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Oppression of churches in (North) Sudan mounts as Islamisation increases - update from Sudanese pastor

20 October 2016

Sudan is the northern nation from which South Sudan separated in 2011 after a long civil war. The Southerners, who are mainly Christians and other non-Muslims, were fighting to prevent the northern Islamic government imposing sharia law on them.  Following the secession of South Sudan, Sudan’s Islamist government has intensified efforts to make Muslim-majority Sudan a fully Islamic state. Sharia law is brutally enforced and the government has waged a violent counter-insurgency campaign in Christian regions in the southern parts of “North” Sudan.

A key Christian leader from Sudan, whom Barnabas Fund has supported for many years, sent us a report on 17 October describing the current plight of the Christian minority in his country: 

We have to know that the government of Sudan has declared that after the separation of South Sudan, there is no more recognition of other religions in country except Islam is only religion for nation. This has come from President Omer El Bashir, but they didn’t put it in the constitution, only in government officials’ practices and government institutions, like the law enforcement agencies.

The churches which are operating are as follows:

  1. The Episcopal Church of the Sudan
  2. The Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church
  3. The Sudanese Church of Christ
  4. The Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church
  5. The Sudan Pentecostal Church
  6. The Coptic Church
  7. The Orthodox Church
  8. The Africa Inland Church
  9. The Baptist Church
  10. The Lutheran church
  11. The Roman Catholic Church

Most of these churches are members of the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC). This Council is very weak and cannot defend Christians and their rights in Sudan. The church with the biggest membership is the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. Their number in Khartoum alone exceeds five thousand believers without including the other States. This is followed by the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Churches, the Sudanese Church of Christ, and the Roman Catholic Church. The rest have less than a thousand members within Khartoum.

The government is working hard to close the church activities in North Sudan by arresting the active church leaders and closing the churches or schools, dividing the Christians among each other and discrimination.  

For example, in our Presbyterian Evangelical in place called Madani the government divided our church leadership since 2012. Last Thursday 6th October, the government authorities arrested our two pastors, Rev. Samuel Suliman (the headmaster of our school for many years in Madani) and Rev, Zachariah Ismail (the pastor in charge of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Madani). Also they arrested some congregation leaders and school staff. They released them on Sunday 9th October.

The government closed about 6-7 local churches from the Presbyterian Evangelical Church around Khartoum state.

This year, 2016, the government closed the centre of our congregation in the heart of Khartoum, where I was doing my pastoral ministry. We have two congregations from Ethiopia and Eritrea who worship on Fridays.

The government has closed the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) and they took all the properties of the Khartoum International Church (KIC) in April 2014 and small congregation of Baptist Church and Anyuak Congregation from Presbytery Church of Sudan (PCOS). In February 2012 the government closed the two Sudan Pentecostal Church schools: Nile Valley Academic School in Amarat and Hope Center School in Omdurman. In August 2014 the government closed Khartoum Christian Center (KCC) as mentioned again below.

We don’t have accurate information from the Sudan Church of Christ (SCOC) that has two pastors in prison right now (photos below). I am still waiting for Episcopal Church of Sudan information from one of my friends who promised to send me information.

The government has always accused the church leaders of being involved with political issues, like supporting the rebels who are against the authorities in Khartoum for example the accusations against our two pastors from (SPEC) are the same as the accusations against the two pastors who are in prison now. The reason for accusing the church of being connected with rebels is to make people fear for themselves and their property; in the case of the evangelical school in Madani the police accused the pastors and congregation of supporting the rebels from Nuba Mountains who are fighting with the government.

Most church congregations are a mixture of African and Arab tribes. The churches in Khartoum are made up of African tribes, especially the Nuba tribes and other Sudanese tribes of Arab origin. The Coptic and Orthodox churches are mainly from people of Egyptian and Middle East origin including some Ethiopians.

Churches destroyed in Southern Kordofan States:

The Nuba Mountain area is now a war zone area. The church buildings in those war areas are all destroyed. Many Christians have been killed. Some pastors have been killed (like pastor Johanna Tia), others have been tortured and crucified by the Arab Islamic Mujahedeen ravaging the area. 

