VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Category Archives: Sudan

Police, Mob Attack Synod Guard’s Quarters, Arrest His Family in Omdurman, Sudan

Synod guard’s wife and their three children in jail in Omdurman, Sudan. (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) Three weeks after an elder was killed in an attack on church property in Omdurman, Sudan, a mob with police on Monday (April 24) ransacked the living quarters of the compound guard and arrested his family, sources said.

Police accompanied by a mob demolished part of the room where the family lived after first destroying its padlock at the compound of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), sources said. Officers took 27-year-old Mona Matta, wife of guard Azhari Tambra, 28, and their children ages 6, 4 and 2 from their room at the SPEC synod offices and detained them until 10 p.m. at the Northern Division Police Station in Omdurman, they said.

Tambra was not home at the time of the attack. When Matta and her three children, including one who is disabled, were taken away in a police van, they were accused of opposing authorities, lacking ownership papers and betrayal of the country. They were released, however, with no charges filed against them, said a source who requested anonymity.

When the family arrived home after the release of Tambra’s wife and children, they found all their belongings destroyed, and officers prevented them from entering their living quarters, sources said.

“It is very inhumane,” the Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, SPEC moderator, told Morning Star News.

The guard and his family, members of an evangelical church in Omdurman, were unsure where they would take shelter after their home was ruined, sources said.

A committee that the government illegally appointed to run the SPEC in 2013 is occupying the synod offices with help from police. Committee members were reported to have been present in the mob that damaged the guard’s living quarters.

On April 3 about 20 men with knives and other weapons, including members of the government-appointed committee, arrived at the Evangelical School of Sudan on the synod property and began to beat several women after police had arrested the men at the school. Christians from nearby Bahri Evangelical Church rushed to the school to try and protect the women, and two church members were stabbed.

Church elder Younan Abdullah later died in a hospital from wounds sustained while he and others were defending the school. Supporters of a Muslim business interest in Omdurman trying to take over the school, including members of the government-imposed committee, participated in the attack after police along with a group supported by Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments arrived at the school first and arrested all men.

Abdullah is survived by his wife and two young children.

The illegally imposed committee has been selling church properties to businessmen aligned with the government, sources said. SPEC leaders are appealing to the Sudan government to stop interfering with SPEC affairs and cease support of the government-appointed committee.

After the arrest of the guard’s family, Elia Aromi Kuku, a prominent Christian writer from the Nuba Mountains area, on Monday (April 24) published an open letter on the Nuba Times website to Sudan’s first vice president, minister of Guidance and Religious Endowments and Sudan’s chief of justice urging them to respect the rights of Sudanese Christians.

“It is the role of the Sudanese government to protect the rights of its Christian citizens and their rights to religious co-existence, as well as respecting their beliefs and their places of worship,” he wrote.

Police in Omdurman, across from Khartoum on the Nile River, on March 27 had arrested 12 staff members of the Christian school and the next day prevented others from leaving the campus, they said.

They were taken to Omdurman’s Central Division Police Station and released at about 8 p.m., accused of obstructing the work of Education Vision, which is trying to take over the school. The institution was still functioning as a Christian school, but representatives of Education Vision were regularly disrupting classes, school personnel said.

On March 16 about 20 policemen aboard a truck forcefully entered the school compound, arrested three Christian teachers including the headmaster, Daud Musa, and took them to Omdurman’s Central Division Police Station, sources said. Also arrested were Christian teachers Yahya Elias and the late elder Abdullah, all of the SPEC.

They were released on bail after eight hours, charged with obstructing the work of those attempting to take over the school.

The arrests came nearly a month after authorities arrested and held overnight four educators from the same school, including Musa, before releasing them on bail. They were accused of destroying a sign belonging to Education Vision. The Christians strongly denied the accusation.

The Evangelical School of Sudan is one of several SPEC schools throughout Sudan.

The leadership of the SPEC remains in the hands of government-appointed committee members even after a court ruled in November 2016 that the appointments were illegal, sources said. That case is separate from an Aug. 31, 2015 ruling by the Administrative Court of Appeal saying the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments interfered with SPEC’s Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church by imposing committees on the church in order to enable Muslim investors to take it over.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when 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.

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 2016 report.

Sudan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

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Sudan Orders Demolition of at Least 25 Church Buildings, Christian Leaders Say

Khartoum, Sudan

Khartoum, Sudan

(Morning Star News) – State officials in Sudan plan to demolish at least 25 church buildings in the Khartoum area, according to Christian leaders.

