In Darfur Region in northwestern Sudan, Hawa Abdalla Muhammad Saleh was arrested on May 9 in the Abu Shouk camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Al-Fashir, capital of North Darfur state, sources told Compass News. Abdalla has yet to be officially charged, but authorities have accused her of possessing and distributing Bibles to others in the camp, including children. Sources said she could also be tried for apostasy, which carries the death sentence in Sudan.
Abdalla has been transferred to an unknown location in Khartoum, sources said, adding that they fear she could be tortured, as she was previously detained and tortured for six days in 2009. The arrest comes as northern Christians become more vulnerable to official and societal pressure with South Sudan set to split from the predominantly Muslim north on July 9.
At the same time, in Khartoum, a Christian mother of a 2-month-old baby was wounded because she and her husband left Islam for Christianity. On May 4, knife-wielding, masked assailants attacked Omar Hassan and Amouna Ahamdi, both 27. Hassan told Compass News that his wife was injured while trying to protect him.
This recent attack was not the first for Ahamdi. Earlier, before she met and married Hassan, her brother had stabbed her three times in the stomach, seriously injuring her spleen after she told him she had become a Christian. In the violent outburst, her brother also broke her left leg. She was rushed to a local hospital where she met Hassan, also a convert who had also suffered for his faith. Hassan had heard about her suffering and had gone to visit her while she healed from the injuries.
After a partial recovery, Ahamdi was discharged back to the hostile home where she had been attacked. “You don’t deserve to be a member of my family,” her angry father shouted at her, she said. Her family locked her in a room, shackled to a wooden chair, and severely beat her for a month. “They shaved all my hair and my father whipped my head,” Ahamdi said. “But neighbors used to sneak in secretly, and provided me food and water.”
“I found a chance to escape to the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS), where I got married to Hassan,” she said. Her health however continued to deteriorate, and the doctors recommended she be transferred to Khartoum for specialized treatment. “With a small amount of money, we managed to reach Khartoum by train, where my uncle hosted us, not knowing that we were Christians,” she said.
Hassan had also suffered greatly for his faith. Born the son of an imam belonging to the Ansar Al-Sunna, a sect of Sunni Muslims, he started questioning the Quran while accompanying his father on a preaching mission. A high-profile Muslim from Europe happened to be in the area, and young Hassan asked him questions about Muhammad and Jesus. He found no immediate answers and decided to be without faith. His father became so angry that he denied Hassan all basic needs.
Hassan began comparing Christianity and Islam with a workmate. His friend invited him to visit a church, and Hassan also began attending a Bible study. Hassan said he began having dreams and visions and heard a voice saying, “This is the way.” He told this to a church pastor, who said that it referred to Jesus saying it of Himself in John 14:6.
“A desire for attending church grew in me, and thereafter I got baptized,” Hassan said. “One morning, when I was on my knees praying, my father entered into the room and found me. He closed the door and invited seven relatives plus my elder brother, who started beating me with sticks and broke my shoulder. I almost lost my sight. My elder brother helped me escape to the pastor’s house.”
When his father realized that he remained a Christian, he ordered him to leave and never return. This was in 2007. Over the next several years Hassan moved several times. The ESC congregation sent him to Shokaya Bible Institute for six months where upon completion he returned where he met and married Ahamdi in June 2010.
Now living in Khartom, Hassan and Ahamdi depend on friends to provide them occasional food. They sometimes go without eating for days. In addition, they have been given notice to vacate Ahamdi’s uncle house after he discovered that they had converted. “Life is becoming unbearable for us here in Khartoum,” said Hassan. “We cannot deny Christ – this is a big challenge to us, because we do not have a place to go,” said Ahamdi, through tears. “We have no food, and we are jobless. I am still in pain, besides having a 2-month-old baby boy to care for.”
Sudan (North) is number 35 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries of the world where persecution of Christians is most severe. The U.S. Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report 2010 notes that while Sudan’s Interim National Constitution provides for freedom of religion throughout the country, it establishes sharia (Islamic law) as a source of legislation in the north. Concern is growing as the July 9 date approaches when the referendum will be complete dividing the North and South into two separate states.
Father, we pray that Abdalla will not be charged or worse, tortured or put to death for apostasy. We ask for a miracle; that she would be released and not vulnerable to further persecution as a northern Sudanese Christian. Father, we are also touched and humbled at both Hassan and Ahamdi’s steadfast faith, love, and dedication to You. We pray for physical healing for their bodies, as well as healing in their relationships. Thank You for sparing their lives many times, and again we thank You for their strong commitment to You. Please protect them and their little baby from all harm, and continue to provide food, water, and shelter for them to live for You in peace. Amen
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