Sudan (Morning Star News) – It was more than a year ago that Muslims in the disputed area between Sudan and South Sudan noticed that Ahmed Alnour was no longer reciting his Islamic prayers five times a day.
The tribesman of the ethnic Misseriya Arabs was helping support his wife and seven children in Sudan working as a scrap trader at the Ameth common market in Abyei, a 4,072-square mile special administrative area on the border formed from the peace agreement that ended civil war in Sudan in 2005.
Alnour would soon have to leave that work, forced to flee when area Muslims confirmed that he had become a Christian.
“I saw them and heard them saying, ‘We will kill you because you left Islam and became infidel,’” he said of their attempt to burn down his home the afternoon of April 1, 2019.
Neighbors were able to douse the flames and he escaped unharmed, but on April 8 the assailants returned at 1 a.m. as he slept. He awoke to find his house in flames.
Alnour told Morning Star News that before Christians arrived to rescue him, he heard one of the assailants say in Arabic, “Let us throw him back in the fire, since he has abandoned Islam.”
The Christians took him to a hospital for treatment the following morning. He had lost all his possessions in the fire, including 600,000 South Sudanese pounds equivalent to US$6,000, but he had not lost his faith in Christ, he said.
The 43-year-old father of seven children ages 4 to 24 had put his faith in Christ just a few months prior. Paralyzed from an illness for three months in Agok, Abyei area, he received a visit from two evangelists who prayed for him and told him of salvation in Christ.
Alnour said he felt a conviction in his heart, and that after placing his trust in Christ he was healed.
“I was able to get up and walk after three months of sickness,” he said.
He was baptized at a church last Christmas. In hiding since the attacks last year, he has obtained a job and temporary quarters from church friends at an undisclosed village in the Abyei area.
Risks are growing as Muslims are looking for him, he said. Fear of Muslims’ reactions in Sudan and lack of economic opportunity keep him from going home to his family, but someday he hopes to be able to return and tell them about Christ, he said.
“I want to tell my family about my new faith in Jesus, and I am sure they will believe with me,” Alnour said.
In light of advances in religious freedom since Omar al-Bashir was ousted as president of Sudan in April 2019, the U.S. State Department announced on Dec. 20 that Sudan had been removed from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and was upgraded to a watch list.
Sudan had been designated a CPC by the U.S. State Department since 1999.
Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Bashir had vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.
In April 2013 the then-Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population. Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who did not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.
After Bashir was deposed, military leaders initially formed a military council to rule the country, but further demonstrations led them to accept a transitional government of civilians and military figures, with a predominantly civilian government to be democratically elected in three years. Christians were expected to have greater voice under the new administration.
The new government that was sworn in on Sept. 8, 2019 led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, an economist, is tasked with governing during a transition period of 39 months. It faces the challenges of rooting out longstanding corruption and an Islamist “deep state” rooted in Bashir’s 30 years of power.
Sudan ranked 7th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
At least ten people, including five children, have been killed in an attack on a college in South Sudan teaching Theology, Education and Business, according to the Christian charity Open Doors International.
Three guards and five students – one secondary and four primary school pupils – were among the victims of the 14 May attack on the Emmanuel Christian College (ECC) in Goli, in Yei county. A displaced father and son, who had taken refuge there after fleeing Mundri, were also killed.
The attackers also raped the 14-year-old daughter of a staff member, Open Doors reported, and vandalised and looted college offices, single-staff houses, classrooms and the library.
Witnesses reportedly told Open Doors the attackers were from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the main force which formerly fought Africa’s longest-running civil war for independence from Sudan in the north.
After peace was agreed between north and south Sudan in January 2005, the SPLA’s political arm, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), in turn formed a government under President Salva Kiir, and his deputy, Riek Machar. However a political feud between the two men then degenerated into political and ethnic rivalries: Kiir is a Dinka and Machar is a Nuer.
It is not clear why government-backed forces might have attacked the college.
The ECC management, which stresses the inter-tribal, inter-ethnic nature of its college, has reported the incident to state authorities and is working with them on next steps, Open Doors said.
ECC is a training institution that was set up by Open Doors in partnership with the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in 2001.
Since predominantly Christian South Sudan gained its independence from the Islamic Republic of Sudan in the north in 2011, Open Doors has been gradually withdrawing from the world’s newest country, and had handed over ownership of ECC to the local Church.
“We extend our condolences to all affected by the loss of life and our sincerest empathy to those affected by rape, witnessing of violence and looting,” Open Doors’ Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, JP Pretorius, said. “We call on the international Christian community to rally in prayer around staff at the ECC and the Church in South Sudan. We also call on the international community to do whatever it can to help bring an end to the hostilities in South Sudan and on the South Sudan government to take swift action to bring the perpetrators to book.”
