Militants single out Christians for persecution.

As international relief workers grapple with civil war in the former Yugoslavia and with starvation in Somalia, millions of Sudanese groan under the weight of both—and more.

The government in Khartoum, in its determination to create a fundamentalist Islamic state, is committing “gross human rights violations” and aggravating wide-scale famine, according to U.S. government and international human-rights officials.

“We remain deeply worried about Khartoum’s policy of coercive Islamization of non-Muslim Sudanese,” Herman Cohen, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told a House committee in March.

The Sudan, in eastern Africa, is the continent’s largest country—and one of its most troubled. A religious target of early Christian and Muslim missionaries, and a political target first of Egypt and then colonial Europe, Sudan is now a nation at war with itself. Since independence from the British in 1956, north and south have been in near-continuous conflict, fueled by politics, ethnicity, religion, and race.

Islamic law imposed

The mostly Arab north, controlled by the National Islamic Front (NIF), is predominantly Muslim; the black African south, a haven for the rebel Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), is mainly Christian or animist. The fundamentalist government, by imposing Islamic law in the north soon after seizing power, has intensified the struggle.

Christians and other religious minority groups, which make up about 25 percent of the country’s 25 million people, have faced stepped-up government restrictions of civil rights and outbreaks of intense persecution in recent months. Amnesty International says it continues to receive “disturbing accounts of extrajudicial ...

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