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Religious Affairs Minister in Sudan Signals Freedom of Religion in New Era

(Morning Star News) – In another sign that Islamist elements hostile to Christianity in Sudan could be reined in, the minister of religious affairs has reiterated that Christian properties confiscated under the previous regime would be returned.

Acknowledging that Christians were persecuted and endured “very bad practices” under the regime of former President Omar al-Bashir, Minister of Religious Affairs Nasr al-Din Mufreh on Sunday (Nov. 3) was quoted in International Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat as saying property stolen from Sudanese Christians would be returned through court proceedings.

Mufreh also had told media in September that confiscated church properties should be returned.

In Sunday’s article in which he invited expelled Jews to return to Sudan – as he had in September, drawing criticism from Muslim hardliners – Mufreh said that Christians and people of other beliefs are free to practice their faith in Sudan.

“They [Christians] are Sudanese, and their religion is heavenly with its values and beliefs,” Mufreh told Asharq Al-Awsat, saying that Christians have such a presence in Sudan that they should not be described as a minority.

Sudanese Christians hope the comments mark a sea change from the Islamist campaign of Bashir, ousted by the army on April 11 after widespread protests began in December 2018. 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 have 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 do 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 are expected to have greater voice under the new administration. [They have been praying for a real change.] In September pastor Mobarak Hamaad, former head of the Sudanese Church Council, demanded that the transitional government return all church buildings, lands and properties wrongfully confiscated by the former regime.

Religious Affairs Minister Mufreh toldAsharq Al-Awsat his ministry would fight terrorism, extremism and takfiri notionspunishments for leaving Islam. He said Islamic State (IS) had no cells established in the country while acknowledging that members had likely entered.

The Sudanese Islamic Movement project has been defeated in political and community life thanks to the glorious revolution,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat, while acknowledging that a number of Islamist elements have begun trying to spread extremist ideas in Sudanese mosques.

“We will besiege these mosques with a serious discourse calling for moderation and the fight against extremism,” Mufreh told the Arabic-language news outlet.

Mufreh previously worked as a leader in the Al-Ansar Mosque in Rabak, south of Khartoum.

New Era?

The new government that was sworn in on Sept. 8, 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.

Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, faces charges of illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds. In Khartoum’s Kobar prison, he is charged with “inciting and participating in” the killing of protestors. In March 2009, the International Criminal Court indicted him for directing a campaign of mass killing, rape, and pillage against civilians in Darfur.

Hamad, the former chairman of the Sudan Council of Churches, has said that the government should recover all properties confiscated under the previous regime, including the Catholic Club and another building belonging to the Sudan Interior Church.

The Catholic Club, strategically located near the Khartoum International Airport, was turned into the headquarters of Bashir’s National Congress Party. The Sudan Interior Church building, used by the Khartoum International Church and other Christian organizations, was turned into offices for the notorious National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

On July 29, Chairman of the Military Council Abdul Fattah Al-Burhan issued a decision to amend the name of NISS to General Intelligence Service. The measure also froze Article 50 of the Law of Security Service, which had given NISS  broad powers of inspection and detention without cause, widely misused against Christians and political opponents.

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.

Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Please pray for Sudanese Christians.

Christians in Darfur, Sudan Arrested during Combined Worship of House Churches

Market street and post office in Nyala, South Darfur, Sudan. (Wikipedia)

(Morning Star News)– Security officials in Sudan last week arrested 13 Christians during a worship service in the Darfur Region, sources said.

Personnel from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) interrupted the worship service the afternoon of Oct. 10 in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state in western Sudan’s Darfur Region and arrested all 13 Christians present (not Oct. 13 while evangelizing Muslims, as reported elsewhere), the sources said.

NISS personnel gave no reason for arresting the Christians, members of four different churches who had come together for the service, except to say that they were all converts from Islam, the sources said. Authorities are targeting Christian converts from Islam in Darfur, they said.

“We are worried because their whereabouts are still unknown,” said one source, adding that he feared they might be tortured. “The Christians gathered as one body of Christ from different denominations.”

The arrested Christians include 10 from Darfur and three from the Nuba Mountains in southeastern Sudan. Church leader Tajaldin Idriss Yousif was arrested along with his church members: Alfadil Ismail Alnil, Ahmed Mohammed Hassan, Neseraldin Osman, Shemen Ahmed Shemen and Abubaker Biri.

Other Christians arrested were identified only as Kamal, Abdullah, Mutasim, Mujahid, El Sadik Afendi, Bolis Suliman and Abdel Maseh. NISS, widely regarded as a notorious agency staffed by hard-line Islamists, may hold people in detention for up to four and a half months without charges.

Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities have demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.

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.

UPDATE:

Sudanese police released ten Darfuri Christians on Sunday, 21 October, after they faced severe pressure for their faith and were beaten, a local source has told World Watch Monitor.

The ten were part of a group of 13 Christians who were taken by security officials from a home they shared in the city of Nyala, southwest Darfur, on 13 October. It is not clear on what charges they were arrested, though three of them were released shortly after.

It is also unclear if any of them will face further prosecution, according to World Watch Monitor’s source.

 

Ten killed as Christian college attacked in South Sudan

Residential accommodation at the Emmanuel Christian College training centre in Goli, South Sudan. (Photo: Open Doors International, 2009)

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.”

Background

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)

Christians in Sudan Charged in Defense of Church Property Case

(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.

Acquitted

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.

Tortured for the Gospel of Jesus Christ – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan)

Michael, a persecuted Christian, shares his amazing testimony of faith. Photo: Christians of the World ministry

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.

Christian testimony channel

Port Authorities in Sudan Detain Bible Shipment without Explanation

(Morning Star News) – Authorities in Sudan have detained a container of Bibles in Port Sudan without explanation for at least two years, a source said.

A Bible Society in Sudan representative told Morning Star News the container was one of two containing Arabic Bibles detained more than two years ago. The other container was released shortly after appeals to port authorities.

The detained shipments were destined for Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, said the source, who asked to remain unnamed for security reasons. At present the Bible Society in Sudan does not have a single copy of an Arabic Bible available in Khartoum, he said.

Other shipments of Bibles at Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, have also been detained over the past two years, he added.

A church leader said availability of Bibles and Christian literature in the country is increasingly limited.

“There is difficulty in getting Bibles in the country,” he said.

The Bible Society in Sudan representative said a port official in the past week has been more willing to consider releasing the shipment. Sudan links Christianity with the West, and Christian leaders speculated that Sudan may be opening to releasing the shipment as the U.S. administration lifted sanctions on Oct. 12. The sanctions had been in place since 1997 for Sudan’s terrorist ties and human rights violations.

Port officials were unavailable for comment.

Other international Bible providers have also complained of Sudan detaining shipping containers full of Bibles – usually due to corruption, but in some cases also to keep Judeo-Christian scripture out of the country.

Detainment of Bibles in Sudan also took place before 2011, with one shipment held up for nearly four years, the Bible Society source said.

Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities have demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.

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

‘Risk of genocide’ linked with level of religious freedom

(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”.

Cholera outbreak

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.

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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