Tag: Khartoum

Archbishop of Canterbury speaks ‘strongly’ to Sudan President of religious freedom for Christians

Archbishop of Canterbury in Sudan, 29 July, 2017 (Credit: Archbishop of Canterbury)

The advent of the world’s newest country, South Sudan, in 2011 has not been without its impact. Not only has it spawned a civil war and one of the world’s biggest current humanitarian crises, but also the need for a new Province in the global Anglican Communion. This weekend, the Archbishop of Canterbury was in Khartoum to inaugurate the Communion’s 39th Province, that of Sudan.

Previously, after independence, the Anglican Province of Sudan and South Sudan had been headquartered in South Sudan, where the majority of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Sudan’s (ECS) four-and-a-half million members live. South Sudan has since been wracked by civil war along first political, then tribal lines, and it was also difficult for a Primate based in a neighbouring country to oversee the Church in Sudan*.

Now the ECS in Sudan has a new Primate, Archbishop Ezekiel Kumir Kondo Kuku who was formally installed in All Saints’ Cathedral, Khartoum on Saturday. He had already become the first Archbishop of Sudan in 2014 for a new internal Anglican Province, made up of five dioceses, intended to address the new political reality.

Justin Welby hailed Sunday’s ceremony in Khartoum as a “new beginning” for Christians in Sudan.

He also told the BBC that, when he had met the Sudanese President (the day after the ceremony) he had raised the issue of religious freedom “strongly” with Omar al-Bashir.

“In England, the Church of England often seeks to protect Muslims when they are under pressure,” Welby told AFP, suggesting, the agency said, that he expected the same in Sudan when it came to protecting Christians.

The Province’s launch comes weeks after Sudan’s most well-known Christian (who hit global headlines in 2014 when sentenced to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery) told an annual meeting at the European Parliament (EP) that the plight of Christians in Sudan is getting worse.

Dr Mariam Ibrahim told how her story (including imprisonment for six months) is not unique. Sudan is one of ten countries featured in the 2017 Interim Report of the EP Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance. The report says of Sudan that “religious diversity continues to be extensively challenged. Laws from the 1991 criminal code on apostasy and blasphemy have not been applied within all the states. This violates both the international agreements signed by Sudan, and contradicts its interim Constitution of 2005”.

The Intergroup is also concerned about the prevalence of Sharia (Islamic law) and the consequences for religious minorities. As Dr Ibrahim told World Watch Monitor in Brussels, under Sudan’s interpretation of Sharia, a daughter’s religion is defined as that of her father, so that she was treated as a Muslim, despite her Ethiopian Orthodox mother raising her as a Christian. Her marriage to a South Sudanese Christian in church was first treated as “adultery”, and then she was treated as an apostate – deserving the death penalty.

Ibrahim, now living in exile in the United States, talked about the discrimination faced by Christians in Sudan (whom she now runs a charity to support through advocacy):

“You can’t say… as the Sudanese government says: ‘We respect the freedom of religion’. They’re saying that, they keep saying that… The other day a representative at the UN Council [said] ‘We are respecting’… But you can’t say that at the same time as you are arresting [a] Christian woman because she’s not wearing a headscarf, or all that stuff.”

Ibrahim ended by stressing that her problems were symptomatic of those currently faced by the Christian community in Sudan: the most current being the demolition of churches, an issue raised with its government by the EU Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ján Figeľ, when he visited in March. Then, the Minister for Religious Endowments had promised him a delay to demolition plans of more than 25 churches, ranging from Catholic to Coptic Orthodox, the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) and Pentecostal Churches.

However, since then that Minister has been replaced, at least two more churches have been demolished and a church worker killed when he tried to intervene to defend church property from government takeover.

These latest church demolitions (both were of Sudan Church of Christ churches, a smaller denomination than the ECS) prompted a bold “open” letter from that denomination’s leaders to their government, protesting about “the systematic violation of Christian religious freedoms”. Apart from demolition of churches, they detailed the “hard conditions” they have faced in recent years, including confiscation of church property, government failure to allocate land for construction of any new churches, and travel restrictions on senior church leaders.

Figeľs visit to Sudan in March was also to seek the release of two Sudanese pastors who had not been released when the Czech aid worker they were helping was freed – after a year in prison – by Presidential pardon in February. (They were eventually released in May).

However, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of seeing Christians and Muslims “co-existing powerfully and effectively” when he had visited the southern diocese of Kadugli in the Nuba Mountains (where there are a significant number of Christians) before the Khartoum ceremony. Such tolerant co-existence needed freedom, Welby said.

“My prayer for Sudan is that there will be freedom continually so that Christians may live confidently, blessing their country. The more they are free, the more they will be a blessing to Sudan,” he said.

He also praised the Khartoum government for welcoming refugees from the conflict in South Sudan and thanked it for sending representatives to the inauguration service.

“No government anywhere in the world need fear Christians,” he told them.

Abu Bakr Osman, the new Minister of Religious Guidance and Endowments, said he was “overwhelmed with happiness” at the occasion of the launch of the new Anglican province. He said there was a feeling of the country coming together and that living in harmony and unity would be a source of strength, reported the Anglican Communion News Service.

The Archbishop of Canterbury flew on from Khartoum to northern Uganda to visit refugee camps.

Uganda, which registered more refugees than any other country in 2016, has taken in around a million people who have fled across the border to escape the fighting in South Sudan.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to visit the camps with the Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali.

In January 2016, Ntagali left the Anglican Primates’ conference early, objecting to the process by which the Primates were to discuss the Church’s stance towards the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada over same-sex marriage.

*(World Christian Database 2017: estimated at about two million, roughly half Catholic/Orthodox and half Protestant.)

Source: World Watch Monitor



Second Sudanese Church demolished in Khartoum in May

On Wednesday 17th May the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) building in Algadisia, Khartoum was demolished.

Urgent prayer is being requested as the second church this month is demolished in Sudan.

Christians in Sudan have asked for prayer as the authorities’ continue to demolish in Khartoum. On May 17th, the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) building in Algadisia, Khartoum was demolished. This comes after the demolition of the SCOC church in Soba Al Aradi ten days previously.

The demolition follows a dispute over the ownership of the land the church was built on. The SCOC built the church in Algadisia in 1983. Although someone else claimed to own the land, according to the office of The Middle East Concern, there was no accompanying evidence.

The authorities insisted that the church should vacate the land, even after showing documentary evidence of ownership.

The Middle East Concern say that the government’s campaign aims to weaken the church in Sudan by demolishing a total of 27 churches, including the two mentioned above, claiming they violate designated purposes for these plots of land. However, the authorities refuse to designate any plots to be used for church buildings, claiming there is no need for new church buildings.

In addition, the authorities are confiscating properties belonging to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Bahri (Khartoum North) and Omdurman.

With this in mind, the MEC has requested prayer:

a. that the government efforts to demolish or confiscate church properties will cease

b. for wisdom, patience and peace for church leaders and members facing ongoing harassment

c. for an end to the continuous pressure against Christians in Sudan, and that Christians will know the peace of the Lord

d. that those responsible for these acts of hostility and destruction will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

However, the Commissioner of Jebel Awliya locality has denied that the demolition of church buildings is part of a discrimination campaign against Christians.

Commissioner Jalaleldin El Sheikh El Tayeb said in a press statement that the recent actions of the authorities to demolish all illegal buildings in the Soba El Aradi district did not affect the Sudanese Church of Christ alone. Instead, he referred to 12 mosques and Koran schools, three churches, and two schools. He said that the decision to remove all illegal buildings in Soba Aradi was made in 2012 by the Khartoum state Land Department and said that they were making room to provide accommodation for more than 7,000 people.

Reports of persecution of Christians in Sudan increased after President Omar Al Bashir came into power in 2011 with a pledge to enforce Sharia (Islamic law).

Source: Premier, Middle East Concern



Sudan: Church Building Demolished

scene after the demolition

Christians in Sudan request prayer against an ongoing campaign by Sudanese authorities to demolish church buildings which led to the demolition of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) in Soba Al Aradi on Sunday 7th May.

During the demolition two church members were detained and interrogated by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) because they had refused to open the church gates. These church members, Bulis Salah and Naji Abdalla, were later released.

Although the government claims that a week’s notice was given to the church before the demolition took place, none of the SCOC leaders had been notified about the demolition plan.

On 8th May the church leaders and a legal advisor formed a committee to address the lack of a place of worship, and to take legal action against the state for demolishing the church. The committee has decided that the congregation will meet weekly for prayer at the site of the demolished building.

After an initial letter was written by government authorities naming 25 churches due for demolition in June 2016, the SCOC in Soba El Aradi and a church in Jebel Awliya in Khartoum were added to the demolition list. The government claims the church buildings must be demolished as they have been constructed on land designated for other uses. At the same time, the authorities do not grant permission for new churches to be built, as they say that existing church premises are sufficient for the needs of the country’s Christian minority.

