Two Sudanese Christian families remain homeless after a Muslim judge ruled against their appeals of eviction from their homes in Omdurman, and said that a Muslim real estate investor can rightfully take ownership of the church-owned properties.
Sources told nonprofit Christian persecution watchdog group Morning Star News that Judge Adam Tahir Haj Adam upheld the eviction of Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church moderator, the Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, and the Rev. Sidiq Abdalla from their homes and awarded ownership to Hisham Hamad Al-Neel, a Muslim investor.
The move leaves the two church leaders and their families homeless. Abdalla has two children, ages 8 and 10. Meanwhile, Nalu has a 1-year-old son.
On Aug. 15, police raided the families' homes and evicted the families on court order. Al-Neel claimed he had ownership of the property for investment purposes, Radio Tamazuj reported at the time.
The pastors appealed the court order.
According to Morning Star News, one of the pastors said his house wasn't even listed on the court order. The house listed in the court order was No. 567 and the pastor's house number is No. 772.
SPEC leaders who spoke with Morning Star News fear that the court's ruling could lead to the demolition of at least one of the homes.
"All appeals presented are rejected, and implantation of court order should continue," the court order was quoted as stating.
The church leaders have appealed the judge's ruling to a high court. A ruling is expected by the end of the year, according to Morning Star News.
The two pastors' homes are not the only church properties that Al-Neel has targeted.
The persecution watchdog group cited anonymous sources who said that Al-Neel is the Muslim businessman behind most all of the court attempts to take over church-owned properties in the area.
According to the sources, there are more than 60 church leaders facing charges in Khartoum for opposing the turnover of church property to Al-Neel. The sources added that on Nov. 28, over 25 church leaders appeared in court on charges related to Al-Neel's claims.
"Almost all the cases were opened by Hisham," a source said.
Sudan ranks as the fifth-worst nation in the world when it comes Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List. The country has been listed on the World Watch List every year since 1993.
"Persecution in the country is systematic and reminiscent of ethnic cleansing," an Open Doors fact sheet on Sudan states. "Under the authoritarian rule of al-Bashir and his party, there is no true rule of law in Sudan; freedom of expression has been almost entirely curtailed. ... Historically, Islam is deeply embedded in Sudan's society and the government is strictly implementing a one-religion, one culture and one language policy, which results in the persecution of Christians."
Sudan is also listed by the U.S. State Department as a country of particular concern, a designation given to countries that have "engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom."
"Some laws and government practices are based on the government's interpretation of a Sharia system of jurisprudence and do not provide protections for religious minorities, including minority Muslim groups," The State Department's annual religious freedom report for 2016 stated about Sudan. "The law criminalizes apostasy, blasphemy, and conversion from Islam to another religion, as well as questioning the Quran, the Sahaba (the Companions of the [Islamic] prophet), or the wives of [Muhammad]. While the law does not specifically address proselytizing, the government reportedly criminalizes proselytizing under what it considers the crime of apostasy."