Sudanese authorities have, apparently against their own law, continued to keep two church leaders incommunicado since mid-December, with no official charges yet filed against them; recently Sudan has also increased the number of church leaders who must report every day to its security services.
Telahoon Nogosi Kassa Rata, a leader of Khartoum North (Bahri) Evangelical Church, and Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour of the Sudan Church of Christ (SCC) continue to be detained, even though Sudanese law says that 45 days after arrest a detained individual should either be presented before court or released. It is now 120 days since Rata’s arrest on 14 December, and 115 days since Taour’s arrest.
Initially Rata’s detention was suggested to be “on religious charges”, but sources close to the case have hinted the Christian activist is now being investigated for espionage, a charge Sudan has eventually resorted to before, after prolonged detentions of Christians.
Rata’s parents were briefly allowed to see him at Kober Men’s Prison at the end of last year. Since then the authorities reverted to holding him incommunicado, denying him visitation rights, sources close to his family said. He was later moved from Kober to another unknown location.
Taour has been held in an undisclosed place since his arrest on 19 December by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). He suffers from stomach ulcers and his family are very concerned for his health.
The SCC vice-moderator was taken from his home in Omdurman, west of Khartoum, while the head of a SCC church committee, Rev. Kuwa Shamal, was also detained on 19 December from his home in the district of Bahri, north of the capital.
Although Shamal was released days later, he is required to continue to report daily to the NISS. The condition was briefly suspended in January, but was later reinstated. The pastor is obliged to stay at the NISS offices for extended periods.
The government of Sudan continues to intimidate and harass Christians and tries to make it difficult for them to practise their faith.
Other Christian leaders, including Ayub Tilyab, Yagoub Naway (both SCC pastors), Rev. Philemon Hassan, and Rev. Yamani Abraha of Khartoum El Izba Baptist Church, have been alternately arrested, released, and then made subject to daily NISS reporting, World Watch Monitor has learnt.
NISS agents at first confiscated their personal property, including computers and mobile phones.
The latest arrests have mostly taken place in March, with the daily reporting routine sometimes lasting from 8am to midnight for no apparent reason.
In August 2015, Khartoum released two South Sudanese pastors whom it accused of “spying”. Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen were in prison for eight and seven months, respectively.
The prolonged reporting requirement, together with seizure of vital equipment during “security raids”, place undue burden on church activities, Sudanese religious freedom activist Kamal Fahmi told World Watch Monitor.
“The government of Sudan continues to intimidate and harass Christians and tries to make it difficult for them to practise their faith, and stop their ministries in their communities,” said Fahmi, who heads an advocacy website, ‘Set My People Free’, highlighting instances of pressure faced by Christians in Muslim-majority communities.
Unconfirmed reports said the government also stopped the activity of the church in Gerief West, a suburb of Khartoum, where the Presbyterian Church has a Bible School, and a number of congregations meet.
The same building was ransacked during an attack in April 2012, when part of it was burned.
In a related development, Khartoum has, however, eased restrictions it had previously placed on refugee churches in the capital, requiring them to register and refrain from spreading their faith.
Sudan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs had told churches serving refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Philippines, and others in Khartoum, to stop services, unless they had registered by 15 February.
Further south, the Nuba Mountains, an area adjacent to the now-independent South Sudan, have in March come under renewed bombardment.
The government air force has been pounding the impoverished areas in an effort to tighten control on the far-flung corners of the country. The bombings have had a devastating impact on the communities, some with significant Christian presence, forcing civilians to hide in the bush.
“Normally the Sudanese army intensifies the war before the beginning of the rainy season to make it difficult for the civilian people to farm their land, and before the movement of the heavily armed vehicles and travel become difficult due to the rainy season,” Fahmi said. “The latest cases are representative of a much larger campaign by Sudan’s government to eradicate Christianity.
“Since the secession of South Sudan [in July 2011], Khartoum has intensified the war in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains, along with the indiscriminate harassment and arrests of church leaders and active church members.
“Foreign Christian workers have been deported. Sudan has stopped the import of Christian literature and Scriptures, while confiscating most of the Christian literature in the country and closing the only Christian bookshop in the capital, Khartoum. Torture and arrest of converts from Islam is also commonplace.”