Omdurman (Agenzia Fides) - Five leading members of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCC) were detained after saying prayers at a church building in Omdurman, on October 22nd.
Local sources reported to Fides that the priests were summoned after prayers in the church in El Sawra block 29 by the district police, and held on charges of disturbing the public order. SCC legal consultant promptly provided their release. "On Sunday morning, when the priests and worshippers went to the church, they found the church doors locked", the lawyer recounted.
The church guard informed them that an unidentified group of men closed the church at night. Not much later, a large force of policemen appeared. They told the people in front of the church that the Sudanese Ministry of Endowments decided to appoint a new church administration that will supervise anyone who wants to pray at the churches of the SCC.
The worshippers rejected the decision saying the Ministry of Endowments has no right to intervene in internal church matters. The people then tore the locks, entered the church, and began their prayers. After the mass, the police of the district immediately summoned the five priests and detained them.
Freedom of religion is sanctioned by the Sudanese Constitution. Christians in the country however, are increasingly prone to oppression, in particular since the Christian-majority south seceded from the north in July 2011. Since that time, reports concerning discrimination and persecution of Christians, demolition of church buildings and schools have increased.
The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in the country, pointing to the return of many South Sudanese Christian refugees to their country.
In September 2014, a clergyman stated that the Sudanese Council of Churches did receive many complaints about discrimination of Christians, who are systematically blocked to visit their churches.
According to the World Watch Monitor, the Sudanese authorities are now attempting to intervene in the affairs of several denominations in the Country by removing church leaders, and instead appointing Christians affiliated with the regime.
The European Union Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion, visited Sudan in mid-March to inquire about the situation of Christians in the Country. He pointed to the planned demolition of 27 church buildings in Khartoum which was delayed after a court appeal and justified by the Chairman of the parliamentary Legislation and Justice Committee for land-ownership reasons, since Sudan does not impose any religious belief or practice on its citizens.
In addition, Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG) report about discriminationagainst Sudanese Christians refers to a similar incident that occurred in July last year, when security forces stormed the Evangelical School in Khartoum-North with five heavily armed vehicles. They detained 19 Evangelical priests, elders, and students, who were holding a peaceful sit-in to protest the selling of the church land to an investor. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 25/10/2017)