JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – The second pastor of South Sudanese descent in less than three weeks has been arrested without charges in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, sources said.
Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Services (NISS) arrested the Rev. Peter Yein Reith of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church on Jan. 11 as he returned to his home at the Gerif West Bible School in Khartoum from a prayer meeting, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Reith received a phone call earlier that day from someone threatening to “arrest” his wife and 1-year-old son if he failed to go to his home immediately.
“We will arrest your entire family should you fail to come home as soon as possible,” the caller told the pastor, according to the source.
The pastor’s wife has repeatedly asked NISS officials under what charge he is being held without an answer, she said.
“We are still interrogating him; he is in custody,” one NISS official told her.
NISS officials arrested a visiting South Sudanese pastor from Juba, the Rev. Yat Michael, after Sunday worship at Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church on Dec. 14. He is still in custody.
Authorities have repeatedly refused to allow Pastor Michael’s family to visit him since his arrest, sources said.
“Each time they said they were going to arrange a visit for me, they continued to refuse my requests to visit my husband,” said his wife, whose name is withheld for security reasons.
The Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church that Pastor Michael was visiting is a Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC)-congregation that has been the subject of harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors seek to take it over. Police in North Khartoum on Dec. 2 beat, arrested and fined 38 Christians from the church after nearly two weeks of raiding and demolishing church property. They were released later that night.
Article 77 of the notorious Public Order Law of 1991 gives police broad powers to arrest Christians and other lowly regarded people without cause for “creating a public disturbance.”
Pastor Michael had been invited to encourage the congregation to stand firm amid persecution.
Five church leaders arrested on Nov. 25 were released that same night.
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.
The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
On Oct. 5, 2013, Sudan’s police and security forces broke through the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church fence, beat and arrested Christians in the compound and asserted parts of the property belonged to a Muslim investor accompanying them. As Muslims nearby shouted, “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” plainclothes police and personnel from NISS broke onto the property aboard a truck and two Land Cruisers. After beating several Christians who were in the compound, they arrested some of them; they were all released later that day.
Following the secession of South Sudan, Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. 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 recommended the country remain on the list.
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