in Sudan is not something I can necessarily speak to. I would assume that his support is a mix of religious and ethnic issues,” Stark said. “There are groups in Sudan that oppose the al-Bashir regime, but most of these groups are black Africans that would probably have fit better in South Sudan.”
Bucci said international pressure has helped Christians in other Islamic countries, but he doesn’t expect much action from the White House.
“This administration is disinclined to tackle yet another Muslim regime, but they have pressured al-Bashir. They need to do more of it. The persecution is real and in many cases horrific,” Bucci said.