Imagine leaving your church on a Sunday lunch time, only to see lorries, police and construction vehicles waiting to demolish the building. That’s exactly what happened at the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) in Khartoum, Sudan, on 11 February.
The police arrived with three lorries shortly after the Sunday morning service and confiscated furniture, Bibles and musical instruments, before knocking down the 29-year-old building.
The demolition went ahead despite a pending legal appeal.
“We had hoped [officials] would not attack our church outside of the court ruling, but it is clear the government is acting outside of the courts,” said an SPEC leader, who wished to remain anonymous.
Government officials claimed the congregation did not have the required permission to meet in the area, though SPEC leaders said they have the correct legal documents for the church, which was built in 1989.
The congregation was aware of objections to the presence of a church. Five years ago the Public Peace and Safety Committee, which consisted of local people, decided it wanted the church to be knocked down. In 2017 the building was placed on a list of 27 churches that the government was planning to demolish.
Meanwhile, five leaders from the Sudan Church of Christ (SCOC) are scheduled to appear in court on 6 March to face unknown charges in another ongoing case against a church in Khartoum.
The five men were detained in October 2017 and ordered to hand over ownership of their church from the church-elected committee to a state-sanctioned rival committee. They refused and were released without further instruction. But a few days later they were charged with causing sound pollution because their church services were ‘too noisy’.
Where did this happen?
Sudan is ranked at number 4 on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List. Although in Sudan the cultural mix is complicated, the government is strictly implementing a policy of one religion, culture and language.
Under the president’s authoritarian rule, freedom of expression is highly curtailed and the persecution of Christians is reminiscent of ethnic cleansing: arrests with charges of espionage; churches demolished; indiscriminate attacks in areas like the Nuba Mountains. Believers are afraid to share their faith with their children or Muslim neighbours. Some disguise their identity even after death, being buried in Muslim cemeteries.
Source: World Watch Monitor
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