Christians meet to pray in makeshift shelters and sometimes under trees, avoiding aerial bombardments. But in Northern Kordofan government controlled areas like Kadugli there are less than ten local churches. The existing denominations are the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Church, the Sudanese Church of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church. All the local churches in Kadugli are limited in their activities because they are under close monitoring by the National Security agencies.

Lutheran church demolished:

The Security service of the Republic of Sudan often spearheads the closure or demolition of churches or the arrests of pastors. The Lutheran church at Sourat 29 in Omdurman was threatened with demolition late last year, 2015. Men in full police uniform appeared, accompanied by bulldozers. They started dismantling and bulldozing the roof and mud wall of the church. The authorities refused to answer questions from the church pastors and the only explanation given was that that church lacked the necessary papers to build.

The Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church Bible School burnt down:

This is a renowned Bible School established since the seventies for the training of pastors. It is situated in Giref garden, in a strategic location east of Khartoum near the Blue Nile. About three years ago, the Islamists made a surprise attack on the Bible School shouting ‘infidels, infidels!’. They burned down the library and classes and destroyed the stores, doors, windows and much property. Until now, not much had been done to restore the Bible School to as it should be. The government authorities had distanced themselves from the incident and no one accepted responsibility, so as to avoid paying compensation.The situation at Giref Bible School was like the incident at the evangelical school in Madani - well planned from government.

Sudan Theological College (STC):

(STC) is located in the heart of Khartoum. It’s a 3-storey building owned by the Sudan Pentecostal church. This Bible School was instrumental in the training of pastors, preachers and church leaders to replenish the Sudanese church before independence. It had two sections, one Arabic and one English. STC relocated to South Sudan following independence. Two years ago, government security agencies ordered the closure of the building on the charges that they were using it for prayers contrary to its purpose, unless they had special permission to operate as a church. All the church computers were confiscated and to date no one knows where they were taken. The building still remains closed with the sign board reading, ‘Sudan Pentecostal Church’. National pastors have been trying to file a court case against the national security agencies, so far with no success.

Sudan Pentecostal church Basic school closed and property confiscated:

Members of the Sudan National Security services raided the Sudan Pentecostal church in Morzuk, Omdurman. They arrested the pastor in charge, Rev. Anthony Jamu and his wife Cecilia. They closed the school and confiscated the property. Immediately they deported the South Sudanese pastor and his family straight from custody to the airport with only the clothes on their back. They left behind their house and everything including a second-hand car. The other building is not closed and it is still being used as the main church today by the Christians left behind.

Sudan Pentecostal church in Omdurman demolished:

A letter was written this year by the pro-government Popular Committee to the pastor in charge of the Sudan Pentecostal Church in Jabarona, Omdurman, ordering him to dismantle the church immediately. They said the reason was because the church was built on the path where services like electricity and water were to be routed to the people. They bribed people to come to dismantle the church. Although the entire area was a shanty area, the authorities managed to plan the area well and distribute plots but deliberately ignored the church. There was no promise to relocate the church.

More churches threatened with demolition just last month:

Five churches received notice recently that their churches were to be demolished. These local churches are situated in northern Khartoum, Bahri, Jebel Aulia, and Soba. The local churches belong to the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Sudanese Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church. Government officials told them that their church land has been demarcated for investments. Church leaders are still struggling for the removal of the unjust orders.

Persecutions of pastors of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC):

Two pastors have been detained for many months now. They are Rev. Kuwa Shamal and Rev. Hassan Abdaraheem. Their trial is adjourned till 17 October 2016. If convicted they would either face life imprisonment or the death sentence. These two pastors are accused of waging a war against the state.

The challenges/Prayer requests:

  1. Leadership Training/Seminars and conferences to help church leaders to stand against persecution
  2. Support for evangelism and church planting to make church survive and active
  3. Training in Trauma Healing, Peace and Reconciliation to help church with situation and support the mission who are working in prisons
  4. Support to open church schools and own church property
  5. Revival meetings
  6. Community development like poverty reduction programs etc.
  7. Bibles/Christian Literature

The pastors need encouragement. There are also internal disagreements, which have become obstacles to church growth within the Evangelical church, they need prayers.

At the time of publication there is no further news on the trial of Rev. Kuwa Shamal and Rev. Hassan Abdaraheem.


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