Pastors Telal Rata (left) and Hassan Taour have been detained incommunicado and without charge.
Sudanese authorities have now held two Christian pastors in an unknown location since mid-December without filing official charges against them.
On December 12, members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) visited the family home of thirty-six-year-old Telahoon Nogosi Kassa Rata, a leader of the Fellowship of University Christian Students and of Khartoum North Evangelical Church, according to sources close to the detainees. Though he was not at home that night, authorities confiscated some of the pastor’s belongings. Telahoon (also known as Telal) Rata was ordered to “report” to the local NISS office north of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. “He went to the NISS office behind the airport at al-Mashtel the next day, and he has been detained ever since,” the sources, requesting anonymity, reported.
Meanwhile, NISS also arrested two pastors from the Sudan Church of Christ, a denomination whose members predominantly originate from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan, on December 18.
The latest cases are part of a widespread campaign by Sudan’s government to eradicate Christianity.
Rev. Kuwa Shamal, (the head of a church committee) was taken from his home in the district of Bahri, north of Khartoum, while Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour (the church’s vice-moderator) was arrested at his home in Omdurman, a city across the Nile, west of the capital.
Shamal was released three days later, but required to report daily to the NISS until this requirement was cancelled on January 16. Both Rata and Taour remain in custody in unknown locations, with access denied to both family members and lawyers.
Rev. Rata’s family reports that his parents were allowed to visit him only once, five days after his arrest, in Khartoum’s al-Kober prison. Since then they have tried to visit him again four times, but each time they have been told to apply for permission to visit, only to have their requests denied a week later, confirmed the family.
A lawyer has asked to see both Rata and Taour, but was informed by the prosecutor’s office that both are still being held by the NISS and no access to them will be granted until the NISS hands them over for prosecution.
No details are known of the Christians’ legal status or physical condition while they are being held incommunicado.
Rev. Taour’s lawyer has written to the Sudanese Human Rights Council to ask for help in bringing his client’s case before a court of law. In a letter to the Sudan HRC judge, he protested that the National Security is denying the pastors their basic rights by denying their access to legal counsel. He has received no reply.
Appeals made by the Sudan Council of Churches to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Omdurman Government Minister, and the Security Office on behalf of Rev. Taour and “other Christians” have also received no reply.
According to Sudanese law, 45 days after arrest a detained individual should either be presented before court or released. Neither of these actions, however, has occurred for the pastors.
Though Rata’s detention was initially suggested to be “on religious charges,” sources close to the case have hinted the Christian activist is now being investigated for espionage, a charge to which Sudan has previously resorted after prolonged detentions of Christians.
In 2015, Sudanese authorities held two South Sudanese pastors for more than six months. However, “the latest cases are representative of a much larger campaign by Sudan’s government to eradicate Christianity,” Sudanese religious freedom activist Kamal Fahmi told World Watch Monitor.
“Since the secession of South Sudan [in July 2011], Khartoum has intensified the war in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains [both areas of known Christian presence], and the indiscriminate harassment and arrests of church leaders and active church members,” said Fahmi, who heads an advocacy website, “Set My People Free,” calling for the repeal of Islam’s blasphemy and apostasy laws.
Source: World Watch Monitor
Our Father, we bring before Your throne these two pastors in Sudan who have served You in this country that is becoming increasingly dangerous for Christians. Their family and friends do not know where they are or what their physical condition is. But You do. You have them hidden in the shadow of Your wings. Whatever their fate today and in the days to come, strengthen their faith, bring to mind truth from You Word, refresh them daily with Your presence, grant them courage and wisdom. And we pray that the light of Christ will be reflected in their lives and that You will draw those who encounter into saving faith. And we pray for their families and other believers in Sudan whose faith is being tested by these difficult times. In the Name of Jesus, our Rock and Savior, in whom we take refuge, Amen.