A June 13, 2016 letter from the Executive Corporation for the Protection of Government Lands, Environment, Roads and Demolition of Irregularities of Khartoum State reveals the names and locations of 25 church buildings marked for demolition, most of them in the Sharq al Neel (East Nile area) locality of Khartoum North. The government reportedly claimed the churches were built on land zoned for other uses, but Christian leaders said it is part of wider crack-down on Christianity.

The Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, moderator of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church’s (SPEC) Sudan Evangelical Synod, told Morning Star News the subsequent order was part of a systematic attack on churches by the Islamist government.

“This is not an isolated act but should be taken with wider perspective,” he said.

The order targets a wide range of denominations, from Roman Catholic to Pentecostal.

The Sudan Council of Churches denounced the order at a Feb. 11 press conference, calling on the government to reconsider the decision or provide alternative sites for the churches. The Rev. Mubarak Hamad, chairman of the Sudan Council of Churches, said at the conference in Khartoum that mosques located in the same area were spared from the demolition order.

Hamad said the order was aimed at 27 church buildings, including a Presbyterian Church of Sudan in Jebel Aulia, and one belonging to the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) in Soba al Aradi, both south of Khartoum.

The order by Mohamad el Sheikh Mohamad, general manager of Khartoum State’s land department in the Ministry of Physical Planning, urged that it be implemented immediately.

“I am hereby issuing the order of demolition of the churches that are attached to residential areas and public playgrounds in neighborhoods of East Nile locality,” Mohamad wrote in a cover letter dated June 20, 2016 to the Executive Corporation.

Among the 25 church buildings listed are three located on public playgrounds; the rest are located in residential areas, according to the order.

Last Sept. 29, officials from Khartoum state’s Ministry of Planning and Urban Development notified leaders of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan (PCOS) that they had 72 hours to vacate their property. The church building was one of five that officials at that time said were slated for demolition to make way for investor development.

“We were surprised as a church at such a move,” a member of the church told Morning Star News at that time. “The church building has been there since 1991We are still worshiping there but fearful of the demolition any time.”

The church, whose Sunday attendance ranges from 80 to 150 people, declined to vacate as they had no alternative site for worship, he said. The letter from state officials asserted the land on which the church building was situated was designated as private property for gardens.

Three Sudanese Church of Christ congregations, along with one belonging to the Episcopal Church of Sudan, also received demolition notices on Sept. 29.

Sudan since 2012 has bulldozed church buildings and harassed and expelled foreign Christians, usually on the claim that the buildings belonged to South Sudanese. 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.

The government’s decision to issue no new church building licenses came after South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July 2011, when President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.

After bulldozing a Lutheran Church of Sudan (LCS) building on Oct. 21, 2015, authorities in the Karari area of Omdurman demolished an SCOC building on Oct. 27, 2015 without prior warning, church leaders said. Local authorities said the SCOC building was on government land, a claim church leaders adamantly denied.

Karari officials in Omdurman, across the Nile River from Khartoum, reportedly authorized the demolition of the church building claiming it was built on government land allocated for a field. In the demolishing of the LCS church on Oct. 21, the local authorities said it was built on land allocated for business, though a mosque stands nearby.

Ethnic Nuba have long suffered discrimination from the Arab population and authorities of Sudan. The Nuba people have longstanding complaints against Khartoum, including neglect, persecution and forced conversions to Islam in a 1990s jihad.

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.

Sudanese authorities on Feb. 17, 2014 demolished another SCOC church building in Omdurman without prior notice. Bulldozers accompanied by local police and personnel from of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) destroyed the worship building in the Ombada area of Omdurman, sources said.

On Aug. 24, 2014, NISS agents padlocked the building of the 500-member Sudan Pentecostal Church (SPC) in Khartoum, which housed the Khartoum Christian Center (KCC).

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 2016 report.

Czech Aid Worker, Sudanese Pastor and Darfur Christian Sentenced to Prison in Sudan

Czech aid worker Petr Jasek, Rev. Hassan Abdurahim Tawor

Czech aid worker Petr Jasek, Rev. Hassan Abdurahim Tawor

(Morning Star News) – A judge in Sudan on Sunday (Jan. 29) sentenced Czech aid worker Petr Jasek to life in prison and two other Christians to prison terms of 12 years on charges related to “espionage,” a defense attorney said.

“Petr Jasek was imprisoned for life,” attorney Muhanad Nur told Morning Star News.

