JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Police in Omdurman, Sudan demolished a church building on Wednesday (Oct. 21), sources said.
A bulldozer rammed down the Lutheran Church of Sudan building in the Karari area of Omdurman, twin city of Khartoum across the Nile River, church leaders said. The building was reportedly also used by an Evangelical Lutheran Church congregation.
Local authorities said they tore down the building because it was located in an area designated for business. Area Christians said they did not accept this rationale as a mosque stands nearby. Karari officials had told church leaders that they would not demolish the building but later gave them 72 hours’ notice to prepare for its destruction, church leaders said.
“The government has lied to us, because they told us that this church will not be demolished,” one leader said on condition of anonymity.
Appeals from the church to let the building remain were dismissed. The congregation will find it difficult to find a place to worship this Sunday.
“This is something that was well planned,” another church leader said.
Sudan since 2012 has and expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings, usually on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. They have also raided Christian bookstores and arrested Christians.
Sudanese authorities on Feb. 17, 2014 demolished a church building in Omdurman without prior notice, area sources said. Bulldozers accompanied by local police and personnel from of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) destroyed the Sudanese Church of Christ building in the Ombada area of Omdurman, they said.
On Aug. 24, 2014, NISS agents padlocked the building of the 500-member Sudan Pentecostal Church (SPC) in Khartoum, which housed the Khartoum Christian Center (KCC).
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.
Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.
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 the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.
Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution, moving up from 11th place the previous year.
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