“Dear beloved, we thank our Lord for everything; we are all fine, and all the beloved ones in the diocese.” Anba Sarapamon, Bishop of Atbara and Omdurman in Sudan, sent these words to the Coptic congregation to assure them about the safety of the Copts injured in an attack against the Coptic Orthodox church of Mar-Girgis in the neighbourhood of Masalma in Omdurman, Sudan during the past weekend.
“We pray for an end to the conflict in our beloved Sudan, and for God to bestow peace on the country. With the blessed intercession of the Holy Virgin, Mar-Girgis, and Mar-Mina, and the prayers of the saints, and all your prayers as well.”
During the early hours of Sunday 14 May, the Coptic Orthodox church of Mar-Girgis in the neighbourhood of Masalma in Umm Durman, Sudan came under attack which left three injured. The priest Fr Arsanius Zaria, his son Girgis, the church cantor who goes by the name of Seifein, the guard Habashi, and a man called Safwat Shawqy were shot at and beaten, and the church building incurred damages. The injured were moved to hospital during the day, and are doing well, according to Anna Sarapamon.
According to a statement by the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the RSF beat the priest and attacked the Christians. They broke into a home for elderly women and a girls’ boarding school attached to the church looking for money. “When they could not find any,” the statement read, “they stole the mobile phones and laptops they found .” The attackers stole the money in the donations boxes and all the content of the bishop’s room as well. They also caused damage to the building.
The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the “criminal behaviour and flagrant violation of human rights and international law”, and called on the international community and human rights organisations to condemn this “barbaric behavior by the rebel militia”, and to designate it a terrorist organisation.
The Sudanese Army issued a statement accusing the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of the attack, describing the incident as an extension of the RSF violations of international law and established norms.
The RSF, however, rejected the Army’s accusations, and reciprocated by a statement it posted on Twitter stating that an extremist terrorist group affiliated with the coup forces opened fire on Mar-Girgis church, which caused serious injuries among the Christians. “Our forces include not a few Christians,” RSF said.
For its part, the Coptic Church in Sudan is closely following all developments, and has advised Copts in Sudan to stay away from conflict districts. The Coptic Church had halted all church services once the war broke out on 15 April.
16 May 2023
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