(Photo: Samaritan's Purse International Relief)
A Bible college in Sudan functioning under Franklin Graham's missionary ministry, Samaritan's Purse, was bombed Wednesday and the ministry alleges the attack was launched by the Sudanese air force.
The Heiban Bible College in the Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan was hit by eight bombs in the afternoon local time, on the first day of school, as the campus was full of students, teachers, and teacher's families, the ministry said. No one was injured. Two of the bombs landed in the compound and destroyed two buildings. There were also grass fires inside and outside the campus, workers said. The full extent of damages is yet to be determined.
"We have been working for years in Sudan," Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham said in a Wednesday statement. "Today our Bible school in Heiban in the Nuba Mountains was bombed by the Sudanese Air Force. No one was killed or hurt, but buildings were destroyed. Please pray for the safety of believers, and that God would intervene."
Samaritan's Purse has been supporting Christians in the regions for over a decade, officials said. The ministry has helped build 168 churches in the area, with the assistance of ministry partner the Rev. Sami Dagher, and has been supporting the Bible college since it was founded in 2007. In 2010, Graham spoke at the graduation ceremony for the first class of 36 students.
The Christian Post did not manage to immediately reach Sudanese officials in the U.S. for comment on the allegation that the government launched the attacks.
Sudan is an embattled country that has seen armed conflict for the past half-century, since the end of colonial rule in 1956. During decades of brutal civil war many thousands of Christians lost their lives and hundreds of churches were intentionally destroyed, according to the Samaritan's Purse website. After decades of fighting for independence from the mostly-Muslim north, southern Sudan - which has a large Christian population - seceded on July 9, 2011. But tensions between the neighbors reportedly have been on the rise recently, only half a year since the secession.
African Christians in what is now South Sudan have suffered through decades of war and persecution at the hands of the Arab-Islamic government, the ministry's website says. Thousands of believers were killed and hundreds of churches were destroyed, especially after the National Islamic Front took control of the government in 1989.
Currently, reports of increasingly common acts of violence against remaining Christians are coming from Sudan.
When inspecting the conditions of religious freedom in Sudan in 2011, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) agency determined that there were "Systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief" in the country.
Recent acts of political violence between Sudan and South Sudan have created an influx of Sudanese refugees - an estimated 80,000 people recently - fleeing to South Sudan, where Samaritan's Purse also has a refugee camp. The camp there has seen multiple attacks, including a bombing in November, also allegedly by the Sudanese government.
Samaritan's Purse has been working in what is now South Sudan since 1993, ministering to hundreds of thousands of people throughout the war. Some 411 churches have been rebuilt as of 2010 and the ministry's teams have distributed more than 260,000 Bibles in six languages and trained 10,600 people to lead Bible reading groups, according to the mission's website.