Negotiators in Kenya were about to put finishing touches on peace accords ending two decades of civil war in southern Sudan. But in recent months pro-government militias have razed scores of villages, raping and looting in their drive to rout two rebel groups in the western Darfur region.
It is a campaign widely described as ethnic cleansing of mostly black African Muslims and some Christians in Darfur. An armed Arab Muslim militia, on horses and camels, has forced 110,000 people to take up refuge at makeshift camps in neighboring Chad. There are also an estimated 700,000 internally displaced people throughout the region.
Although in the minority, Christians are among the thousands of terrified Sudanese driven from their homes. Church sources in Sudan told Christianity Today that most of these Christians had previously fled to Darfur from the south. Christians and animists there have been engulfed in war with the Muslim-led government since 1983.
The largest communion present in Darfur is the Roman Catholic Church, with 143,000 adherents. People also belong to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, the Sudan Pentecostal Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, and the Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
"No harassment of church leaders or personnel has yet been reported," one source said. The source acknowledged, however, that "the food, water and health situation is worsening [each] day."
The crisis in Darfur, a region prone to clashes between Arab nomads and African pastoral tribes for generations, has set off alarms in the relief and development community.
Roger Winter, assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, testified to a U.S. House of Representatives committee on March 11 that the "war in Darfur is arguably the most serious humanitarian crisis on the African continent right now."
Though a ceasefire agreement has been reached, reports say the ethnic cleansing has not stopped.
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Weblog commented on the ethnic cleansing in Darfur.
More Christianity Today coverage of Sudan includes:
Q&A: Franklin Graham | President of Samaritan's Purse on Sudan (Feb. 16, 2004)
Churches Demolished at Sudanese Refugee Camp | Bulldozers raze prayer centers as part of government "re-planning" exercise. (Dec. 30, 2003)
Hope Amid the Ruins | Anglican bishop in Sudan sees massive church growth. (Dec. 18, 2003)
Submitting to Islam—or Dying | Ceasefires and peace talks bow to greater powers in Sudan. (Oct. 08, 2003)
Sudan Peace Process Criticized | Bush acknowledges country's military activity, but does not impose threatened sanctions. (May 21, 2003)
Sudan Peace Act 'Has Teeth' | But Sanctions are at President's discretion. (Nov. 26, 2002)
Christians Push For More Progress in Sudan | Observers say there's a long road to go for peace. (Sept. 04, 2002)
Christian History Corner: Legacy of an Ancient Pact | Why do Christians still chafe under restrictions in some Muslim nations? It all started with Umar. (July 26, 2002)
Books & Culture Corner: A Cry for Help | Sudanese Christians gather in Houston and ask for U.S. support. (June 17, 2002)
Justice Delayed | Sudan Peace Act may be a casualty of the war on terrorism. (Nov. 02, 2001)
Finding Homes for the 'Lost Boys' | They've seen their parents shot, their villages burned, and their homeland recede in the distance as they escaped. Now these Sudanese youth build a new life in suburban Seattle. (July 20, 2001)
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