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(Morning Star News) – A court in Omdurman, Sudan on Wednesday (April 11) charged four Christians who defended church property from a takeover by a Muslim business interest, sources said.
Azhari Tumbara, Muna Matta, George Adam and Kudi Abderhman last year tried to keep authorities from seizing Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) property in Khartoum. Judge Adam Babiker charged the Christians with causing physical harm to police and supporters of a Muslim businessman who tried to take control of church school property in April 2017, the Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, SPEC moderator, told Morning Star News.
If found guilty under Article 142 of the Sudan Penal Code, the four Christians could be sentenced to a fine and a prison term of up to six months, said Attorney Adam Abu Anja, their legal counsel. Anja said he doubted they would receive the maximum sentence.
“I am confident – the charges are not that serious,” Anja told Morning Star News. “We have enough witnesses that, if they are convicted, they might be fined, that is all.”
A verdict could come at the next hearing on Monday (April 16).
On April 3, 2017, church elder Younan Abdullah died from injuries sustained in the raid by authorities and the Muslim business interest’s supporters on the school in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum. Abdullah, an elder with Bahri Evangelical Church, died in a hospital after being stabbed while he and others were defending women at the Evangelical School of Sudan, SPEC sources told Morning Star News.
He is survived by his wife and two young children.
At the same hearing on Wednesday (April 11), the judge cleared five church leaders accused in the church takeover case, including Pastor Nalu.
“Five of us were freed for lack of evidence,” Pastor Nalu said.
Pastor Nalu, the Rev. Idriss Kartina, the Rev. Zachariah Ismael, elder Bolus Tutu and Salim Hassan were acquitted.
On Feb. 5 a court in Sudan fined seven church leaders who fought the takeover of the school in Omdurman for “objection to authorities,” a church leader said. The court fined SPEC elder Yohanna Tia 5,000 Sudanese Pounds (US$275).
Tia was one of 26 church leaders who appeared in court over a two-week span in the case. Seven church leaders were ordered to pay fines of 2,500 Sudanese pounds (US$137) each, and 19 were freed for lack of evidence, according to Pastor Nalu.
Two pastors – the Rev. Dawoud Fadul, SPEC moderator, and Pastor Kartina – were also fined 2,500 Sudanese pounds each. Church elders Adam George, Bolus Tutu and one identified only as Azhari were also fined, along with school director Ustaz Dauod Musa Namnam.
On Aug. 15, 2017, police raided Pastor Nalu’s home and another belonging to SPEC leader. They evicted the families of Pastor Nalu and the Rev. Sidiq Abdalla, a SPEC pastor who has two children, ages 8 and 10. Pastor Nalu has a 1-year-old boy.
The action was considered part of the government-aided bid by Muslim businessman Hisham Hamad Al-Neel to take over church property. Police told the pastors they were carrying out a court order.
Leadership of 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.
The Evangelical School of Sudan is one of several SPEC schools throughout Sudan.
In its campaign to rid the country of Christianity, church leaders say, Sudan has designated at least 25 church buildings for destruction.
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. 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.
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 2017 report.
Sudan ranked fourth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.
New Jersey: David Wells, a former Long Branch police officer who was charged with defiant trespass for handing out religious pamphlets at Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, New Jersey, will again have to wait for his day in court. The court case was originally scheduled for Dec. 5, 2013, but has been postponed—for the fourth time.
APP is reporting that Eatontown Borough Prosecutor, Sean T. Kean asked for the case to be adjourned because Mall representatives were unable to attend. Judge Robert B. Thompson granted his request.
“There are a lot of constitutional issues. It’s a little bit more complicated than the average case we see in this court,” Thompson said, adding that both sides have used up their postponements and he won’t grant another.
Wells, was initially charged by Eatontown police officers on Nov. 5 when he refused to stop talking to people and engage them in conversations at the Monmouth Mall.
Mall security approached him and told him to stop and leave the property. They said the mall was private property and that he couldn’t distribute tracts there. Wells defended that he had a right to do what he was doing, and cited a state court ruling that declared malls a quasi-public venue where such leaflets could be distributed. The mall’s code of conduct allows picketing, leafleting, soliciting and/or petitioning with prior written consent from mall management, which Wells did not have. Security called the police.
When Eatontown police officers arrived, Wells explained that he didn’t want to be arrested, but after continuing to assert that his activities were legal, Wells was arrested and charged with trespassing. In court, he plead ‘not guilty’ to the charges.
In Nov. 2013, Wells told the Christian News Network,
“I want to emphasize that I was not making any public spectacle: no signs, no loudness, no offensive language. I was simply trying to talk to people. I simply approached individuals and asked them if I could ask them a question. If they said no, I left them alone. If they said yes I simply asked, ‘Are you going to Heaven?’ How I responded was based on how they answered that question.”
“If we’ve gotten to the point in the U.S. that we cannot talk to other people civilly, we’re in trouble.”
David’s attorney, Demetrios Stratis said they will ask Thompson for a dismissal of the charge.
New Jersey legal statute defines defiant trespass as a petty disorderly persons offense.
While it has been reported that Wells was handing out Bible tracts, David Wells told Voice of the Persecuted,
I never defended my right to handout literature, but my right to talk to people and engage them in conversations. What I was using looked like trillion dollar bills and I used them as an ‘Ice breaker’ to facilitate a conversation. The fact is that I wasn’t handing them out willy-nilly to every passerby.
