KHARTOUM, Sudan – A Roman Catholic priest of Kadugli parish in Sudan’s embattled South Kordofan is in hiding after being detained three times in the past three months.
Authorities tortured the Rev. Abraham Lual on two of those occasions with accusations that as a Christian he opposes northern forces’ military campaign in the disputed region, he told Compass by phone.
Detained at 10:20 a.m. on Sept. 6 and interrogated for five hours at the security unit’s head office in El-Obied, Lual told Compass that authorities are monitoring his movements and those of other church leaders on the assumption that they are supported by Western Christians opposed to Islam and the north’s military push for territory in South Kordofan.
He was also detained for two days in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, on Aug. 28, and the torture he suffered left him with injuries to his left leg, he said. Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) agents had also arrested him on June 8, accusing him of preaching that people should oppose the Islamic government, he said; authorities tortured him for two days at that time as well.
Lual’s church building had been gutted by fire in the fighting, and during the Aug.28 interrogation authorities threatened to kill him if he returned to visit the burned structure in the war-torn town, he said.
“You are preaching against Islamic government and opposing its teaching and rules,” they said as they beat him, he said.
Lual said it will take him a long time to recover from the trauma of the Aug. 28 mistreatment.
“I am totally traumatized as a result of what they did to me and members of my congregation,” he said. “They have badly mistreated me. I ask God to help me remain strong in faith as well as my displaced members and all Christian communities who are facing persecution.”
Armed conflict in Kadugli broke out between southern and northern militaries on June 6 after northern forces seized Abyei in May.
Christian sources said Sudanese authorities in the Muslim-majority north are targeting Christians in the battle for South Kordofan because officials seek to rid Sudan of Christianity, which they perceive as anti-Islam and pro-West, Christian sources said. Lual said he has become the target of security forces because he is a church leader.
“On my arrival there, they were already monitoring my movements without my knowledge,” he said. “They also asked about who the church is getting money from and who are supporting the missionary activities.”
Lual said he went to Kadugli to see the remnants of the church buildings that were destroyed three months ago, when forces loyal to the Sudan government and supported by Islamic militias “killed Christians and destroyed churches.”
“Most of the congregation members have been displaced, and some of them were even shot dead,” he told Compass by phone. “They are now like sheep without a shepherd.”
Christian sources in South Kordofan have confirmed that SAF and Islamic militias in Kadugli burned church schools and church buildings, he said.
“They burned the Catholic church and looted everything, as well as other churches in Kadugli such as the Sudanese Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church of Sudan and the Sudan Presbyterian Church of Sudan,” Lual said.
The military forces burned a Catholic guest house in Kadugli and the church’s Comboni School, he added.
“My main concern is my scattered congregation, most of whom have become displaced in their own home land,” he said, “and the Islamic government continues to refuse aid agencies seeking to provide assistance to the stricken displaced, saying that this will give room to Christian organizations to step in and Christianize the region.”
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir told media on Aug. 23 that the government did not want any relief assistance unless humanitarian organizations first handed it over to officials to distribute. Al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur, asserted last year that after the July 9 separation from South Sudan, (north) Sudan would be based on sharia (Islamic law) and Islamic culture, with Arabic as the official language.