Five Sudanese Church of Christ leaders were arrested in October for refusing to obey an order requesting them to refrain from holding worship services.
Known for the abhorrent treatment of Christians, concerns in Sudan grow as the continued harassment is yet another attempt by the country’s government to overthrow current leadership of the Christian churches in the region.
Christians Stand Firm
Once it was clear church leaders would not back down and adamantly refused to cancel their worship services, police were dispatched to the Sudanese Church of Christ in Hai Al Thawra in Omdurman, located just across the Nile River from Khartoum. Church leaders were warned by police to cancel their religious services immediately. When they refused to do so, they were promptly arrested.
The five Christian church leaders, two evangelists and three pastors, were charged with disturbing the public, and sources indicate that officials were harsh and threatening to the men during the arrest. They told their prisoners they would not be released. However, they were cut loose after several hours of questioning.
Among those arrested were: Reverend Ayoub Tiliyan, a SCOC moderator; the Reverend Ali Haakim Al Aam, the pastor in charge of the block 29 congregation; and pastor Ambrator Hammad. Evangelists, Habill Ibrahim and Abdul Bagi Tutu were also part of the group of five leaders that were sent to jail for refusing to cancel their worship services.
A History of Harassment
From 1983 to 2005, and in again in 2011, Sudan was locked in a civil war with the South Sudanese. Since the secession of South Sudan, the Sudanese government began fighting Christians in the Nuba Mountains, where many members of the Sudanese Church of Christ come from.
The Sudan Christians and Nuba face continued harassment as well as discrimination on a daily basis. In fact, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has introduced a much harsher version of sharia (Islamic law) and vows to only recognize the Arabic language and culture.
In an undying effort to completely destroy any sign or form of Christianity in the country, the Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced back in 2013 that there would be no new licenses issued for the building of new churches in Sudan, due to a “decrease in the South Sudanese population.”
Since that time, Sudan has continued to expel Christians, demolish churches, raid Christian bookstores, and arrest innocent Christians. In fact, Sudanese authorities threatened to kill any of the South Sudanese Christians that refused to leave or join their efforts to find other Christians in the area.
The unfounded harassment, arrests and hostility of Christians in South Sudan have continued to escalate, with the announcement from Sudan of their intention to demolish 25 church buildings in the area. Falsely claiming the churches were built on land designated as residential areas, authorities warned church leaders that their church buildings would be demolished only a week prior to the bulldozing. Church leaders know, however, that the true reason for the demolition is their effort to remove Christianity from the area.
A Global Concern
The list of Christians arrested for fictitious crimes – ranging from inciting hatred against the Sudanese government to spying – continues to grow. Police harassment for this religious minority is a serious issue, and seemingly part of daily life.
In the past year, too many church leaders have been detained and interrogated, only to be released with no real charges. This past August, seven other church leaders were arrested, questioned, then released on bail. Others have been removed from their homes in Omdurman because of the refusal to offer leadership of their church to a new government appointed leadership team.
Sudan has been designated as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ by the U.S. State Department dating back to 1999 due to its horrible treatment of Christians as well as many other human rights violations. In addition, the country ranks fifth on the ‘Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List’ of countries where Christians face the most persecution. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also suggested that Sudan be kept on the list via their 2017 report.
~ 1776 Christian