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Greek Church Becomes Haven for Civilians Caught in Sudan Crossfire

Sudan fighting
Civilians have been forced to take refuge in a Greek Orthodox church amid fighting in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Credit: ABC News (Video Screenshot) / YouTube

An unspecified number of people have taken refuge in a Greek Orthodox Church as fighting rages on in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, according to a report by the BBC.

On April 15, 2023, fighting broke out between the leaders of Sudan’s army and a rival paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The UN has estimated that approximately 200 people have been killed so far.

There is a small but vibrant community of Greeks in Sudan. At least two Greek individuals were injured by a rocket that landed within the vicinity of the Orthodox Church when the fighting first erupted on Saturday.

Civilians take shelter from fighting in Sudan in Greek Orthodox church

A Russian woman trapped in a Greek Orthodox Church in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, spoke to the BBC, telling the British state media corporation that her group was running out of basic supplies.

She explained that “urban electricity [was] cut off from the very beginning of the fighting.” The church did have a generator providing electricity but this ran out of fuel.

The group trapped in the church is now worried about what they will do as they run out of energy, food, and water.

It was previously reported on Monday that at least 15 people – Greeks and other nationalities – were confined inside the Greek Orthodox Metropolis in Khartoum with little food and only basic necessities.

The Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Nubia, Savvas, told SKAI TV that bullets have rained down on the church since Saturday.

“This is happening for the first time. Never before have rival factions hit a place where there is a flag of another state,” he said, but added that the church has not been targeted: “Bullets that hit the building seem to be stray bullets from the battles nearby.”

“We live in fear,” said Alexandra Kalimeri, a Greek woman stranded in the metropolis.

“We can’t go home. We can’t get anything from the shops, everything is closed, the army is everywhere. We have little food and we have closed the doors of the metropolis, no one goes out or looks through a window, nothing,” she told SKAI TV.

Among those trapped in the church are three young children, she added.

The Greek community

The Greek community in Sudan is believed to number around 150 people. In the early 1970s, there were more than 10,000 Greeks living in several areas of Sudan but that number has dwindled dramatically over the decades.

“Greeks in Sudan had established more than 10 communities such as in southern Sudan, in the Darfur region, on the border with Ethiopia, and on the banks of the Nile. Now only the community of Khartoum remains,” Antonis Chaldeos, a scholar who has dedicated his professional life to writing and researching the Greek communities of Africa told Greek Reporter.

The remaining Greek community in Sudan is now mostly centered in Khartoum around a “walled building block within which there is the Church of the Annunciation, the offices of the Greek community, the Greek school, and the building of the Greek Embassy which has been defunct for years,” explained Chaldeos.

Unfortunately, “The Greek heartland in Khartoum is located exactly where the fighting is taking place, in the center of the city,”  he said.

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