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Christians detained in South Darfur

October 21 - 2018 NYALA / OMDURMAN
A church service in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan, in 2015 (World Watch Monitor)
A church service in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan, in 2015 (World Watch Monitor)

Agents of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) held 13 Christians from a home they share in Nyala on October 13. Police in Omdurman, the twin-city of Khartoum, have ordered a church to hand-over its property.

The reason for the detention of the Christians in the South Darfur capital is unclear, World Watch Monitor (WWM) reported on Wednesday. A local source told the Christian watchdog that three of the detainees were later released, without an explanation.

Sudanese laws allow NISS to hold people in detention for up to four and a half months before they have to either charge or release them.

Meanwhile, a church belonging to the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCoC) in Omdurman has been instructed to hand-over its property to a state-appointed committee.

The Omdurman police summoned the church’s leader on October 8, and ordered the congregation to vacate their compound, World Watch Monitor reported. The president of SCOC, Ayouba Telyan, was also summoned.

The government and the SCoC have been in a long-standing dispute over ownership of the denomination’s properties, after the Ministry of Religious Affairs established a rival Land and Buildings Committee and charged it with the administration of SCOC’s property.

According to WWM, the SCOC represents about 220,000 of Sudan’s one million Christians. The majority of the congregates come originally from the Nuba Mountains.

The summons comes two weeks after the government lost a court case against the SCoC and 19 church buildings were returned to the church.

Freedom of religion

Freedom of religion is sanctioned by the Sudanese Constitution. However, 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. He pointed to the return of many South Sudanese Christian refugees to their country, after the secession of the south in July 2011.

Since that time, reports concerning discrimination and persecution of Christians, demolition of church buildings and schools increased.

In September 2014, a clergyman told Radio Dabanga that the Sudanese Council of Churches did receive many complaints about discrimination of Christians. “They are systematically obstructed to visit their churches.”

In an article in October 2017, John Prendergast and Ian Schwab of the Enough Project highlighted a pattern of persecution of religious minorities throughout the country.

In July 2017, the Ministry of Education instructed Christian schools in the country to observe the weekend on Friday and Saturday, and operate schools on Sunday. A number of church buildings were confiscated and demolished, and at least eight church leaders were detained that year. In February 2018, riot police demolished the Evangelical Church in El Haj Yousif district in Khartoum North because “the church plot had been sold”.

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