Every Sunday morning, Pastor Daniel Suleiman Aliba wakes up with the sun and prepares for church.
After a shower, he puts on his black shirt and white collar, brushes his hair, and walks to the chapel, where he preaches to his neighbors about forgiveness and understanding.
None of it would be possible without his older brother, Musa, who paid Daniel’s school fees so he could attend the Cush Bible School. But Musa isn’t among the crowd to watch his brother preach. In fact, Musa stays home every Sunday.
“When Fridays come, my other brothers, including Musa, go to the mosque,” explained Daniel. He and Musa grew up with a Muslim father and a Christian mother. Every sibling was allowed to choose his or her own religion. “No one would say to his brother ‘your religion is bad,’” said Daniel.
Religion is regularly used by the Sudanese government to justify its conflict in the Nuba Mountains. Religious clerics aligned with the ruling National Congress Party often unofficially recruit youth for militias sent to fight the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front.
Nearly every day, the Sudanese Air Force drops bombs on the Nuba Mountains.
In Khartoum, President Omar al Bashir promises holy war against rebels and civilians alike. The country operates under Islamic law, and Christians in Khartoum have often faced persecution.
Earlier this year, a woman named Mariam Yahya Ibrahim was sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. After an international outcry, she was released and fled to travel to the United States.
But in the Nuba Mountains, religious freedom is an important right. It is common to have both Muslims and Christians in the same family. And though communities do not share the same beliefs, they are happy to celebrate their spirituality together.
“If the church has an event, they will send an invitation to the mosque,” said Daniel’s brother, Musa, “we also have our Muslim holidays and we invite the churches and they come to celebrate with us.”
And despite his strong belief in Islam, Musa doesn’t agree with Sudan’s religious policies. He believes his government is manipulating religion for it’s own ends. “Issues of religion should not be mixed up with politics,” he said. “My brother is Christian and I am a Muslim and we are the same.”