Since its independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan has been mired in conflict. More than 2 million people were displaced during two years of civil war, primarily between the Kiir and Machar factions, which officially ended in 2015.
Although the warring factions signed a peace deal, the fighting continued. In 2016 a UN commission on human rights warned of “ethnic cleansing” taking place in the country and in 2017 a famine was declared in parts of South Sudan.
Insecurity in the area had on several occasions interrupted activities at ECC, Open Doors said, and while most key staff members remained on the premises, theological and other training had been moved to Yei. (World Watch Monitor)
In this video, Michael, a Sudanese Christian, shares his encounter with Jesus and tells how he’s been called to preach the Gospel in the Middle East despite the risk of strong persecution.
I’ve seen many miracles – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 2/7
Supernatural joy in the midst of persecution – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 3/7
Loving others according to Jesus – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 4/7
God’s promises never failed – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 5/7
Who is Jesus for me – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 6/7
Should you believe in God? – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 7/7
We pray you were blessed and encouraged by hearing our brother, Michael’s testimony. Please share it widely for others to hear. Thank you to CHRISTIANS OF THE WORLD, a Christian Testimony channel, for sharing Michael’s story. Visit their YouTube channel and be inspired by testimonies of faith in Jesus Christ. We also ask that you will pray for their ministries to expand and bring glory to God.
(World Watch Monitor) Yemen is the country where the risk of genocide, or mass killing, rose most last year, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in its 2017 Peoples Under Threat index, which also includes a large number of countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
Nine of the Index’s top 12 are also in the top 12 of Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List– namely Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Nigeria.
MRG calculates its annual index based on a number of indicators directly linked to the level of freedom of religion and expression, including democracy and governance, conflict data, and displacement.
Yemen, for instance, ranks 8th on the MRG Index and 9th on the WWL. The civil war that erupted there in 2014 has caused chaos and lawlessness, creating a climate where oppression can flourish.
Radical Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State have exploited the power vacuum in Yemen to gain significant influence. Christians have been killed and abducted, including 16 people killed in an attack on a Christian care home for the elderly in March 2016.
According to MRG’s index, which lists the top 70 countries most at risk of genocide, mass killing or systematic violent repression, two-thirds of the countries where this risk has risen are in Africa.
Also, an increasing number of people are living at “deadly risk” in a growing number of “no-go zones” around the world. MRG says its reports shows “how a lack of access from the outside world allows killing to be perpetrated unchecked in disputed territories, militarized enclaves, and in some cases, whole countries… International isolation is a known risk factor for genocide or mass killing”.
Syria, for example, leads the list for the third consecutive year and, according to the report, UN human rights officials have been “granted no access to Syria since the crisis began in 2011”.
Meanwhile the civil war in Yemen has so far killed more than 8,000 people and injured over 45,000 civilians. The fighting between Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the north and the Saudi-backed government in the south has furthermore displaced more than 3 million people – over 10 per cent of Yemen’s population – reports the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
OCHA says these figures are most likely lower than the reality because of the lack of reporting capacity and people not having access to health centres.
Those who have not been killed or injured in the fighting might still lose their lives in the largest ever recorded cholera outbreak in a single country in a single year, aid agencies warn. With a crumbling health system, with less than half the country’s hospitals operational and a lack of available medication, nearly 2,000 people have died of cholera so far, with an estimated 5,000 Yemenis becoming ill every day. More than 600,000 Yemenis could have cholera before the end of the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross has warned.
As the world focuses on potential military advances against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, it risks overlooking another vast region where militant Islam is a growing threat to the Church – in the continent where the Church is growing fastest: Africa.
Amongst other factors, the chaos in Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi – characterised by easy access to weapons of all sorts combined with the increasing presence of jihadists – has had a spill-over effect into Africa’s vast Sahel region. This spans the African continent from Senegal in the west to western Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east. (The ‘Sahel’ describes the ecological and geographic region between the Sahara Desert and the humid and fertile savannah belt north of Africa’s tropical rainforest).
The most dramatic example of this Islamist militancy is in northern Mali, where Islamist militants and foreign fighters made common cause with Tuareg rebels to take over a large portion of the country in 2012. For most of the year, until the French military were forced to intervene, armed Islamist groups ruled the region, banning the practice of other religions and desecrating and looting churches and other places of worship.
In addition to the main group involved then, the jihadist Ansar Dine, other militant groups active in the Sahel region include Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and Islamic State (IS).
A new report from Open Doors International, a charity providing support to the global Church under pressure, shows that the rise of Islamist militancy in the region is undermining freedom of religion. According to the report, puritanical and militant versions of Islam (particularly Salafism/Wahhabism) are increasingly taking root – in a manner that reflects recent developments in the rest of the world – as a result of Islamist missionaries and NGOs from the Middle East, funded by (until recently) oil-rich Gulf States like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The Sahel, which encompasses parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, has been predominantly Muslim for centuries. Due to a mix of environmental, demographic, economic and political factors, all the states that exist in this region are very fragile.
