Sudan Authorities Bulldoze Christian Church as Congregants Watch

Witnesses claim that Sudanese government officials recently destroyed a Christian church in the area of North Khartoum as congregants looked on.

Members of the Church of Christ in the Thiba Al Hamyida area of the country's capital told CNN journalists stationed in the area that they were given notification by government officials during their mass on Sunday that their church would be destroyed. One day later, a reported 70 security personnel, some dressed in plain clothes and armed with guns and tear gas, arrived at the church at around 10 a.m. and prevented congregants from entering. Church members then watched from outside as a bulldozer demolished their house of worship.

Security officials reportedly threatened to beat any church members who tried to stop the demolition. "They wanted to beat us or throw tear gas on us," one witness told Morning Star News, adding that no one was injured during the demolition that left the church in rubble by Monday afternoon.

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The Rev. Kwa Shamal, the pastor of the church, told Morning Star News that "[the government] did not want us to ask many questions on why they were demolishing our church." Additionally, the Church of Christ was not given any compensation after their property was destroyed.

"We will have to pray in a makeshift tent next Sunday," the pastor added.

The government's reason for destroying the church was that the building was built on a square owned by the government and reserved for public events. However, a Muslim mosque has been able to share the same square for over 20 years without being destroyed.

Sudan's questionable human rights record, especially in relation to Christianity, was recently criticized when Sudanese Christian and mother Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to the death penalty for apostasy and adultery. Ibrahim's family accused her of converting to Christianity from Islam in her adult life and then marrying a Christian man.

Following immense international outcry, Ibrahim was released from prison after an appeals court found the lower court ruling to be faulty. Although she has technically been released, Ibrahim and her family are still struggling to leave the country, as Sudanese authorities claim she does not have the proper travel documents to exit Sudan.

As CNN notes, Sudan has a history of persecution against Christians that has only escalated since the mostly Muslim country separated from South Sudan, which is predominately Christian, in 2011. In April 2013, Sudan's minister of religious affairs said that no new licenses would be issued for Christian churches to be built. Sudan has also forced out Christians and existing Christian churches, arguing that they are all affiliated with South Sudan, although they rarely offer evidence to support this argument.

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