Human Rights and Development Organisation (HUDO) has called for ‘urgent action’ after a Khartoum North church was demolished by authorities this month.
As reported by Radio Dabanga, on Sunday February 11 2018, combat riot police demolished the Evangelical Church in the El Haj Yousif neighbourhood of Khartoum North giving the reason that, the church plot had been sold. As a result, the church congregants have no place to worship.
In a call for action issued this week, HUDO points out that the demolished Evangelical Church was established in 1989 on the same site. They have an agreement whereby other denominations also to worship there. About 100 people worship in this church.
“On February 11 2018, a group of combat riot police came to the church and demolished it. This was immediately after the congregants were done with the morning prayers. Demolition was based on a claim by the head of the neighbourhood’s popular committee named Abdelkarim Saleh. He claims ownership of the church land and that he is in a process of handing the land to the new owner who bought it from him. The church demolition happened with no evidence of an order from authorities. After destroying the building, they took all the church property to unknown place,” the HUDO statement reads.
Immediately after demolishing, the church authority submitted a criminal lawsuit against Abdelkarim to El Haj Yousif prosecution office. “HUDO calls upon the Sudan government to respect the religious rights of Sudanese Christians and to maintain the rule of law.” The statement further calls on Sudanese society, international community, and embassies in Sudan to support the Sudanese Christians and observe the running case.
Established in 1989
Hudo explains that this church was established on the current land since 1989 when the neighbourhood was a remote area. In 1996, this area was surveyed for re-planning and by then the church got the registration card which gives priority to the existing building to acquire its plot but, without giving reasons, the authorities have not permitted this.
“After, the church authority went ahead for the state land authority inquiring on denying them the land, the authority justified that, they should get the acceptance and recommendation of the neighbourhood’s popular committee. When they went to the popular committee, the same head of the committee, Abdelkarim, informed them that, the plot should be under individual name not the church. Since then, the committee has not offered them the recommendation up to year 2000 when Abdelkarim submitted a lawsuit against the church claiming that, he owns the plot. Since then, the case has been before court up to late 2017 when the case was frozen without justification or a clear verdict.
On 31st December 2017, while the church members were in the church praying, the claimant Abdelkarim came with a troop of police to evict them but he had no court eviction order and the church authority together with the members present resisted.
In an article published in US News & World Report in October 2017, John Prendergast and Ian Schwab of the Enough Project highlight a pattern of persecution of religious minorities throughout the country that includes the demolition of churches and the arrest and detention of church leaders.
According to a report by the World Watch Monitor (WWM), the Sudanese authorities are trying to intervene in the affairs of several denominations in the country. Eight church leaders were detained and questioned in a six-week period last year.
Five leading members of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCC) were detained in October 2017 after saying prayers at a church building in Omdurman.