Adapted from reporting by All Africa News Service
Few Christians in Sudan celebrated Christmas in peace as government authorities continued their crackdown on Christian churches.
There are reports of land-grabbing and bulldozed church properties, as the government of President Omar Al-Bashir has imposed Shariah.
State security’s infamous “religious security” unit arrested dozens of Christian leaders, including five Anglican pastors in Khartoum, after the Anglican Cultural Center was shut down and all the books in its library were confiscated.
A week before Christmas, security forces arrested two Church of Christ pastors, the Rev. Kowa Shamaal of Khartoum North and the Rev. Hassan Abdelraheem of Omdurman. The government offered no reason for these arrests.
On October 17, government officials warned the Lutheran church in Al-Thawa, Omdurman, that it would be demolished under a policy to “restructure” the area. Three days later Sudanese authorities bulldozed the 33-year-old building.
“They gave us a notice that the church will be demolished after 72 hours,” said Pastor Gabriel Koko of the Omdurman Lutheran Church. He added that the church was attempting to register the church when the demolition occurred.
“The government asks you for consent from the local committee, which in turn will not agree unless the higher council for Da’wah and Guidance gives permission, and vice versa,” he said. “You are lost in the middle.”
Now these Lutherans worship outside in the blazing sun.
In April 2013, the Minister of Guidance and Endowments, Al-Fatih Taj El-Sir, announced in parliament that no new licenses would be granted to build churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the mainly Christian South Sudanese population, according to news reports.
While those in South Sudan have experienced greater religious freedom since independence in 2011, Christians in northern Sudan have faced greater religious persecution.
Nabil Adib, a respected human-rights lawyer, said that 2012 saw a sustained escalation of religious persecution in Sudan.
“Since then, around 200 foreign pastors or church affiliates were rounded up and arrested by the security apparatus and were given two choices: either leave the country and give up all belongings or continue to be detained and face charges,” Adib said.
He said the pastors given that choice all fled the country.
Image of Omar Al-Bashir by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt, via Wikimedia Commons