Christian children in Sudanese refugee camps are reportedly being given food only after they recite Muslim prayers, a papal aid group says. According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a papal charity that provides aid to persecuted Christians around the world, there are reports of Christian children who have fled violence in South Sudan being forced to recite Muslim prayers in order to receive food at several refugee camps in the Sudan. Other reports from priests in the area have confirmed that the discrimination is taking place at refugee camps in Sudan, where refugees fleeing the conflict in the South Sudan suffer from poor conditions.
Seven southern states gained independence from Sudan in 2011 and the country of South Sudan was formed. Less than three years later, in December of 2013, a civil war began that has created one of the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. Over two million refugees and asylum-seekers have fled the conflict to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, including hundreds of thousands who have fled north into Sudan. Many are displaced from their homes within South Sudan and have sought shelter at churches, and millions are threatened by an emergency food crisis.
In February, the UN declared a famine in parts of the country. Aid workers have described the conditions in South Sudan as appalling, with hunger, murder, and rape becoming commonplace. For refugees who have fled north into Sudan, conditions have reportedly been poor in the camps, according to ACN.
Children in the refugee camps are being told to recite Islamic prayers before they receive their food, which is provided by the UNHCR, non-government organizations, and the Sudanese government, according to sources. Refugees of all religions who are living outside the camps have reportedly not received sufficient amounts of food from the government, but Christians have reportedly received especially unfair treatment, ACN said.
The reports of discrimination against Christian refugees come amid concerns about the government of Sudan and its forceful promotion of Islam. “In the case of Sudan, the same cast of characters, the same power base that promotes a perverted and violent expression of Islam is still in power,” David Dettoni, senior adviser to the Sudan Relief Fund, testified before a congressional panel on April 26. ACN also cited reports of Christian churches in Sudan being destroyed under the guise of town planning.