By BosNewsLife Africa Service
KHARTOUM, SUDAN (BosNewsLife)– Sudanese authorities have detained dozens of devoted Christians and demolished part of the main church building of their evangelical congregation in the capital, as part of an escalating crackdown against non-Muslims, Christians confirmed Thursday, December 4.
Security forces reportedly raided the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church on Tuesday, December 2, arrested 37 people who were praying inside, and began to destroy the building.
The detained 15 women and 22 men were charged with “breach of the peace, public nuisance and obstruction of a public servant during the course of his duty”, supporters told BosNewsLife.
Eleven of the detainees were transferred to Khartoum Bahri Criminal Court, which acquitted two of the group and found the rest guilty of the charges, imposing a fine of 250 Sudanese Pounds ($43 USD), said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) an advocacy group.
Eleven others were sent to Omar El Mukhtar court in Kober, Khartoum North. They were reportedly found guilty of the charges and also fined 250 Sudanese Points. The final 15 were tried at the El Jireif West Criminal court and were all acquitted.
The latest raid was the latest in series of actions taken against the Bahri Evangelical Church in recent weeks, Christians said.
On November 17, security personnel reportedly arrived at the church and demolished a wall of the main building and neighbouring houses. The church leaders were shown a court order demanding that the property be given to a Muslim businessman who was the alleged owner.
The next day church leaders filed a formal challenge over the legal ownership and were awaiting a court decision, according to Christians familiar with the case.
Yet, hours later security forces arrived citing another court order requiring all property to be removed from one of the adjacent homes and that padlocks belonging to the Muslim businessman should be fitted on all church
Church members reportedly formed a human shield preventing police from interfering.
On November 28, some eight people were arrested for refusing to comply with the court orders to hand over the church to the Muslim businessman.
The group apparently included five church leaders named as Reverend Daud Fadul, elder Fathi Hakim, elder Nouh Manzoul, deacon Iman Hamid and Tilal Mafishi.
CSW cited local sources as saying police officers were still surrounding the church building, “indicating their intention to take further action.”
The raid on Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church is the third incident of the government destroying church buildings during 2014, suggesting “an escalation of intimidation against Christians,” CSW said.
“We are deeply concerned by the continuing action of the Sudanese authorities against the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church,” CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife.
He said the destruction of the church building and detention of dozens of praying Christians violated freedom of religion or believe, and freedom of expression, association and assembly “which are all guaranteed under Sudan’s constitution.”
Already in July Sudan’s government reiterated its policy of not allowing new church buildings to be built, two weeks after another church was reportedly demolished with only 24 hours notice given to church leaders.
Christians and rights activists say the attacks on churches have extended to the Nuba Mountains where the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have been at war with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North since 2011.
In October this year the SAF dropped four bombs on the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) compound in Al Atmor, South Kordofan, destroying the church, a house and adjoining properties.
Thomas said his group had urged the international community, including the African Union “to hold Sudan to its international obligations.”
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