Despite legal and administrative appeals against the demolition orders, the decision of the Sudanese authorities has not been overturned and there has been no conclusive court judgement because of repeated delays.

In addition to the scheduled for demolition of these 27 churches, there are ongoing efforts to confiscate Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church compounds in Bahri (Khartoum North) and Omdurman. These efforts often involve the brief detention of church members, and on 3rd April led to the fatal stabbing of church elder Younan Abdullah.

 

SOURCE:  MIDDLE EAST CONCERN



SUDAN: A MAN WALKS INTO A CHURCH… AND STARTS DEMOLISHING IT!

That’s precisely what happened on Tuesday at Bahri Evangelical Church in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The man was a local official and once inside he began pulling down a building in the church compound – without explanation or paperwork.

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Khartoum, that they will know God’s peace and protection.

Bahri Church is not new to persecution. Other buildings in its compound have been destroyed or damaged since investors ‘bought’ the land in 2013 without the church’s consent.

The church land was ‘sold’ by a committee set up by the Government. This committee was not recognised by the church – or by the courts, which ruled it illegal.

What’s different about this latest attack on the church is that a government official was responsible for it, rather than the investors.

Several members of Bahri Church have been arrested for protesting against the forced sale of church buildings. Pastor Hafez Mengisto was later cleared of charges relating to his attempt to defend his church. Others were convicted of disturbing the peace or obstructing police, and were fined.

Pray that God will bring justice for Bahri Evangelical Church and that its members will have somewhere secure to worship in freedom.

Pray especially for wisdom for the church elders, including Pastor Hafez. Pray that they will hear Jesus’ voice clearly.

Pray that God will strengthen and sustain His people in Sudan, despite ongoing persecution. Pray that they will be a ‘well-watered garden’ in a ‘sun-scorched land’ (Isaiah 58:11) which will draw many to know Christ.

(Source: Middle East Concern)

UPDATE

Please continue to pray for two Sudanese and a Czech man charged with serious crimes, including spying, which could carry a death penalty. At the latest trial hearing in Khartoum on Monday, the court heard testimony about how Abdulmonem Abdulmawla helped a Darfuri student: his involvement with this student – and that of his co-defendants, Hassan Abduraheem and Petr Jašek – is key to the prosecution’s case. A verdict is expected on January 23: pray they will be acquitted. Charges against a fourth defendant, Pastor Kowa Shamaal, were thrown out last week. (Source: Middle East Concern)



SUDAN: CHURCH LEADERS ARRESTED, CHURCHES CLOSED

sudan_161011_1Sudanese government officials arrested and briefly jailed six Christians for refusing to obey orders to hand over church property.

According to sources, three pastors and three church members of an evangelical church were arrested after refusing an order to hand over the school run by the church. The arrests took place on 6 October in the town of Wad Medani, about 125 miles southeast of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

“While in custody, they were questioned by police over the reasons for disobeying the orders. They were released on bail later the same day. It is not clear if further legal action is planned,” reported the source.

Meanwhile five churches have received notice that their buildings will be demolished. The exact dates these notifications were issues or when the demolitions are planned are not known, but Open Doors has been told that three of the churches notified belong to the Sudan Church of Christ (SCOC), one to the Presbyterian Church and the other to the Episcopal Church. They are situated in the Bahri, Soba and Jebel Aulia regions of Khartoum. Officials apparently told the churches their land had been assigned for investment. Church leaders have requested a removal of the orders.

DEMOLISHING CHURCHES, CONFISCATING PROPERTY

Sudan is number eight in the Open Doors World Watch List. Arbitrary confiscation of property is increasing in the country, where the government has increasingly interfered in the internal running of religious institutions. As well as using the blasphemy laws to target Christians for arrest and imprisonment, the government also keeps demolishing churches, often at very short notice. Security forces can stop any Christian worship/prayer meetings, and even confiscate Bibles, documents, and computers.

Source: Open Doors

PLEASE PRAY:

For wisdom and protection for all involved in the action against the Evangelical church in Wad Medani.
For the Lord’s intervention for the Khartoum churches and that the demolitions will be prevented.
That the government measures will fail to intimidate the Church in Sudan but that Christians will have the grace to boldly continue to live out their faith to the glory of the Lord.