Rampant Persecution of Christians and Church Destruction Escalating in Sudan
As we gather this week to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends here in the United States, we should be especially grateful for something we far too often take for granted – the ability to worship freely with fellow believers without fear of persecution or imprisonment.
As we’ve reported previously, Christians in Sudan face government demolitions of their churches and possible imprisonment whenever they speak up. Our contacts on the ground continue to report to us about systematic destruction of churches by government officials.
Earlier this year the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2015 report, in which it detailed instances of religious persecution around the world, notably issues of religious freedom in Sudan.
The Commission reported that religious freedom in Sudan is significantly compromised, writing:
The government of Sudan, led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief. These violations are the result of President Bashir’s policies of Islamization and Arabization. The government of Sudan prosecutes persons accused of apostasy, imposes a restrictive interpretation of Shari’ah (Islamic law) and applies corresponding hudood punishments on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and harasses the country’s Christian community. President al-Bashir and other National Congress Party (NCP) leaders continue to state that the country will be governed by Shari’ah law. In 2015, USCIRF again recommends that Sudan be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The State Department has designated Sudan as a CPC since 1999, most recently in July 2014.
The report goes on to call for the ending of prosecutions for apostasy, compliance with international human rights laws, the lifting of government prohibitions on church construction, protecting true freedom of religion, and the imposition of the true rule of law for any people or groups within the government or outside of the government who attack churches or Christians on the basis of their faith.
Despite the findings of this report and the recommendations of numerous international bodies that the government of Sudan cease the targeting and demolition of Christian churches, our sources on the ground in Sudan report that religious freedom continues to deteriorate throughout Sudan.
In the last month alone, three churches have been destroyed in Sudan, two explicitly by government officials.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the more recent destruction of church buildings or religious facilities. There have been no prosecutions. Justice for these Christians is fading away:
- October 27, 2015 - Authorities in Sudan demolished a Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) building in Omdurman. Local authorities said the SCOC building was on government land, a claim church leaders adamantly denied.
- October 21, 2015 - Authorities bulldozed a Lutheran Church of Sudan (LCS) building in the Karari area of Omdurman without prior warning. The local authorities said the church was built on land allocated for business, though a mosque stands nearby. (We’ve reported more on this here.)
- October 17, 2015 - A Lutheran Church of Sudan was destroyed by arson in Gadaref, East Sudan. Not only was the building destroyed, but so was the furniture and even the Bibles inside.
- June 8, 2015 - Authorities arrested Ishag Andrawes the manger of a Catholic school in Omdurman Elthawra 56 and parents of students after a peaceful demonstration in which participants sought the return of the school property that had been illegally confiscated three years prior. The Administrative Court has ruled that the property must be returned to the Catholic foundation, but to date the local authorities have failed to follow the court order and operate offices out of the old school building.
- October 14, 2014 - The Sudanese Air Force dropped four bombs on an Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) complex in the Nuba Mountains, completely destroying the church compound.
- August 24, 2014 - Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents padlocked the building of the 500-member Sudan Pentecostal Church (SPC) in Khartoum, which housed the Khartoum Christian Center (KCC).
- July 6, 2014 - Sudanese Armed Forces supported by the Sudanese Air Force destroyed the ECS church building in Al Atmor in a bombing.
- July 1, 2014 - Government officials destroyed a 600-worshipper Sudanese Church of Christ (SCC) in north Khartoum. At the time, the government said it wanted the land for low-cost housing.
- June 30, 2014 - Over seventy government officials descended upon the Alizba slums near the capital of Khartoum and destroyed a church over the wailing of nearby residents.
- February 18, 2014 - Men who described themselves as agents of Khartoum State Security confiscated books, films and archives from the Evangelical Literature Centre, part of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) denominational headquarters. When SPEC leaders asked the security agents why they were taking the items away, they replied that they had “orders from above” to confiscate all Christian books.
- February 17, 2014 - Bulldozers accompanied by local police and personnel from NISS demolished a SCOC church in the Ombada area of Omdurman.
- December 2, 2013 - Sudanese authorities partially destroyed the Bahri Evangelical Church and arrested 37 congregants protesting its destruction.
- January 15, 2013 - Authorities closed down several religious institutions, including the Aslan Academy for English Language and Computer Studies; Life Institute for Learning (an Egyptian Christian educational institute); Karido Institute for English Language and Computer Skills; and the Nile Valley Academy for Primary Education.
This is why our international advocacy is so important for the people of Sudan, whether for Christian mother Mariam Ibraheem who was forced to give birth while shackled in chains on death row or Pastors Michael and Peter threatened with death sentences for speaking out against these church destructions. International pressure and advocacy works – all three of them are now free.
As we gather around our tables this week and give thanks to our Lord, we must not forget our brothers and sisters in Sudan who no longer have a place to worship. We must continue to raise the plight of persecuted Christians in Sudan throughout the international community. We must not rest until the government of Sudan lives up to their international obligations to protect the fundamental freedoms of all people of faith in Sudan.
At the ACLJ, we will continue working with Mariam Ibraheem and our contacts on the ground in Sudan, and in conjunction with our offices in Africa, to aggressively advocate for persecuted Christians there.