In separate incidents, two churches were destroyed earlier this month local sources told World Watch Monitor; this is in addition to dozens previously destroyed in Sudan.
On October 22, authorities gave the congregation only 72 hours’ notice before demolishing the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sudan (LCS) in Omdurman, citing re-development reasons. For more than three decades, the church had been established in the Karari area of Omdurman, a city directly across the Nile from Sudan’s capital of Khartoum.
On October 21 at 3:30 p.m., the church in Omdurman, which seats 150 worshipers, received its final warning of impending demolition from the Karari local authorities. According to local sources, young men set fire to the building before officials ordered bulldozers to destroy the rest of it.
The local authorities claimed the church was built on land allocated for a proposed marketplace.
Church members noted, however, that a nearby mosque on the same land was not destroyed.
“Destroying the church building made us feel we have lost everything,” a local leader in the Lutheran church said. “Chairs, seats, etc., have also been taken by the local authorities,” he added. “The LCS was founded in this area in 1975. The mosque was not there when the church was established. The strange thing is that the church was destroyed but the mosque was still standing in its place! This shows us many things…We were asking them, ‘Where are our rights?’ But their answers were, ‘No place for Christianity after Southern Sudan separated.’ ”
In a separate incident, another Lutheran church building was burned down on October 17 in Gadaref, East Sudan, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The building was completely destroyed, including the furniture and Bibles inside.
These recent events are part of the ongoing attack on the Christian community in Sudan. In 2011, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir declared that after the independence of South Sudan the north would be entirely Arabic and Islamic. In April 2013, the Sudanese minister of religious affairs announced that no licenses would be granted to build new churches. This means the congregants now displaced by government demolitions or by arson have no hope for replacement church buildings.
In an interview from Khartoum with Radio Tamazuj, Bishop Yagoub Boustros of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan noted that the Lutheran Church in Omdurman was not the first church to be demolished. He accused the authorities of showing no respect for religious rights. “The authorities’ claim that there is co-existence between religions is just for political consumption, but in fact there is no religious coexistence,” he said.
Sudan lost the majority of its Christian population when the south became independent in July 2011 following an overwhelming vote in favour of secession from the predominantly Arab and Muslim North.
Not surprisingly, the Christians left in the North have been finding life in the Islamic nation increasingly difficult. At least three churches were destroyed in 2014, two of them Church of Christ congregations; 900 members were displaced in these two incidents alone.
The 2015 report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom on Sudan highlighted the abuses resulting from President Bashir’s policies of Islamization and Arabization. “The government of Sudan, led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief” the report said.
A 2014 report by the same commission noted that the government also imposes Sharia on both Muslims and non-Muslims, “using amputations and floggings for crimes and acts of ‘indecency’ and ‘immorality,’ and arresting Christians for proselytizing.”
According to the Open Doors World Watch List 2015, Sudan is currently ranked 6th among the 50 most difficult countries in the world in which to be a Christian, noting that with a population of just over 39 million people, of whom a mere 5% are Christian, “a combination of Islamic extremism and dictatorial paranoia is the primary engine for persecution.”
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, we grieve over the evidence of Your enemy Satan’s attempts to destroy Your church in Sudan. We pray for Your people there in the confidence that Jesus has won the victory already, and that Your church will prevail. We pray for our fellow believers who have been displaced from their places of worship. We grieve with them over the loss of all the buildings and worldly goods. You who call us to worship You in the Spirit and in truth, encourage and strengthen them to continue on, to worship You in Spirit and truth despite their losses. Where the government would seek to eradicate them with Islamization and Arabization, protect them and provide for them. And, we pray boldly for al-Bashir and the members of his government, that You would break their power and turn their hearts toward You. In the Name of Jesus, who has overcome the world, Amen!