As young people were praying and fasting together on 2 December at a church in Khartoum Bahri, Sudan, police forces stormed the gathering with bulldozers and began demolishing the building. Thirty-seven of the group were arrested, charged with “breach of peace, public nuisance and obstruction of a public servant during the course of his duty”.
Pastor Yahya Abdelrahim Falo told reporters that the police arrived at around 6 a.m. in nine vehicles. In what he called “a humiliation of all Sudanese Christians”, authorities proceeded to raid the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church and to demolish the exterior walls of the building.
After detaining 37 young people, the police took some of them to the Khartoum Bahri Criminal Court, whereupon they were each fined at least 200 Sudanese Pounds (£22, €28, US$35). Another group was tried at the Omar El Mukhtar court and also fined. The remaining 15 were sent to the El Jireif West Criminal Court where the judge acquitted them of the charges against them.
The raid on Tuesday was the latest in a series of attacks on the church. Almost two weeks prior to the incident, police demolished the youth house and presented a court order demanding that the premises be vacated. According to the authorities, the land is owned by Muslim investors who have rented the land and want to build a shopping centre. Church members formed a human shield around the property in an attempt to protect it. Later, on 25 November, eight people were arrested for refusing to hand over the church to the alleged owner.
Since the secession of the predominantly Christian South Sudan in 2011, there has been an escalation in government harassment of Christians. Several church buildings in Sudan, which is strongly Islamic, have been demolished or confiscated. Kodi El Ramli, secretary-general of the Sudan Council of Churches, said that Christians are harassed and discriminated against, being “systematically obstructed to visit their churches”.
The Sudanese government has adopted sharia law and prohibits the construction of new church buildings. Earlier this year, an international outcry followed the death sentence given to Meriam Ibrahim, who was accused of apostasy from Islam. Although the accusation was finally overturned in June and she has left the country, the case remains before the Sudanese Supreme Court after members of her family appealed against the decision to free her.