Along with the life sentence for espionage and waging war against the state, Jasek was also sentenced to six months in prison for spreading false rumors undermining the authority of the state (“spreading false news aimed at tarnishing the image of Sudan”) and a fine of 100,000 Sudanese pounds (US$16,000) for working for a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Sudan without a permit. He was also sentenced to one year in prison each for inciting strife between communities, entry in and photography of military areas and equipment and illegal entry into Sudan.

In Prague, the Czech Foreign Ministry said the verdict was without basis, according to The AP. It reported that a deputy foreign minister will travel to Sudan to try to negotiate Jasek’s release, and that the foreign minister is prepared to go also if necessary. The Foreign Ministry said Jasek was in Sudan only to help Christians.

Also on Sunday, the court in Khartoum convicted the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor and Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur for assisting Jasek in the alleged espionage, causing hatred among communities and spreading false information, Nur said. They received 10-year sentences for espionage-related charges, and two years of prison for “inciting hatred between sects” and “propagation of false news.” The sentences are to be served consecutively. (more…)

Sudan Delaying Case against Pastors to Avoid Releasing Them, Sources Say

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(Morning Star News) – Officials in Sudan are delaying a verdict in the trial of two pastors and two others because evidence is insufficient for conviction and they do not want to release them, sources told Morning Star News.

The Rev. Kwa (also transliterated Kuwa) Shamaal, head of Missions of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), and the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor were arrested from their homes on Dec. 18, 2015. They are charged with crimes, some punishable by death, that range from spying to inciting hatred against the government.

The case has been marked by postponements and judges who were said to be out of the country when court hearings were scheduled, according to advocacy groups. One Khartoum church leader, unnamed for security reasons, told Morning Star News the government is delaying the acquittal and release of the two pastors and two others due to Islamist pressures within the country.

“There is nothing serious in the case up to this point,” he said. “They have brought more than three witnesses, and there is still not any evidence.”

After the two pastors’ arrest a year ago, Shamaal was released on Dec. 21, 2015 but was required to report daily to the offices of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), a requirement that was removed on Jan. 16. He was re-arrested on May 25.

Shamaal and Abdelrahim Tawor are charged with trying to tarnish the image of Sudan’s government by collecting information on persecution of Christians and genocide in the Nuba Mountains. The charges include collecting information for “other parties hostile to Sudan.” They are accused of conducting intelligence activities and providing material support for Nuba rebels in South Kordofan under two charges that carry the death penalty – waging war against the state (Article 51 of the Sudanese Criminal Code) and spying (Article 53).

Similarly charged are Czech aid worker Petr Jasek and Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur. Abdumawla, who initially said he was Muslim but later admitted he was Christian, was arrested in December 2015 after he began collecting money to help a friend, Ali Omer, who had needed treatment for burns suffered in a student demonstration. Abdumawla contacted Abdelrahim Tawor, who donated money for Omer’s treatment, which apparently raised the ire of Sudanese authorities, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Omer had been injured during a demonstration at Quran Karim University in Omdurman last year that left him with severe burns that required regular medical care, according to CSW. A senior member of the student wing of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) died when 150 NCP students attacked Darfuri students at a meeting at Sharg El Nil College in Khartoum in April 2015, CSW reported.

Since then, Darfuri students have been increasingly targeted by the NISS, which has violently suppressed peaceful student demonstrations against government repression, CSW reported. NISS is said to be staffed by hard-line Islamists with broad powers to arrest people the government deems undesirable.

Pastor Abdelrahim Tawor, along with other pastors, was arrested after attending a missions conference in Addis Abba, Ethiopia in October 2015. Upset by the conference, NISS official interrogated Abdelrahim Tawor about accusations that those in attendance spoke of Sudan’s government persecuting Christians, a claim church leaders deny.

Prosecutors have charged Czech aid worker Jasek, also arrested in December 2015, with “tarnishing Sudan’s image” by documenting persecution. He is also charged with waging war against the state, reportedly based on an accusation that he gave money to “some individuals” in South Kordofan in 2012, allegedly including some rebel fighters.

At one hearing, NISS official Abbas el Tahir accused the defendants of conducting “hostile activities against the state that threaten the national and social security” in Sudan, according to Netherlands-based Radio Dabanga.

“Since 2012, we banned organizations or individuals working against Sudan,” El Tahir reportedly said. “However, these NGOs still work and plan to threaten the national security and harm the society’s interest.”

He accused aid organizations of publishing false reports against Sudan.

Defense attorney Muhanad Nur told Morning Star News that the charges against the Christians are baseless.

“Statements of the prosecutor indicate that there were no bases for all the charges brought against them,” he said.

