By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
KHARTOUM (Worthy News) - A Christian couple reunited after being forced to divorce by an Islamic court could face 100 lashes and exile in Sudan for “adultery,” Christians familiar with the case told Worthy News Friday.
In comments shared with Worthy News, an unidentified pastor said that “Hamouda and Nada, both converts [from Islam] to Christianity,” wanted to remain married.
The pastor, the sole witness during Thursday’s May 12 court procedures, said the next hearing was scheduled for June 7.
Advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC), which supports the couple, told Worthy News that the couple “was married in 2016 and had two children.”
MEC did not reveal the family names or location of the couple amid security concerns in the strict Islamic nation where minority Christians have been targeted.
“When Hamouda converted to Christianity in 2018, Nada’s family forced them to dissolve the marriage in an Islamic (Shari’a) court, despite their wishes to remain married,” MEC said.
RETURNING WITH CHILDREN
Last year Nada also “converted to Christianity and returned with the children to live with Hamouda. This angered Nada’s brother, who reported them to the authorities,” leading to the court case, the group explained.
MEC said it had urged supporters of the two Christians to pray “for God’s peace and strength with them as they go through the court procedures.”
They also pray that they “will be able to live together in safety as a family and for the court to rule in favor of their marriage.”
The couple’s case has highlighted fresh concerns about the plight of the Northeast African nation’s nearly two million Christians facing what rights groups call “Islamic oppression.”
Converts who abandon Islam are often “denied inheritance and, if they're already married, divorced from their husbands,” confirmed advocacy group Open Doors.
Additionally, “Christian women and girls in Sudan, particularly converts, are vulnerable to rape, forced marriage, and domestic violence for their faith,” the group added.
BROADER CONCERNS EXPRESSED
Open Doors, which supports “persecuted Christians, said converts may also be isolated to reduce the ‘embarrassment’ and shame of the conversion on the [Muslim] family.” The isolation is also “to ensure they cannot meet with other Christians,” the advocacy group noticed.
On a broader level, Islamic extremists have reportedly kidnapped Sudanese Christian girls for marriage and, in many cases, sexual slavery, rights investigators say.
Sudan, a nation of some 45 million people, ranks 13th on Open Doors’ annual World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians reportedly face the most persecution for their faith in Christ.
The pressure on Christians comes as Sudan faces renewed upheaval after mass protests pushed the military to overthrow former president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. After more rallies, the army agreed to share power with civilian groups but took over again in a coup in October 2021.
On Thursday, security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters who rallied against the military rulers, as diplomatic moves to broker a political solution showed no progress.
Thousands marched towards the presidential palace in Khartoum amid high temperatures and a heavy security presence, reporters witnessed. It was the first major demonstration since the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the reportedly the biggest turnout in several weeks.