Police and an armed mob occupied part of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) compound last Wednesday (26 April), reports Middle East Concern (MEC). It is the same location where, earlier this month, two church members were stabbed during a protest against appropriation of a school there.
The compound in Omdurman, across the Nile from the centre of the capital, Khartoum, includes houses, offices and the school premises. According to MEC the police and an armed mob attacked the compound and entered the home of SPEC guard Azhari Tambra and his family:
“Mr Tambra was away at the time and his wife and their three children (aged 6, 4 and 2) were arrested and held in custody for 12 hours. They were eventually released unharmed. However, their belongings were destroyed and they are no longer allowed access to their room. The police and the mob seem to have occupied part of the compound and access is being denied to anyone who wants to enter.”
Bahri Evangelical Church, a SPEC church, has long been in a dispute with a committee linked to the government, which wants to buy the land on which the SPEC-owned school is situated.
On 3rd April two church members were stabbed when they attended a peaceful three-day protest against the government’s attempted appropriation of the school. One of the injured men, Younan Abdullah, an elder of Bahri Evangelical Church, later died of his injuries. The second church member, Ayoub Kumama, survived.
School staff protesting against the proposed sale had been arrested on previous occasions – last month and in July last year.
A Foreign Office spokesperson confirmed religious freedom in Sudan “remains a concern for the UK”.
The charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said that Khartoum’s targeting of the SPEC is part of its drive to “diminish or remove the Christian presence from Sudan”.
CSW noted that the Khartoum Bahri Administrative Court last week 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’s Witness and Pentecostal Churches.
The harassment of Christians has intensified since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a strict interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) and many Christians left for the newly created country.