Sources said police are not only prohibiting family members from visiting the jailed Christians but harassing them when they try to do so.

Foreign diplomats and international rights activists have taken notice of the case since Morning Star News broke the story of the arrest of two pastors in December 2015. Their arrest is seen as part of a recent upsurge in harassment of Christians.

Most SCOC members have roots among the ethnic Nuba in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is fighting an insurgency. The Nuba along with other Christians in Sudan face discrimination, as President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir in connection with war crimes in Darfur. 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 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

Christian School in Sudan Closed Down after Police, Civilians Seize Property

sudan

(Morning Star News) – The future education of more than 1,000 pupils was unclear after authorities closed down a Christian school in eastern Sudan last week, sources said.

Civilians who bused in from Khartoum and elsewhere aided armed police in taking over the Evangelical Basic School in Madani, Al Jazirah state on Oct. 24, an area church leader said. It was the third raid on the school in two months, following efforts to seize the school on Oct. 4 and Sept. 5. On Oct. 6, authorities jailed for four days Christian staff members who tried to prevent the seizure of the institution.

The National Ministry of Guidance and Endowments ordered the takeover of the Christian school so Islamist officials of Al Jazirah state can control it until courts determine final management, sources said.

“They just want to form a government body to run the school,” an area Christian told Morning Star News. “Muslims were on board the bus that came from Khartoum.”

School administrators and teachers are ethnic Nuba – increasingly targeted by a government that has vowed Islamic religion and Arabic culture will reign in Sudan – and from South Kordofan state, where Sudan is fighting an insurgency.

Parents of the students at the school organized a protest march last week to express their concern for their children’s education, an area pastor said.

“How can the government allow such an incident to happen to one of the best schools in the state?” he said.

A legal advisor for the Christian school urged the state government to allow classes to resume on Monday, but it was unclear whether the school would re-open. Local media reported the state Ministry of Education is planning to run the school via a committee selected by the government.

Arrested on Oct. 6 along with the Rev. Samuel Suleiman, headmaster of the school, and the Rev. Ismail Zakaria, were seven other teachers who objected to the takeover of the school. The nine Christian staff members were detained until Oct. 9 before being released on bail, accused of resisting authorities.

Civilians that came from Khartoum, 166 kilometers (102 miles) west, and other parts of the country to forcibly take control of the property acted with the help of five policemen, sources said.

Zakaria is pastor of the church to which the school belongs and is also a representative of the Evangelical Communion, which oversees the property. Armed police and officials from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Sept. 5 arrested Pastor Suleiman and 12 teachers at the school, accusing them of supporting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N), a rebel group fighting government forces farther south in the Nuba Mountains state of South Kordofan.

Pastor Suleiman has strongly denied the charge.

In the Sept. 5 raid, police presented a letter from the National Ministry of Guidance and Endowments, addressed to the State Ministry of Social Welfare, ordering the handover of Evangelical Basic School to the government. The school serves more than 1,000 students, ages 3 to 18, in Madani. Established by the American Mission in 1901, it belongs to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. 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.

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. The rebels in the Nuba Mountains were formerly involved with the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces fighting Khartoum before the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan broke out in June 2011, when Khartoum forcefully attempted to disarm the SPLA-N in South Kordofan by force rather than awaiting a process of disarmament as called for in the CPA. When the CPA was signed in 2005, the people of South Kordofan were to vote on whether to join the north or the south, but the state governor suspended the process.

Ethnic Nuba, along with Christians, face discrimination in Sudan, where President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.

The Nuba people have longstanding complaints against Khartoum – including neglect, oppression and forced conversions to Islam in a 1990s jihad – but as Sudanese citizens on the northern side of the border, they were never given the option of secession in the 2005 peace pact between northern and southern 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 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

Rising Islamist militancy across Sahel belt threatens African Christianity

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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.

Fertile ground

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.

Rampant radicalization

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.

Full report here

Authorities Arrest Christian Leader in Al Jazirah State, Sudan, in School Takeover

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(Morning Star News) – Authorities in southeastern Sudan arrested the headmaster of a Christian school last week and took over its property, sources said.

Armed police and officials from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Sept. 5 arrested the Rev. Samuel Suliman and 12 teachers at the school in Madani, capital of Al Jazirah state. The Christians were accused of supporting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N), a rebel group fighting government forces farther south in the Nuba Mountains state of South Kordofan.

Strongly denying the charge after the accused were released on bail following eight hours in jail, Suliman told Morning Star News that police presented a letter from the National Ministry of Guidance and Endowments, addressed to the State Ministry of Social Welfare, ordering the handover of Evangelical Basic School to the government.

