Pastors in Sudan are speaking out against the arrests of five church leaders last week for allegedly "disturbing the peace," and said that Christians are being punished by the government for preaching to Muslims and living out the New Testament.
"The government is using the court of law to persecute Christians who are peaceful in carrying out their mandate as commissioned in the New Testament. After spending 14 months in a jail in Khartoum, I was released this year in January due to lack of evidence. I was again arrested this Sunday for unfounded reasons," Pastor Kuwa Shamal, who has been arrested on a number of occasions without charge, told International Christian Concern in a statement released on Monday.
ICC, a persecution watchdog group that reports on attacks against Christians worldwide, said that the five church leaders are all from the Sudanese Church of Christ, and includes the Rev. Ayoub Matin, evangelist Habail Abraham, the Rev. Ali Haakim, Pastor Ambrat Hammad, and elder Abdo Elbaya.
"Why is the government coercing us to surrender the leadership of the church to a select committee? What crime have we done?" Shamal asked.
The Rev. Ayoub Tiliyan, chairman of the SCOC, explained that the persecution of Christians has been rising this year in the African country.
"It is very disturbing to see the government that we obey, pray for, and pay taxes to harass members of the society just because they belong to a different faith," Tiliyan said.
"This has become the norm over the years, with threats heightening in the past three years. Several churches have been demolished, pastors arrested, and evangelists warned against preaching the Gospel to Muslims."
The Islamic-majority nation has seen at least four Christian churches closed in Khartoum so far this year, with the government planning to demolish another 20 houses of worship.
SCOC, which is part of a reformed denomination, has been targeted on a number of occasions, with another seven Christian leaders arrested in another incident in August.
The pastors were reportedly held for refusing to comply with an order from a government agency demanding they give up leadership of the church.
The pastors were later released on bail, with Shamal telling Morning Star News at the time that Christians will continue opposing government efforts to impose committees on the church.
Other charities, such as Aid to the Church in Need, have reported that Christian children from South Sudan who are in Sudanese refugee camps are being forced to recite Islamic prayers in exchange for food.
"We have heard stories where children are conditioned to say Islamic prayers before [being] given food. This is not right. These children are Christian. They should be respected for that," the ACN source said in September.