KHARTOUM, Sudan – Muslim extremists have sent text messages to at least 10 church leaders in Khartoum saying they are planning to target Christian leaders, buildings and institutions, Christian sources in Khartoum said.
“We want this country to be purely an Islamic state, so we must kill the infidels and destroy their churches all over Sudan,” said one text message circulating in Khartoum last month. The text messages were sent in July and August.
Church leaders here said they fear more persecution as they and their flocks become targets of local Islamists. In addition, Muslim extremists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh arrive in Sudan every two weeks to undergo training in secret camps in Khartoum before they are sent to various parts of Sudan to preach Islam and demolish church buildings, according to a Christian source in Khartoum.
On July 18 a group of Muslim extremists attacked the home of Anglican Church of Sudan Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail in an attempt to kill him and two other pastors, Luka Bulus and Thomas Youhana, who all happened to be out of the house at the time, sources said. No one was hurt, but the assailants left a threatening letter warning them of similar attacks.
Bulus is a supporter of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement, a southern Sudan militant group long locked in battle with northern government forces, further making him a target of Islamic extremists. Bishop Elnail, whose church building the Sudanese military burned in June in war-torn Kadugli of South Kordofan region, oversees Nuba Mountain Episcopal churches as head of the Kadugli Episcopal Diocese.
Bulus confirmed the July 18 house attack, which took place in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum, at around 7 p.m., by telephone from his hiding place. Muslim extremists are still searching for him, the sources said.
“We are aware of your anti-Islamic activities,” the letter left in Bishop Elnail’s home states. “We have been monitoring the evangelization that you carry out these days, and therefore we declare Jihad against you.”
The letter left on the gate of the bishop’s house asserts that Sudan is an Islamic land, and that the authors secretly plan to carry out a series of attacks to destroy church buildings across “Sudan,” which denotes the north following the secession of South Sudan on July 9.
“We declare Jihad against you in order to protect Muslims from your infidel influence, because you are the enemy of Islam,” it states.
Christian sources in Khartoum said they take the threats seriously.
“These people are not joking – they can kill any Christian,” said a church leader who requested anonymity for security reasons.
Elnail of the Kadugli Episcopal Diocese told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Africa on Aug. 4 that he was not sure he would be alive if he had not been called to Washington, D.C. to testify.
“I am told that armed men went house to house, searching for me, calling my name,” Elnail reportedly told the congressional representatives.
In an incident on June 28, Muslim extremists burned down a church building belonging to the Lutheran Evangelical Church of the Sudan at 7:38 p.m. in Omdurman. Christian sources said two people were seen running out of the church building as it went up in flames.
“The Muslims are targeting our church in fear that many Muslims will leave Islam for Christianity,” says a Lutheran Evangelical Church of the Sudan letter, written in Arabic, that was circulated to churches in Khartoum.
The destroyed Evangelical Lutheran Church building was opposite the Ansar Al Suna Mosque, where preachers publicly insult Christianity every Friday, a Christian source said.
Hostilities toward Christians by the Islamic government in Khartoum began to increase last year following a statement by President Omar al-Bashir, when he asserted that his second republic would be based on sharia (Islamic law) and Islamic culture, with Arabic as the official language.
The Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, told Ecumenical News International last month that threats have caused Christians to stay away from some church services, and some government leaders have ordered pastors to close down churches without proper documentation.