Sudan’s Islamic government was dealt a blow this week when its attempted strike against rebel groups Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North was beaten back.
The strike was in retaliation for the SRF’s successful campaign to capture the North Kordofan village of Um Buwaba. One report says the Sudanese army lost over 400 soldiers in the counterattack.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, USA President John Eibner says the victory is big: “The SPLA-N scored a significant military success on the ground.”
International Christian Concern’s Africa specialist William Stark told WND that despite efforts by Sudan President Omar al-Bahir to paint the rebels as Christian troublemakers, the SPLA-N and the SRF aren’t completely Christian.
“In Sudan, the SPLA-N situation is primarily a political conflict that has some religious elements,” Stark said.
Yet Open Doors-USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra says the Sudanese government is calling for a holy war against the rebels and increasingly turning the teeth of its attacks on Christians.
“Since the Sudan Revolutionary Front’s successful take of Um Rawaba in North Kordofan, the government of Sudan has embarked on the mobilization of people and have called for support to jihad,” Dykstra said in a statement to the press.
Dykstra adds that the successful military operation only intensified an existing anti-Christian campaign.
“Sudanese Christians have seen a drastic increase in pressure, with the closing down of churches and expulsion of foreign workers,” Dykstra said in a statement for the press.
Dykstra adds that the regime is turning its anger on the Orthodox Church in Sudan.
“It seems that the Church in Khartoum may expect renewed scrutiny and accompanying pressure,” Dykstra said.
“The Sudan Tribune reported on Tuesday that the chairman of the Islamic Centre for Preaching and Comparative Studies, Ammar Saleh, slammed his government for not taking decisive action against missionaries operating boldly in the country,” Dykstra said.
“According to Saleh, cases of apostasy and atheism are on the rise in Sudan, while authorities are negligent in addressing the issue. According to the independent media agency, Saleh appealed to the official bodies and the community to take a stand against Christianization,” Dykstra also said through a press statement.
A report issued by Open Doors, USA says that Islamic authorities in Sudan claim that 109 people have converted to Christianity.
Stark says the government counteroffensive was expected. The Christians can expect retaliation even more.
“Ever since Sudan and South Sudan split, the Khartoum government has been seeking to become more Islamic. Shortly after the separation of the two countries, President Al-Bashir told his supporters that he would make sure that Sharia was an influential part of the new government,” Stark said. “This was not just rhetoric. Churches have been closed down, foreign Christians have been deported and Christian literature has been hunted down and destroyed by government employees.”
Stark says the combined SPLA-N and SRF offensive is part of larger strategy to potentially win separation from Sudan for the Nuba Mountain and Kordofan regions.
“The SPLA is active in the Nuba Mountains, which feel that the Nuba Mountains region should have been part of South Sudan,” Stark said. “This sentiment is probably true because ethnically and religiously, the Nuba Mountains are more similar to South Sudan as opposed to Sudan.”
Stark adds that there is one major reason Khartoum wouldn’t let the Nuba Mountains go.
“The reason the Nuba Mountains were included in Sudan instead of South Sudan is because of the oil fields located there,” Stark said.
Stark says the government’s counteroffensive will attempt to punish the Nuba people.
“Because this group is active in the Nuba Mountains, the Khartoum government is bombing the region, indiscriminately. This obviously affects the civilian population,” Stark said.
Eibner agrees – the people can expect more bombing.
“Knowing the political culture of Khartoum, they will want to retaliate in a big way as soon as possible and to do so with a lot of rhetoric against the infidel enemy,” Eibner said.
Reports coming from Sudan indicate that retaliation has been swift and brutal.
Nuba Reports says that Sudanese Air Force bombers have launched air strikes against civilian targets.
One of the attacks was on the village of Kumu, killing one person. A second attack was on an elementary school.
“Two people were wounded when four bombs struck a primary school for orphans in Kauda,” the Nuba Reports story said. “The bombs – dropped from a Sudanese Air Force Antonov – struck the Father Cliff Primary School for Orphans around 1:45 p.m., while students were taking their lunch break.”