Arab Christian Blocked From Leaving Sudan

Monday, March 10, 2003

by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, January 30 (Compass) -- A Sudanese convert to Christianity was refused permission to board a flight to Uganda this morning at the Khartoum airport, where state security police said their computers identified him as a criminal.

Aladin Omer Agabni Mohammed, 34, was turned back by Sudanese security authorities after he arrived today at the departure hall for his Kenya Airways flight to Entebbe via Nairobi.

Mohammed's papers were "in complete order," a local source told Compass, including his passport, exit permit, necessary visas, proof of military exemption and a valid ticket.

A Sudanese Arab from Hassaheissa in Gezira state, 70 miles southeast of Khartoum, Mohammed had converted to Christianity 11 years ago while a business student at Gezira University. As a child he had memorized the complete Quran, and during his teenage years, he became involved in Sufism, a mystical form of Islam. But four and a half months after he got a copy of the Bible and began reading it, he became a Christian.

His family promptly denounced him for apostasy, classified as a crime under Sudanese law, and he was soon expelled from the university. A Sudanese Arab who converts to Christianity from Islam is "not only a disgrace to his family and community," the source noted, "but also a national disgrace."

Mohammed has since been arrested, interrogated, imprisoned, tortured and threatened with death "many times," Compass was told today.

Although Mohammed managed several years ago to enroll in an Arabic-language Christian seminary abroad, he was forcibly deported back to Sudan when local Muslim authorities learned that he was a convert from Islam.

The Sudanese convert's last stint in prison reportedly stretched from June until September of 2001. During the four months since his release, he has been required to report to the security police on "almost a daily basis," the source said.

But a week ago, when his passport being held by the police was returned to him, Mohammed decided to travel to Uganda. There he planned to apply to study theology at the St. Paul Theological Seminary in Limuru, Kenya.

When Mohammed was turned back today, he was ordered to report to immigration headquarters in Khartoum. "We do not know what happens next," one of his friends said.

Under Section 126 of the Sudan Penal Code, a Muslim who commits apostasy by deserting Islam for another faith is subject to the death penalty. By contrast, non-Muslims who convert to Islam are given celebrity status, often including media coverage and financial benefits.

Copyright 2002, Compass News Direct. Used with Permission.