NEW YORK –
The Africa Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) expresses deep concern about the violations of the freedom of worship by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) since war broke out in mid-April. At least 16 mosques were damaged or destroyed. Several churches were raided and plundered. Worshippers have been killed, injured, denied entry, and forced to convert to Islam.
In a statement today, the New York-based ACJPS reiterates its call to the SAF and RSF to respect the rights and freedoms of the Sudanese.
Several mosques and churches in Sudan have been targeted since the outbreak of the fighting between the Sudanese army and its paramilitary counterpart.
Military bases of both SAF and RSF are located inside or near neighbourhoods, which puts civilians in danger of ‘collateral damage’ during battles. Additionally, most of the military bases contain fuel stations which also puts people living nearby at risk in case of an attack.
“When SAF started air bombarding RSF bases in Khartoum, RSF moved from their bases into residential areas and occupied houses belonging to civilians. This prompted SAF to air bomb residential areas resulting into the partial destruction of at least 16 mosques and the killing of five civilians,” the African centre says.
“In separate incidents, RSF raided four churches and harassed the congregation and church leaders who had gathered for prayers. These incidents have scared worshippers from attending prayers in both churches and mosques.”
In El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, three mosques were destroyed during clashes that began on April 24.
Militant Arab tribesmen joined the RSF violence while the Masalit, the majority of the people living in the city, together with other tribesmen and members of the Sudanese Alliance rebel movement, formed a defence group against the recurring attacks. “It is unclear who is responsible for the attacks on the mosques,” ACJRS notes.
The main mosque of the North Kordofan capital El Obeid was partially destroyed by during battles between the SAF and RSF. Missiles struck the grounds of the Roman Catholic cathedral in the city on April 24.
Attacks and airstrikes in Khartoum North (Khartoum Bahri) resulted into the killing of six worshippers and the destruction of several mosques.
In Khartoum, mosques in Burri, El Manshiya, and El Azhari were damaged by the fighting. In Omdurman, two mosques, in El Mohandisin and in Ombadda, were partly destroyed.
RSF soldiers raided the Episcopal All Saints Cathedral in Khartoum two days after the war broke out. After plundering the building, they turned it into a military base.
On May 3, the Coptic church of Khartoum North was looted.
Ten days later, a group of six armed men wearing RSF uniforms raided the Coptic Mar Jirjis church in central Omdurman where at least 40 people had congregated for prayers. The attackers shot at the people, demanding their gold and money.
They threatened to kill the bishop if he would not convert to Islam. They also ordered the congregants to convert to Islam.
On May 14, a group of masked armed men raided the Virgin Mary Cathedral in central Khartoum. They threatened the archbishop and chased him out of the church building. The cathedral is now used as a military base.
On June 29, the first day of the Muslim Eid El Adha feast, members of the El Safya Resistance Committee in Khartoum North lamented the continued battles between the SAF and RSF during Dhul-Hijjah, which is “one of the months in which Allah Almighty has forbidden fighting”.