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Church attack 'isolated', no threat to Christianity: Sudan FM

April 7 - 2017 KHARTOUM
Christian church in Sudan (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)
Christian church in Sudan (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

Yesterday the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed its regret of the murder of a church elder at the Evangelical School and Church in Omdurman on Monday. The attack “will not affect the freedom of religion”.

In a press statement on Thursday, the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry has expressed condolence to the family of the late priest Yunan Abdallah. The ministry hopes “that all parties will stick to wisdom, resort to the rule of justice and abide by dialogue as means for solving all issues”.

As the traditions of the Sudanese people are based on tolerance, respect of faiths and the freedom of religion, the ministry pointed out that the incident “was an individual and isolated one and will not affect the freedom of religion and the fundamental rights for all citizens which are enshrined in the Constitution and the laws”.

The official Sudanese news agency (Suna) elaborated on the incident last Monday, writing that a dispute over the right to manage the church between two groups escalated. The head of the visiting executive committee is accused of killing Abdallah. Another church member sustained injuries before police arrived and arrested people.

The parties had resorted to various levels of litigation concerning the church management, until the Constitutional Court decided that an executive committee, elected in 2016, would be the group to assume management of the church.

'Campaign against Christians'

The secretary-general of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), Yasir Arman, said he is concerned that an investigation into the matter will lead to the security agencies playing a role in its outcomes.

In a statement today he claimed that the Sudanese government systematically infringes on the rights of Sudanese Christians. “They have become more vulnerable after the secession of South Sudan.”

More than 20 churches have been demolished and priests and pastors arrested, Arman said, and the last incident of the sale of the Evangelical school ended in an assassination.

Freedom of Christians probed

Tthe European Union Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief visited Sudan mid-March to inquire about the situation of Christians and the demolition of churches in the country. He pointed to the planned demolition of 27 churches and church buildings in Khartoum which was delayed after an appeal was made to the court by lawyers.

The government has stopped granting permits to build new churches in Sudan while ordering the demolition of a number of churches in the capital during the past years.

The chairman of Sudan's Legislation and Justice Committee at the National Assembly, Ahmed El Tijani, then told the visiting Jan Figel that the freedom of belief is sanctioned by the Sudanese constitution, and the state does not impose any religious belief or practice on its citizens. He said the churches were demolished for land-ownership reasons.

Christians in the south

According to secretary-general Arman, Sudan “undermines” the rights of freedom of religion which led to the secession of, mostly Christian, South Sudan. Because the majority of the Sudanese Christians live in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, “the government is targeting [them] through the racial war and denial of humanitarian assistance”.

Arman called on the founders of the Evangelical Church and School, American missionaries, to pay attention to the human rights violations of the Sudan government, "especially when it comes to Christians".

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