Christian children 'forced to recite Islamic prayers' in order to receive food in Sudan refugee camps

South Sudan refugees in SudanAid to the Church in Need

Christian children at refugee camps in Sudan are not receiving food unless they say Islamic prayers, according to reports received by sources close to the leading Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

One of ACN's local contacts, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, described how Christian refugees from South Sudan are 'in a terrible situation' in refugee camps in Sudan.

The ACN source said: 'We have heard stories where children are conditioned to say Islamic prayers before [being] given food. This is not right. These children are Christian. They should be respected for that.'

The charity estimates that 700,000 South Sudanese Christians are refugees in Sudan. The source added: 'The majority are left in camps, some in a very terrible situation. They are confined in those places. They are not allowed to go further north to the cities.'

ACN said that it has also received reports that it is hard for refugee families to survive on food provided by the government.

The charity explained that a monthly food parcel for a family lasts little more than two weeks – leading parents to seek provisions in the local market.

ACN has been told that items provided by the UN are sold in the market – many still in wrappers marked with UNICEF or UNHCR logos.

ACN's source went on to say that the Khartoum government has hampered charities seeking to provide urgent assistance to the camps, preventing them from overseeing emergency help.

The source said: 'We have heard the story that the government does not allow any other agencies to give support including the Church agencies.

'The government knows very well that the Church is the body in the world that supports enormously the needy around the world.

'The Muslim community have a charity, so the Christians have a charity, so that possibility should be given so that the people are supported.'

The source said that he identifies with the suffering families especially as he was a refugee as a boy.

Referring to visits to displaced families in South Sudan, he said: 'I tell them I was once a refugee like you – that was not the end of the road... yet still I can now contribute something positive to society.'

He compared refugees to the young Jesus Christ who fled with his parents to Egypt as a child, adding: 'We call on humanity to have heart [for] refugees.

'Refugees should be given genuine respect, dignity and their rights should be respected.

'Never mistreat a refugee because you never know what tomorrow holds.'

The charity's revelations from the source came amid reports of increasing persecution against Christians in Sudan with the regime reportedly intensifying its Islamising agenda.

In May a separate source, who also requested anonymity for security reasons, told ACN: 'Churches [in Sudan] are destroyed but it's claimed to be just town planning. The Church is not allowed to buy property.'

At around the same time, a Sudan Church source told ACN: 'Churches are being torn down each month – you never hear that about mosques.'

ACN also noted that Church leaders are increasingly concerned about Sudan's intolerance aimed at Christian women.

In June 2015, 12 Christian women were arrested as they left a church for wearing trousers or skirts which were seen as 'indecent or immoral dress,' the charity recalled.