“Over the past days, we have experienced difficult times in the school,” Suliman said, asking for prayer.

The school serves more than 1,000 students, ages 3 to 18, in Madani. Established by the American Mission in 1901, it belongs to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. 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.

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. The rebels in the Nuba Mountains were formerly involved with the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces fighting Khartoum before the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan broke out in June 2011, when Khartoum forcefully attempted to disarm the SPLA-N in South Kordofan by force rather than awaiting a process of disarmament as called for in the CPA. When the CPA was signed in 2005, the people of South Kordofan were to vote on whether to join the north or the south, but the state governor suspended the process.

Ethnic Nuba, along with Christians, face discrimination in Sudan, where President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.

The Nuba people have longstanding complaints against Khartoum – including neglect, oppression and forced conversions to Islam in a 1990s jihad – but as Sudanese citizens on the northern side of the border, they were never given the option of secession in the 2005 peace pact between northern and southern 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 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Sudan.

Charges against Pastors in Sudan Could Lead to Death Penalty

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Rev. Kwa Shamaal and Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor photo: Middle East Concern

During a trial on August 22, 2016, prosecutors in Sudan accused two church leaders and two others of tarnishing the image of the country and crimes calling for the death penalty, sources said.

The trial had been postponed on Aug. 14 when authorities failed to transfer the pastors to court, a defense attorney told Morning Star News. The prosecutors presented investigators from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in calling on the court in Khartoum to execute the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor and the Rev. Kwa Shamaal, both of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), for at least seven alleged crimes against the state, the defense attorney said.

He said the defense team is bracing for the charges concocted, which include the capital crimes of espionage and waging war against the state. In court, Abdelrahim denied all charges that NISS, said to be staffed by hard-line Islamists with broad powers to arrest people the government deems undesirable, brought against him, the attorney said.

“We are 100 percent ready to defend our clients,” the attorney said.

The pastors have also been charged with: complicity to execute a criminal agreement; calling for opposition of the public authority by violence or criminal force; exciting hatred between classes; propagation of false news article; and entry and photograph of military areas and equipment.

“There is no evidence against the two pastors,” a relative of one of the church leaders told Morning Star News.

Since the pastors’ transfer from a holding cell to Al-Huda Prison on Aug. 11, prison officials have denied them visitors, telling one family member, “Visits are not allowed.” Abdelrahim’s family has been concerned for his health as they have been unable to provide him with the medication he needs for stomach ulcers, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Also charged is Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur, a Muslim who was arrested in December after he began collecting money to help a friend, Ali Omer, who had needed treatment for burns suffered in a student demonstration. Abdumawla contacted Abdelrahim, who donated money for Omer’s treatment, which apparently raised the ire of Sudanese authorities, according to CSW.

Omer had been injured during a demonstration at Quran Karim University in Omdurman last year that left him with severe burns that require regular medical care, according to CSW. A senior member of the student wing of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) died when 150 NCP students attacked Darfuri students at a meeting at Sharg El Nil College in Khartoum in April 2015, CSW reported.

“Since that incident, Darfuri students have been increasingly targeted by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS),” CSW reported. “By May 2015, over 100 Darfuri students were detained by NISS in Khartoum and during 2016, NISS has violently suppressed peaceful student demonstrations against government repression.”

Shamaal, head of missions for the SCOC, was arrested on Dec.18, as was Abdelrahim. Shamaal was released on Dec. 21 but was required to report to NISS offices daily, a requirement that was removed on Jan. 16. Shamaal was re-arrested on May 25.

Many church members, mostly from the SCOC, gathered outside of the courtroom to show their solidarity with the two pastors, singing songs calling for their release.

The court appears to be trying to package the case of Omer and the two pastors together with that of a fourth defendant, 52-year-old Petr Jasek, a Christian from the Czech Republic whom NISS accuses of entering the country illegally in October of last year, espionage and tarnishing the country’s image with reports saying Christians in Sudan are being persecuted.

Most SCOC members have roots among the ethnic Nuba in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is fighting an insurgency. The Nuba along with other Christians in Sudan face discrimination, as President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.

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 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

VOP Note: Please pray for these pastors and their families. The next hearing is expected to take place on tomorrow, August 29th.  Father, take their fear and give then hope through Your presence. May Your light shine from them as a witness for all to see. Give them joy unexpected in these dark days. Hold them up as they stand on the firm foundation of faith. In Jesus Holy name, Amen.

Please pray for all our brothers and sisters under constant threat in Sudan.

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