Police are tearing down a building used as a church by Sudanese Christians after worshippers fell into a dispute with a group that claims to own the building. A group of investors insist, over church objections, that they own the property on which the church building stood. They began demolition of a youth center on November 17th, and members of the church community formed the human blockade to prevent further destruction.
The ensuing stalemate was broken on December 2nd when police arrived and arrested nearly 40 people. Demolition crews moved in immediately thereafter, according to the Society for Threatened Peoples, a Germany-based human-rights organization. Five leaders of the church community were among those arrested, the agency said. They were accused of failing to comply with an eviction order and of resisting police.
The police swung sticks and pieces of furniture at the crowd, injuring several women who had to be hospitalized, a Sudanese source in direct contact with the Bahri Church told Word Watch Monitor. The source said an elder of the church was harshly beaten, but no information about the extent of his injuries was available. Police seized mobile phones and cordoned off the property, said the source, whose identity is being withheld.
This is the latest of several church buildings that have been demolished by Sudanese authorities. In both February and June, churches were destroyed in Omdurman and Khartoum.
Since the south of Sudan declared independence in 2011, the predominantly Muslim north has put increasing pressure on the remaining Christian minority. Sudan is due to adopt a new permanent Constitution, which the government has declared will be based on Islamic Sharia law, and is preparing for national elections in 2015. Sudan’s minister of religion, Shalil Abdullah, has declared that the authorities would not issue permits for the construction of new churches.
Sudan is No. 11 on the World Watch List, an annual ranking of the 50 countries where life as a Christian is most difficult. The list is published by Open Doors International, a worldwide charity that supports Christians who live under pressure because of their faith.
Father, as Christians in Sudan are now living under increasing persecution, we pray for Your protection over them. Teach them how to live in that tension between serving Christ with boldness and having godly discernment as to when to be silent or worship in secret. While the Enemy intends to use this increase of oppression to halt the growth of Your church, we pray that Your Spirit would rather use it to breathe life into Your church in Sudan, and bring about a revival of unprecedented proportions. We pray for Your hand of protection to shelter those who were arrested; that true justice would be accomplished, if it be Your will. Fill them daily with encouragement from Your Word that has been hidden in their hearts and strengthen them with courage. In the name of Jesus, who has promised never to leave or forsake us, Amen.