Only the cross remains standing in the evangelical church in Bahri torn down by the authorities
Only the cross remains standing in the evangelical church in Bahri torn down by the authorities (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

A building used as a church by Sudanese Christians is being torn down by police after worshippers fell into a dispute with a group that claims to own the building.

The evangelical church community in Bahri, a suburb of Khartoum, had formed a human chain to prevent the building from being demolished.

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 centre on 17 November, and members of the church community formed a human blockade to prevent further destruction.

A stalemate ensued, but was broken on 2 December when police arrived, arrested nearly 40 people and demolition crews moved in, according to the Society for Threatened Peoples, a Germany-based human-rights organisation, which issued a press release on 3 December. 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 required hospital treatment, a Sudanese source who had 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 by World Watch Monitor to safeguard the contacts in Sudan from retribution.

This is not the first time this year that a church building has been demolished by Sudanese authorities. In February and June 2014, churches were destroyed in Omdurman and Khartoum.

Sudan’s minister of religion, Shalil Abdullah, has said that the authorities would not issue permits for the construction of new churches.

After 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 law, sharia, and is preparing for national elections in 2015.

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.