Christianity in Sudan

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Holy Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Khartoum

Christianity has a long history in what is now Sudan. Ancient Nubia was reached by Coptic Christianity by the 2nd century. The Coptic Church was later influenced by Byzantine Christianity. From the 7th century, the Christian Nubian kingdoms were threatened by the Islamic expansion, but the southernmost of these kingdoms, Alodia, survived until 1504.

Southern Sudan (including what is now South Sudan) remained long dominated by traditional (tribal) religions of the Nilotic peoples, with significant conversion to Anglicanism (Episcopal Church of Sudan) during the 20th century.


A fresco showing the birth of Jesus, in Faras cathedral

Coptic Christianity[edit]

Christianity reached the area of present-day northern Sudan, then called Nubia, by about the end of the first century after Christ.

It greatly developed under the influence of the Eastern Roman Empire.[1] Indeed, Byzantine architecture influenced most of the Christian churches in lower Nubia.[2]

The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527 to 565) made Nubia a stronghold of Christianity during the Middle Ages.[3] By 580 AD Christianity had become the official religion of the northern Sudan, centered around the Faras cathedral.

The Christian faith largely disappeared following Islamic conquests (from the 7th century onwards), but only after a lengthy struggle that went on for eight centuries. In the nineteenth century the Mahdist state (1881-1898) forcibly converted most of the remaining Coptic Christians to Islam.[4]

Modern Missionary Activity[edit]

During the 19th century, British missionaries re-introduced the Christian faith into South Sudan.

Sudan, the largest land-mass country in Africa, has a population of nearly 40 million people with the heaviest concentration in the north: an estimated 16% are Christians while Muslims make up 62% and those who practice traditional religions 22%.[citation needed] Taking Southern Sudan apart from the north the numbers shift to almost 50% Christian in this southern area.[citation needed]

The majority of Christians in Sudan adhere either to the Roman Catholic church or to the Anglican churches (represented by the Episcopal Church of the Sudan), but there are several other small denominations represented there including:[citation needed]

  • Apostolic Church
  • New Apostolic
  • Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
  • Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church
  • Greek Orthodox Church
  • Presbyterian Church of the Sudan
  • Seventh Day Adventist Church
  • Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church
  • Sudan Pentecostal Church
  • Sudan Interior Church
  • Africa Inland Church
  • Sudan Church of Christ

Roman Catholic missionaries began work in Sudan in 1842; both the Anglicans and the American Presbyterians began in Sudan in 1899. The Anglicans through the Church Missionary Society had their base in Omdurman, while the Presbyterians began in Khartoum but developed ministry both in the north and in the south. The Sudan Interior Mission began working in the country in 1937. The Africa Inland Mission launched the Africa Inland Church in 1949. In 1964 all foreign missionaries were made to leave southern Sudan because of the civil war. A few groups maintained missionaries in the north. The Sudan Pentecostal Church, which has grown significantly in the south, was started later by the Swedish.

As of 2011 about 2,009,374 Sudanese practiced Roman Catholicism, mainly in the south of the country (5% of the population are devout Roman Catholics).[citation needed] The patron saint of the Sudan is the former slave Saint Josephine Bakhita, canonized in 2000.

There are nine catholic dioceses including two archdioceses in modern Sudan,[5] with five Cathedrals.[6]

About 100,000 people or 0.25% of the population belong to various Protestant denominations in northern Sudan. Catholicism is practised by some thousand followers north of Sudan's capital.

Christianity by country
Cefalu Christus Pantokrator cropped.jpg
Full list  •   

There are other churches which are not included in the above document. The International church of the Nazarene came to South Sudan in 2003 and was officially registered by the Government of South Sudan by then,in 2008. Shalom, Rev. John Yual Nguth

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Christianity in Nubia". Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  2. ^ Photos of Christian Nubia churches. 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  3. ^ "Christian Nubia and the Eastern Roman Empire". Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  4. ^ Sheen J. Freedom of Religion and Belief: A World Report. Routledge, 1997. p.75.
  5. ^ "Sudanese Dioceses and Archdiocese". 2012-01-15. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  6. ^ "Cathedrals in the Republic of Sudan". Retrieved 2012-02-20. 


  • Jakobielski, S. Christian Nubia at the Height of its Civilization (Chapter 8). UNESCO. University of California Press. San Francisco, 1992 ISBN 978-0-520-06698-4
  • Maria Alloisio. Bakhita. Editrice La Scuola. Brescia, 1970.