Today, the refugee crisis in Sudan is one of the most widely reported humanitarian concerns in the world. However, many people are unsure why millions of people have been displaced from their homes. The answer is a religious conflict that has been developing in Sudan for hundreds of years. The root causes of religious conflict in Sudan between the Muslim North and Christian South stem from primarily political sources, including historical favoritism to northern Sudanese areas, unequal political representation, and governmental oppression and marginalization of certain religious groups. For thousands of years, these causes have created boundaries that are ingrained in Sudanese history. For centuries, various Sudanese political powers throughout the country have oppressed and taken advantage of different minority groups, causing a deepening rift between parties with opposing ideologies. From the period of colonization, there has been a forced separation between the Northern and Southern parts of Sudan . Since the time of Sudanese independence, Muslim governments in the North have attempted to enforce laws of oppression and “Islamification” against the Christian and animist South (Deng, 2001). This has caused a rising conflict between Muslims and minority groups who have “a vision, of a secular, democratic Sudan” (Deng 2001, 1). Fueling this conflict are the differing opinions between the North and South of the role of religion within government. The Muslims believe that these two institutions should be fully integrated, while the Southerners, who are generally more Christian and secular, believe that there should be a separation between the two. It seemed that best way to resolve this conflict in a permanent way was to separate Sudan into two independent countries, so that each country could form a governing body that rightly represents the interests and ideology of its constituents. However, when South Sudan gained autonomy in 2011, the conflict between the two groups did not end (Insight on Conflict, 2012). For centuries, Christianity and Islam have been practiced in Sudan. Although the current population of the Sudanese/South Sudanese region is mainly Muslim, Christianity was the first religion brought to the area (Jewish World Watch, 2006). The spread of Christianity in the Sudan began thousands of years ago, when the region was split up into fifty different kingdoms. Around 450 AD, the Byzantine empire sent Christian missionaries into Nubia, which included present day Sudan and South Sudan, to start spreading their message. Many Nubian peoples eventually converted to different denominations of Christianity, following the lead of their rulers. Christianity remained the dominant religion in the Sudanese region for the next 1,000 years (Wheeler, 1991). For the next century, control of the Sudanese region switched hands between various nations and empires. In the 1890’s, Britain, which is predominantly Christian, sought to regain control over Sudan. Christian missionaries spread their religion in Sudan, especially the south, over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. Missions to the Sudan in this period were not exclusively English. Catholic missionaries from Italy also attempted to spread their faith into the Sudan, as evidenced by religious writing penned mainly in Italian. The diffusion of Christianity was resisted by Muslims in the North (Wheeler, 1991). About 200 years after Christianity was introduced in the Sudan, Islam began to spread into the region. After the death of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, Muslim Arab armies moved west into Africa in order to conquer and convert African populations to Islam. In the 640’s, Muslims invaded Nubia, conquering major cities and destroying Christian cathedrals (Metz, 1991). The attempted Arab conquest of Nubia eventually failed, but the Muslims still recognized a benefit in maintaining amicable relations in the area. Through friendly economic agreements, the Arab Muslims...
Cited: Deng, F.M. 1995. War of Visions: Conflict of Identities in the Sudan. Washington, D.C: The
Brookings Publishing Institution
Johnson, D. H. 2003. The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars. Indiana University Press. Military and cultural factionalism and certain historical events have led up to the current state of civil war in Sudan.
Metz, H.C. 1991. Sudan: A Country Study. Washington, D.C. Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. retrieved from
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