East Africa

Church Schools and land ‘stolen’ by Sudan’s Islamist government

In a vicious drive to take over Christians schools and snuff-out churches in Sudan, the government is arresting the leaders of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) and teachers who resist the takeover. It is also denying permits for the building of churches and planning to demolish churches in Sudan.
Police in Omdurman, along the Nile River, in March, arrested 12 staff members of a Christian school and prevented others from leaving the campus. The Rev Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, moderator of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church’s (SPEC) Sudan Evangelical Synod, witnessed the confinement.

“We expect the arrests to continue,” Nalu simply said.

On March 16 about 20 policemen forcefully entered the school compound and arrested Daud Musa, Rev Idris Karntina, Elder Younan Yahya Elias and 10 other Christians, including women, all SPEC members, church leaders said. The Police accused staff members of obstructing the work of a Muslim-owned business investor belonging to “Education Vision” in its take over of the Evangelical School of Sudan, in Omdurman, the largest city in the country, sources said.

Last year a Sudanese Christian, Younan Abdulla, father of two young children, was killed in a peaceful protest against the government’s attempted takeover of Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church (SEPC). This took place after a committee, backed by the government in 2016 authorized the sale of land belonging to a Christian school to a Muslim prospector, without the school’s consent.

Muslim mobs, armed with knives and other weapons attacked the protestors attacked the protesters. According to the charity Middle East Concern (MEC): “The police were present but failed to intervene to protect those who were attacked. They also failed to help Younan after he was stabbed.”

His funeral was held on Tuesday (4 April) was attended by senior representatives of the US and UK embassies, MEC reported.

Soon after the independence of South Sudan in 2011, President Omar al-Bashir adopted a stricter version of sharia and recognized only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments declared, in April 2013, that licenses would no longer be granted for building new churches in Sudan based on the fact that there was a decrease in the Christian population following independence.

Pastor Michael Yat who fled to South Sudan soon after said, “Little did I know that Sudan had declared war against Christians. So, I was arrested the second day after preaching in a certain church in Khartoum. That is when I was put in jail that lasted me nine months.”

Pastor Yat said the Sudanese government doesn’t want Christians in the country, especially believers who can speak Arabic, “because they fear that they can easily reach out to the Muslims and win them to Christ … They do not allow pastors to reach out to Muslims in Khartoum, Darfur and the Nuba mountains. These are strictly Muslim dominated areas.”

Omar Bashir of Sudan

Last year Khartoum Ministry of Planning and Urban Development notified leaders of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan (PCOS) that they had 72 hours to vacate their property. The order by Mohamad el Sheikh Mohamad, the General Manager said: “I am hereby issuing the order of demolition of the churches that are attached to residential areas and public playgrounds in neighborhoods of East Nile locality.”
The Khartoum Bahri Administrative Court, rejected a case brought by 25 churches challenging a government order to demolish their places of worship. The 25 churches belong to denominations including the Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Sudan Church of Christ, Jehovah Witness and Pentecostal Churches.

The leadership of the Christian schools has been usurped by a government-appointed committee despite a court ruling, in November 2016, and an earlier in August 31, 2015 by the Administrative Court of Appeal that the appointments were illegal, sources said.

The Rev Samuel Suleiman Anglo, headmaster at the Evangelical Basic School, which was seized by armed police accompanied by a Muslim mbo said, “The court has ordered that the school continue to function with the current administration without interference from the commissioner.”

The Oct. 24 government seizure was the third, in a series of raids on Christian school, following efforts to seize it on October 4 and September 5. On October 6 authorities jailed Christian staff members for four days for trying to prevent the seizure of their institution which serves more than 1,000 students, ages 3 to 18, and belongs to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church.