JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Authorities in North Khartoum demolished another church building today, just a day after giving verbal notice during the congregation’s worship service, sources said.
Bulldozers demolished the Sudanese Church of Christ in the Thiba Al Hamyida area of the city as church members watched, with security personnel threatening to arrest them if they tried to block their efforts, church members said.
There were about 70 security personnel armed with guns and tear gas, they said.
“They wanted to beat us or throw tear gas on us,” said one member on condition of anonymity. No one was injured during the demolition, they said.
Authorities came to the worship service on Sunday morning (June 29), ordering the 430-member congregation to leave the building as soon as possible in order for them to demolish it, but there was no further explanation, said the Rev. Kwa Shamal, pastor of the Sudanese Church of Christ.
When Shamal and other church leaders went to the North Khartoum commissioner to inquire about the demolition, office director Abdel Aziz Omer told them the government had planned to destroy it since 2012, the pastor said. Shamal told Morning Star News that the church, which began in 1983, has documents showing it owns the land, but Aziz Omer said the land was designated for a hospital.
“They did not want us to ask many questions on why they were demolishing our church,” the pastor told Morning Star News.
The government refuses to grant any compensation, and the congregation will be forced to worship in tents on the roadside, he said.
“We will have to pray in a makeshift tent next Sunday,” he said.
A nearby mosque on the same square was allowed to stand, church members said.
“Even if they destroy this church building, our God is still good all the time,” a church member said. “We the believers are the real church. We are asking you to continue to pray for us because of the great challenge we are facing.”
On Feb. 17, bulldozers accompanied by local police and personnel from the National Intelligence and Security Services destroyed the Sudanese Church of Christ building in the Ombada area of Omdurman, across the River Nile from Khartoum, without any advance notice.
Officials gave no reason for the demolition except that, as it was located in a “Muslim area,” the 300-member church was not wanted there, a church member said. Another source, a church leader, confirmed to Morning Star News that authorities destroyed the building and confiscated the land without warning.
The orders came from the Ombada locality, or city council, sources said.
Following the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese, but officials did not offer that basis in this case. Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan, when President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.
Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians (see Morning Star News).
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and in April 2013, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended the country remain on the list.
Many foreign Christians have been expelled from the country, and others have fled.
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