The offices of the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and the offices of relief organization Sudan Aid, both in the Darfur region, have reportedly been closed down by the Sudanese government without warning. Observers suspect Sudan's reported war on religious minorities, specifically Christians, may have been motivation for the closures.
Given the context of the Muslim government's reported animosity toward non-Islamic groups, the news coming from the SCC has attracted widespread criticism from the Christian community.
The Sudan Council of Churches' offices are located in Nyala, the main city of Southern Darfur state. The SCC officials told the press last week that on April 22, just as they came to work like on any other day, agents from the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) showed up, ordering the staff to hand over keys to the premisses as well as company vehicles. Then, the authorities ordered SCC staff to leave immediately, without providing explanation, the organization said.
Their offices were apparently shared with Sudan Aid, a relief organization. Three staff members from Sudan Aid were arrested in the course of the closure and taken to an undisclosed location, reported Christian news agency Compass Direct News.
When Sudan Aid staff came by the offices the day after the incident, they reportedly found more than a dozen security personnel, some carrying arms, cordoning off the compound. The security agents reportedly turned the staff away.
Five cars and several motorbikes were reportedly confiscated during the closure.
The Christian Post's attempt to contact the agencies for immediate comment were unsuccessful.
After news of the seizures and closures emerged, suspicion in regards to the authorities' motives fell immediately on the government's reported war on religious minorities. Christians are the largest group of religious minorities in the country, and are predominantly located in the South of the country. Reports of government forces killing inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains region, lying in an area called Southern Kordofan as well as in the Blue Nile area, shook public opinion in the U.S. and worldwide. Reports of the alleged attacks caused aid agencies as well as religious leaders and human rights activists to call on Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, for nonviolence.
Sudan has a conservative Islamic government and a horrific history of violence, as shown by the Darfur conflict of 2003-2009. Sudan is ethnically 70 percent Arab, with the rest of the population being indigenous African peoples. The country was in a state of civil war for the past two decades largely due to ethnic and religious disagreements until 2005, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, overseen by the United States.
It is estimated that around 100,000 people since the second half of 2011 have fled their homes in the southern regions where the violence against Christians, ethnic minorities and alleged dissidents is taking place.