Troops from Mali and Niger, supported by their French counterparts, conduct regular joint operations to hunt for militants in the western part of the region.
The report indicates that the Islamist groups in the region are very hostile to Christianity and show this through violent acts. Northern Mali has witnessed violent attacks against Christians and churches – notably in 2012, during jihadist occupation. There have also been a series of abductions by jihadist groups, which kidnap Christian workers not only to finance operations through demanding ransoms, but also to deter Christians from working in the region. The Swiss missionary, Beatrice Stockly, kidnapped in Timbuktu in January, is still being held hostage by AQIM.
In neighbouring Niger, Islamists burned down more than 70 churches, as well as Christian homes, schools and orphanages, in a series of arson attacks in January 2015.
Islamist groups in the Sahel, like others elsewhere, don’t tolerate other Muslims who adhere to a version of Islam different from their own. Violence and terror is their preferred modus operandi. The report suggests that any further increase in their numbers and influence would add to the difficulties Christians are facing.
Even if these groups do not succeed in imposing Sharia and establishing Islamic “caliphates” at a national level, they will still contribute to the overall radicalisation of the population and the spread of an extremist and intolerant version of Islam, says the report. It says this has created an environment in which any Christian outreach ministry – not to mention the very existence of the Church itself – faces violent resistance.
The radical militancy of jihadist groups in the Sahel is also spilling over further south and giving rise to terrorist attacks in predominantly Christian parts of West Africa, notes the report. The attack on the Grand-Bassam resort in Ivory Coast (March 2016) has highlighted the vulnerability of these countries.
In the long-term, unless these groups are defeated, it is very likely that they will intensify their campaign of terrorism and violence in southern Nigeria and other West African countries which have thus far been relatively spared from terrorist activism, warns the report.
It concludes that the situation for Christians in the Sahel is precarious. It says the region is becoming a new major hotspot for Islamist groups, many of which have allied themselves to international terror franchises like IS and al-Qaeda. It is very important that the countries in the region strengthen their cooperation against these militant groups, says the report, adding that countries outside the region capable of providing assistance should also help.
In addition to robust and decisive military action, the report says it is also important not to adopt a purely one-dimensional approach. The socio-economic and political realities in the region, of which the militant groups take advantage, also need to be transformed, it says. It is only when these underlying realities are changed that Christians and non-Christians will be able to enjoy security and freedom in the region.
South Sudan (Morning Star News) – A group claiming affiliation with the Islamic State (IS) announced the beheading of a Christian from South Sudan in a video posted on Sunday (Oct. 18).
A masked man who carries out the killing in the video, presumably in Libya, states that he is defending Muslim brothers he claims were persecuted by South Sudan. The world’s youngest nation seceded from Sudan in 2011 and is embroiled in an ethnic civil war, but there is no record of any Muslims dying at the hands of Christians there.
In the video, which a group calling itself the Islamic State in Cyrenaica (eastern coastal Libya) released, the victim is identified in an inaudible voice, possibly as Kual Gai Wek, a native of South Sudan who has been living in Libya since 1989. His name does not appear to be Mohamed Al-Ghaid, as reported elsewhere.
The video also shows an enemy soldier, said to be Faraj Al-Saiti, being shot to death in the same area as the beheading. The identity of the South Sudanese Christian has not been verified, and it is unclear when the executions took place.
The IS figure accuses South Sudan of mistreating Muslims despite an interim constitution that defines the country as a secular state.
“Oh Christians in South Sudan, know that as you kill you will be killed, and as you displace our brothers we will do the same,” the masked man says. “No safety or shelter for you except that of the Islamic State … We will fight all of you as you fight us.”
The victim is then forced down to his knees and beheaded.
Christians in South Sudan expressed their condolences and asked God to forgive the killers.
IS was shown executing Christians in Libya on two occasions earlier this year. In a video released April 19, IS is seen executing 28 Ethiopian Christians. The Christians were divided into two groups of men being marched to their place of execution with their arms bound behind their backs. One group is held at a coastal area identified as “Wilayat Barqa” (Barqa State) in Libya, and the other is located inland in the desert scrub brush of “Wilayat Fazzan” (Fazzan State), also in Libya.
The men in the desert are shot in the back of their heads. The video switches to the seaside, where the men are beheaded.
In February, IS released a video of the execution of 21 Christians, all but one of them Egyptian. The Ethiopians and the Egyptians who were executed on the beach appear to be executed in the same general area.
IS late last month killed three Assyrian Christians, presumably in Syria, according to an execution video released Oct. 7. In the video, the group threatened to kill some 200 other Christians in Syria unless it receives a ransom of $50,000 each for their release.
