By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
(Worthy News) - Sudanese authorities detained, mistreated, and threatened to kill a Christian leader who wants to rebuild a church destroyed in an arson attack, Worthy News learned late Monday.
Osama Saeed Musa Kodi, the president of a Christian youth organization, faced the abuses Saturday by intelligence officers in Wad Madani in Gezira state, said Christian rights activists. “Mr. Kodi was held incommunicado for several hours before being released later that evening, ” added advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
During interrogation, “General Intelligence Service (GIS) officers informed Mr. Kodi that Christianity is evil. They alleged that he is trying to brainwash Sudanese citizens with the help of Christian organizations. He was ordered to stop any efforts to establish a new church and told that if he did not, he could be killed,” CSW stressed.
Kodi, a member of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, assisted the Sudanese Church of Christ after an arson attack that destroyed its building in Tamboul, Gezira state, on January 3. During his detention, Kodi’s phone was also temporarily confiscated and searched, according to Christians familiar with the case.
He later “issued a medical report, and filed a case against the GIS regarding the torture he endured,” CSW confirmed. Kodi complained that “he was detained by an organization that no longer has powers of arrest due to recent [law] amendments,” the advocacy group added
His arrest followed the publication on social media and broader criticism of a recent decision by Gezira state to disallow the reconstruction of the torched church building, Christians said.
CSW noted that the decision was based on recommendations from the Security Committee in Tamboul, allegedly consulted with local Muslim religious leaders. The Committee reportedly concluded that a church presence would “dismantle the social fabric, disturb the public, threaten security and stir up strife.”
CSW’s Founder, President Mervyn Thomas, told Worthy News that his group said his group “is concerned at the arbitrary arrest, interrogation, and mistreatment of Mr. Kodi.” Thomas said the Christian leader “appears to have been targeted due to his advocacy concerning the arson attack” on the church building in Tamboul.
“We also call for an urgent review of the decision by Gezira state authorities to disallow the reconstruction of the church, which will only embolden those responsible even further,” he added.
Shortly before his arrest, Kodi had met with Sudan’s general prosecutor, and a press conference on the plight of the church was scheduled the next day when he was detained. The previous day Sudan’s religious affairs minister held talks with the state governor and executives about the church attack.
The arson came amid political upheaval in the mainly Sunni Muslim African nation of nearly 47 million people. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok recently announced a new cabinet that includes seven former-rebel chiefs as ministers. “However, once again, no Christian was appointed to the cabinet, undermining hopes of greater exclusivity, ” CSW complained in a statement.
Thomas urged the Sudanese government to rein in the excesses of the GIS intelligence service “which continues to operate in the lawless manner” of its predecessor. “To facilitate freedom of religion or belief for all religious communities, Sudan must move beyond rhetoric to implementation, ” Thomas argued.
“We urge the authorities to ensure a thorough investigation of the attack, with those responsible being held to account. And to end the harassment of members of religious minority communities who simply seek justice.”
The Christian minority lives in a nation troubled by conflict as two rounds of north-south civil war killed some 1.5 million people, according to official estimates.
And an ongoing conflict in the western region of Darfur has driven two million citizens from their homes and reportedly claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people.
Tensions remain after Sudan, once the largest and one of the most geographically diverse states in Africa, split into two countries in July 2011.
Sudan’s government gave its blessing to an independent South Sudan, where the mainly Christian and Animist people struggled for decades against the Arab Muslim north.