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Sudan arrests 9 Muslim extremists tied to church burnings, threats against churchgoers

Sudan arrests 9 Muslim extremists tied to church burnings, threats against churchgoers

Baraka Parish church at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan, February 10, 2013. | Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Police in Sudan have arrested nine men in connection with a series of arson attacks on church property and for threatening churchgoers in the Dar El-Salam area of Omdurman in the capital, Khartoum, according to a report.

The arrests of nine, out of 14 accused, were made in a case of the burning of property of Sudanese Church of Christ in Omdurman on five separate occasions, said Shanbago Awad Mugadam, a lawyer assisting Christians with legal aid, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

The church’s temporary meeting structure was destroyed most recently on Aug. 7. Prior to that, it was burned on Jan. 28, on Jan. 19, on Jan. 4. Last year, it was set afire on Jan. 19.

After the first four attacks, the church chose not to register a complaint as the churchgoers had been threatened against it.

“However, after the fifth time, they decided that they wanted the persecution to end. They attempted to report to the police, but were told that no report would be filed for them,” ICC said.

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The Christians then hired Mugadam as their attorney, who was able to bring the matter to the courts. The police opened a case in December and have arrested nine since then.

Urging Christians to pray that the case would be justly fulfilled and that attacks against Christians in Sudan would end, ICC called it a “good sign for growing freedom and democracy in the country that the court system forced this issue.”

While a transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, was sworn in last year, an Islamist “deep state” rooted in former President Omar al-Bashir’s 30 years of power remains influential.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cautiously acknowledged improvements in the country’s religious and political atmosphere after the commission’s chair at the time, Tony Perkins, visited Sudan in February.

“We are grateful to Prime Minister Hamdok and other members of the country’s bold transitional leadership who met with USCIRF to convey their explicit desire to bring a new era of openness and inclusivity to their country that suffered for 30 years under brutal and autocratic religious repression,” he said at the time, according to Crux.

“At the same time, we understand that the country’s challenges are deeply-rooted, and we urge the leadership to move quickly to turn that optimism into tangible and meaningful reforms for all people across Sudan, such as acting to formally repeal Article 126 of the 1991 penal code, which outlaws apostasy.”

Prime Minister Hamdok and other transitional government officials met with USCIRF in Washington, D.C., during a visit last December — the first time in three decades that Sudanese leaders had visited Washington. The officials also shared at the time how they planned to expand religious freedom in a country that is ranked as the seventh worst in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

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