I would pose the question, “Would you like to answer a question for a trillion dollars?” If the person did not, they did not get the (fake) money. The trillion dollars were nothing more than novelties to start a conversation.
The prosecution wants to make the handling out of leaflets the center of the case, but that is the furthest thing from the truth, and that’s what I told them repeatedly at the mall. In other words, I didn’t leave because I believed I had a right to leaflet, I didn’t leave because I have a right to talk to people.
The police reports reflect that he maintained his right to speak freely.
We also asked David if the case has diminished his mission to share the Gospel in any way. He told VOP, “This hasn’t had any negative affect, only positive!”
David mentioned that since his arrest, he had been wondering how God will use this ‘event’ for His glory. He met a man who works on Wall Street who shared with him how the arrest ultimately lead to discussions with his unsaved co-workers about Jesus Christ! David added, “I was very blessed to hear this! Praises to God!”
At one of the court appearances, a friend from David’s church was able to witness to a reporter who was covering the story, along with two other people. Wells said, “Seeds were planted that day!”
A petition to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as officials of Vornado Realty, was started on Wells’ behalf, asking the company and Monmouth Mall to allow free speech, and to “change their policies to comply with the protections of the United States Constitution and judicial case law banning discrimination.”
The petition was started by Robert Angelini, who believes Wells was within his rights to distribute leaflets. Angelini is a former police officer who retired from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in 2012.
In the petition, Angelini states:
“Our interpretation of the manager’s explanation and the mall’s code of conduct makes a reasonable person believe, if you engage any person anywhere on mall property and utter anything ‘religious’; and/or hand out leaflets and that utterance brings a complaint from at least one person, you will be asked to leave the property and arrested if you don’t comply.
“Dave, standing up for our religious freedom and our Constitutional rights, was treated like a common criminal. His crime? Refusing to leave the mall for engaging people in conversation about God’s love and salvation.”
You can sign the petition HERE
By Lois Kanalos, Voice of the Persecuted
Another US citizen takes case against government after authorities fail to renew residency
A Canadian-American street evangelist left Istanbul on Saturday (Dec. 14) after Turkey’s Ministry of Interior repeatedly denied him a residence permit with no explanation.
David Byle, Chairman of the Bible Correspondence Course (BCC), has opened a court case against Turkey’s Ministry of Interior in an effort to remove his name from the country’s blacklist.
In the last three years, Byle, 44, has been arrested, taken to court, been denied entry to the country and threatened with deportation. He has also spent time in prison. But the final straw for him has been in the last two years when he has repeatedly been denied a residence permit without any explanation. (He has lived in Turkey since 1999).
Authorities refuse to explain why Byle is on their blacklist, but Byle says it is because of his Christian evangelism in Istanbul, where he and teams from the BCC gather crowds on the streets with the use of a sketch-board.
His lawyer has requested a written explanation from the authorities, who have stayed silent and advised that Byle apply for a visa from his home country. To that end, the US citizen flew to Chicago, leaving behind in their Istanbul home his wife, who is German, and their five children aged between eight and 14.
And this is not the last the Turkish government will hear of Byle. The court case he opened this week against the Ministry of Interior (in an effort to remove the restriction on his file) adds to another case launched four years ago.
In November 2009, when Byle was arrested after doing some open-air ‘street evangelism’ in Istanbul, Turkey’s Ministry of Interior accused him of “forceful missionary activity” and “disturbing the peace”.
Byle won in 2011, but the Ministry appealed. The case is stuck in a bureaucratic backlog, but Byle’s lawyers expect Turkey’s high court, Danistay, to consider it in 2014.
They say his case is important because it could set a precedent for other missionaries in Turkey. And if they do not win the case in Turkey, they plan to take it to the European Court of Human Rights.
Byle said he and his team from the BCC, which he helped gain official recognition as an association, have been taking to the streets to talk about Christianity for nearly eight years. The association’s Turkish name is officially “Association for the Propagation of the Bible”.
The BCC was approved by the Governate of Istanbul in 2009 and, as its title and mission statement, says its main purpose is to disseminate information about the Bible. Turkey’s Constitution states all people have the right to share their faith and it is a crime to stop someone from doing so.
“Even if David and the BCC’s methods are a little aggressive, theirs is an important service to our country and the Turkish church,” said Umut Sahin, member of the legal committee of Turkey’s Protestant Churches. “David and the BCC are in no way guilty before the law. David is innocent and does not deserve to be thrown out of the country.” Sahin is a Turkish convert to Christianity from Islam; Turkey has approximately 5,000 Turkish Protestant converts.
Member of the German Parliament, Frank Heinrich, has taken interest in Byle’s case and has written to the Turkish authorities on his behalf. Heinrich is also a member of the German Parliament’s Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid.
Heinrich told World Watch Monitor he was well aware that Byle has been working in Turkey as a non-profit volunteer for over a decade. (Byle and his family gain their living from donations from supporters in the US and Canada and he does not earn anything from the BCC).
“He has never breached any law,” Heinrich said. “Religious freedom is a positive right, and it includes sharing one’s faith. A democratic state with guaranteed religious freedom must allow people to share their faith.”
Continue reading at World Watch Monitor