Christian refugee mother from Sudan attacked for her faith

By Morning Star News |
Juba, South Sudan.
Juba, South Sudan. | (Umar sheriff habibullah, Creative Commons)

Among the 8 million people who have fled military conflict in Sudan is a mother who lost two babies to illness and was beaten for putting her faith in Christ.

Fatima Adam, 41, said she still has pain in the joints and bones of the leg that her Muslim husband struck with a metal rod two months ago at a refugee camp in South Sudan, where they had arrived after fleeing Khartoum in June 2023.

Adam was asleep at a makeshift shelter of the Gorom refugee camp outside of Juba when he attacked her, she said.

“Didn’t I order you to renounce your new faith and come back to Islam?” he told her, having learned that she had continued attending worship services inside the camp, she told Morning Star News.

The beating required her to be rushed to a hospital, where she was under medication and other treatment for a week, she said.

Adam had accepted Christ at an evangelistic event a few weeks after her arrival at the refugee camp in June. She said her husband, noting she no longer recited Muslim prayers five times daily, learned of her new faith in January and began threatening her.

“I will kill you if you continue to follow this Jesus of yours – do not go the church again, and stop taking my kids to the church,” he told her.

The refugee camp lacked adequate food, safe drinking water and sufficient primary health care for the swelling refugee population, and soon after arriving Adam lost two babies in succession, one 6 months old and the other 1 year old. They died due to insufficient medical care, she said.

Adam has two other children, one of them a 22-year-old son who as a civilian went missing in Khartoum after fighting broke out between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) a year ago.

“Pray for my son to be found, because he went missing due to the war in Sudan,” she said.

Fighting between the RSF and the SAF, which had shared military rule in Sudan following an October 2021 coup, has terrorized civilians in Khartoum and elsewhere, leaving more than 14,600 people dead and displacing an estimated 8 million others inside and outside the country.

Christian sites have been targeted since the conflict began.

The SAF’s Gen. Abdelfattah al-Burhan and his then-vice president, RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, were in power when civilian parties in March 2023 agreed on a framework to re-establish a democratic transition the next month, but disagreements over military structure torpedoed final approval.

Burhan sought to place the RSF – a paramilitary outfit with roots in the Janjaweed militias that had helped former strongman Omar al-Bashir put down rebels – under the regular army’s control within two years, while Dagolo would accept integration within nothing fewer than 10 years. The conflict burst into military fighting on April 15, 2023.

Both military leaders have Islamist backgrounds while trying to portray themselves to the international community as pro-democracy advocates of religious freedom.

In Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Sudan was ranked No. 8, up from No. 10 the previous year, as attacks by non-state actors continued and religious freedom reforms at the national level were not enacted locally.

Sudan had dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in six years when it first ranked No. 13 in the 2021 World Watch List.

Following two years of advances in religious freedom in Sudan after the end of the Islamist dictatorship under Bashir in 2019, the specter of state-sponsored persecution returned with the military coup of Oct. 25, 2021.

After Bashir was ousted from 30 years of power in April 2019, the transitional civilian-military government had managed to undo some sharia (Islamic law) provisions. It outlawed the labeling of any religious group “infidels” and thus effectively rescinded apostasy laws that made leaving Islam punishable by death.

With the Oct. 25, 2021 coup, Christians in Sudan feared the return of the most repressive and harsh aspects of Islamic law. Abdalla Hamdok, who had led a transitional government as prime minister starting in September 2019, was detained under house arrest for nearly a month before he was released and reinstated in a tenuous power-sharing agreement in November 2021.

Hamdock had been faced with rooting out longstanding corruption and an Islamist “deep state” from Bashir’s regime – the same deep state that is suspected of rooting out the transitional government in the Oct. 25, 2021 coup.

The U.S. State Department in 2019 removed Sudan from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and upgraded it to a watch list. Sudan had previously been designated as a CPC from 1999 to 2018.

In December 2020, the State Department removed Sudan from its Special Watch List.

The Christian population of Sudan is estimated at 2 million, or 4.5 percent of the total population of more than 43 million.

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