The videoed execution is thought to have taken place on Sept. 23, during the Muslim holiday of “Festival of the Sacrifice,” according to Arabic-language news media.
(Morning Star News) – Two South Sudanese pastors arrived home in Juba from Khartoum, Sudan today after an eight-month ordeal of imprisonment, fabricated charges of capital crimes and a ban on leaving the country.
The Rev. Peter Yein Reith and the Rev. Yat Michael were acquitted of the crimes calling for the death penalty on Aug. 5 but were prevented from boarding a plane out of the country the next day. Sudan’s notorious National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) had ordered the travel ban when they were initially detained – Michael on Dec. 14 and Reith on Jan. 11 – and gave the orders to the airport personnel.
Attorneys for the two pastors have been working for their release since then, but it was not immediately clear how they were able to leave the country today. Michael and Reith were transported from Juba International Airport to a church in Hai Jebel in Juba, where they attended a thanksgiving service.
“Thank God for their arrival home,” the wife of Michael told Morning Star News after the service.
South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) leaders welcomed the pastors, who expressed their gratitude to Morning Star News amid the cheering congregation. An international outcry erupted over their weeks-long incarceration without charges after Morning Star News on Dec. 28, 2014 broke the news of Michael’s arrest, and on Jan. 20 published the first account of Reith’s arrest.
“Thank you very much, Morning Star News, for your great role which led to our release from jail,” Reith said.
Reith and Michael were convicted of lesser charges and released on the time they had served. Reith was convicted under Article 65 of “establishing or participating in a criminal organization,” while Michael was convicted under Article 69 of “disturbing public peace.”
The SSPEC pastors had also been charged with spying (Article 53), punishable by death, life imprisonment or prison and confiscation of property; undermining the constitutional system (Article 50), punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment and confiscation of property; disclosure and obtaining information and official documents (Article 55), punishable by two years in prison or a fine; blasphemy/insulting religious creeds (Article 125), punishable by one year of imprisonment or a fine or no more than 40 lashes; and joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy (Article 21).
Agents from NISS, said to be manned by hard-line Islamists, arrested the pastors.
Michael, 49, was arrested after encouraging Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church; the church was the subject of government harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors have tried to take it over. Reith, 36, was arrested on Jan. 11 after submitting a letter from SSPEC leaders inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.
Police in North Khartoum on Dec. 2 beat and arrested 38 Christians from the church that Michael encouraged and fined most of them. They were released later that night.
On Oct. 5, 2013, Sudan’s police and security forces broke through the church fence, beat and arrested Christians in the compound and asserted parts of the property belonged to a Muslim investor accompanying them. As Muslims nearby shouted, “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” plainclothes police and personnel from NISS broke onto the property aboard a truck and two Land Cruisers. After beating several Christians who were in the compound, they arrested some of them; they were all released later that day.
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians (see Morning Star News).
Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.
Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution, moving up from 11th place the previous year.
(Voice of the Persecuted) Authorities at the Khartoum airport stopped South Sudanese pastors, Yat Michael Ruot and Peter Yen Reith from leaving the country after a court had cleared them of spying charges and ordered their release.
After a large campaign and international outcry, the judge convicted them on lesser charges, but cleared them on the others, two of which risked the death penalty. He then released them on the basis that they had already served their sentences in time spent waiting for their trial. Judge Ahmed Ghaboush was quoted as saying, “The sentence they served in prison is enough, release them immediately and return the mobile phones and laptops,”
Reports claim when the pastors went to the airport to travel abroad, they were stopped and told they were banned from travelling. It is it not known how long the travel restrictions will last.
Their attorney’s put in a request to the judge to have the travel ban lifted. But based on the fact that the National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) originally levied the travel ban, it is uncertain that the judge will have authority to lift it. Their is a review hearing scheduled for Sunday.
Michael was arrested by the notorious (NISS) agents in December after encouraging his church to be strong. NISS held Yen in January after he sought the whereabouts of Pastor Michael.
South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011, six years after the signing of a peace deal that ended 22 years of bloody civil war. Many now fear false charges and their new battle stems from officials wanting churches to relinquish large tracts of land for the purpose of investments.
WILL YOU SPEAK FOR THESE MEN OF GOD? #SaveSudanPastors
Though they have been released, Pastors Michael and Peter are not completely free. With the latest development in their case, they are still in danger and need your voice again. Please continue to pray and speaking out.
Visit www.savesudanpastors.com and sign the petition, today. Please share and encourage other to join you!
Pastors Michael and Peter are so grateful for the love and concern you have shown for them. #OneInTheBody
Voice of the Persecuted Advocate Team and The Save Sudan Pastors Coalition