Three hundred Christian missionaries were expelled from the Sudan this month. Their departure emptied the entire southern part of the country of foreign religious workers.
The order from the Sudan government affected 272 Roman Catholic priests and nuns and 28 Protestant missionaries.
Major General Muhammed Ahmed Irwa, internal affairs minister, charged that “this grave step” was “justified” because of the missionaries’ “responsibility” for disorders which had broken out recently in the southern provinces.
In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, Irwa produced copies of Frontier Call, a periodical of the Verona Fathers Mission published in Cincinnati, and other literature allegedly opposing Sudanese unity. In Cincinnati, Father Olive Branchesi, editor of the publication, denied that it had ever gone into Sudan’s political difficulties.
The internal affairs minister said at a press conference that the expulsions were intended, not to curb the freedom of southern or northern Christians, but to restore the stability and state security of the Sudan. He said that all churches and mission stations in the south will be taken over by Sudanese priests and clergymen, who will have “full freedom to carry out their religious rites.”
Catholic observers, however, labeled the promise that the foreign missionaries would be replaced by native priests as “sheer pretext.” They said that there are only ten or twelve such native priests, far too few to do an adequate work.
Among Protestants, the deportation orders were expected to apply to missionaries serving under the Sudan Interior Mission, the Church Missionary Society, and Missionary Aviation Fellowship. The SIM has had twenty-five missionaries in Sudan; they come from the United States, Australia, ...1
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