Catholic Herald Correspondent
CHRISTIAN children are compelled to learn verses of the
Quran. Children of pagan parents who aspire to become Christians are beaten if they go to Church on Sunday. These charges against the Sudanese Government are made in a letter accusing the Government sent recently to the heads of all the Christian Churches, as well as to the Secretary General of the United Nations and to African Heads of State by the Southern Sudan Christian Association, from its exile headquarters in Kampala, Uganda.
The Southern Sudanese claim that they are racially quite distinct from lhe Arabic-speaking, Muslim Northerners, and that they belong to Africa rather than to the Middle East. They say that virtually all civil and human rights in the South have been extinguished by the Northern dominated Government, at Khartoum, in its attempt to secure the supremacy of the Muslims.
Both the Sudan African National Union (S.A.N.U.), their political movement, and the Southern Sudan Christian Association are strongly Catholic. The Secretary-General in exile of S.A.N.U.. Mr. William Deng. was educated at a mission school. and a prominent member of the organisation is a priest, Fr. Saturnitio Lohure, who was an opposition Liberal M.P. until the Liberal Party, which had a Muslim president.was suppressed.
The leiter of protest, which is signed by Mr. Ibrahim Nyigilo, president of thc Christian Association. appears in the current issue of art English-language publication, "Voice of the Southern Sudan".
It acknowledges help given to the mission schools by the Sudanese Government, in the form of subsidies. and dates the troubles of the South from 1958, when the Army took over control of the government. four years after self-government had been achieved. The religious battle began a year earlier, in 1957, when the mission schools were nationalised, and new, private schools forbidden.
The letter is at pains to stress that the Christian Association is not against nationalisation of schools which are being substantially subsidised. "We are opposed," it says, "to the ulterior purpose for which the schools were nationalised. as a means of curbing Christian conversion and education.
"In the field of employment." the protest continues, "being a Christian is, prima facie. a disadvantage. The Arabic language has been established as a working language, thus putting the non-Arabic speaking Sudanese 50 years back. You cannot be accepted in many employments unless you speak Arabic."
The letter concludes by acknowledging that the problem of thc Southern Sudan is political. but claims that "Christianity is being made a scapegoat".