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Syrian Christians under fire in Sudan

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The Sudanese Syrian Christian Social Community in Australia look after close to 200 people in Cairo. Photo: Supplied
The Sudanese Syrian Christian Social Community in Australia look after close to 200 people in Cairo. Photo: Supplied

The influx of fleeing Sudanese Syrian Christians into Egypt has begun to grow as military forces continue to wage war in the Sudan capitol of Khartoum, with local advocates attempting to evacuate their countrymen to Australia.

The fighting began on 15 April of last year between the Sudanese Armed Forces, the country’s military, and the Rapid Support Forces, a militia group that rose to prominence during their appointment by former President Omar al-Bashir in select provinces of Sudan.

As the country began to transition out of President Bashir’s power and away from the RSF, after Bashir was overthrown for corruption, the group began its military campaign to overthrow the government and gain control of the capitol city.

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Though the earliest Christians arrived in Sudan, then-Nubia, during the 6th century, Sudanese Syrians are a minority group in Sudan who arrived in the early 1900s seeking a better future after fleeing from civil unrest and persecution in Syria.

The latest power struggle means they are fleeing all over again.

“There is close to 200 people that we are looking after in Cairo and we’re working with to try and bring here,” said George Abagi, the president of the Sudanese Syrian Christian Social Community in Australia.

Al Jazeera reported in late November that more than 10,000 people have been killed and another six million displaced due to the heavy fighting.

Among the displaced are those from the Sudanese Christian community, including Melkite Catholics, who have been forced to fight for their lives as they trek unmarked routes through deserts and other terrains in search of safe refuge.

Many have found refuge in Cairo, which has brought its own challenges.

“There are 12 or more people living per apartment in Egypt. These Christians have been ignored,” said Abagi.

The situation has remained dire, leaving the lucky few who have escaped with little in terms of money, shelter and future prospects.

As the SAF and RSF continue to vie for control of the Sudanese state, return to Sudan for Christians is all but impossible, and those remaining in the country are struggling to flee.

“The Melkite Catholic community was very strong in Sudan. Now the people from that community can’t stay,” said Abagi.

Now the Sudanese Syrian Christian community in Australia is working to help those stuck in Egypt.

“Between us as a small community we’ve managed to raise $100,000 since the war began. Now we’re trying to raise more because that doesn’t go very far [in wartime],” he said.

“It’s buying some of them medication, food, furniture, clothes, paying some healthcare bills, trying to put them into jobs.”

Australian Syrian Christians are continuing to raise funds for those in Cairo through an agreement with the Melkite Catholic Church and the Melkite foundation, urging anyone that is able to help to donate.

“We’re even talking to other Sudanese Christian communities overseas, in England, America, Canada, and between us we are trying to look after those who have fled Sudan,” Abagi said.

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