By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Several devoted Christians in and around Sudan’s main cities are reportedly prevented from worshiping by authorities and angry mobs despite government pledges to end over three decades of hardline Islamic rule.
In one of the latest incidents, a temporary straw church building of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) denomination in an area of Omdurman city was set on fire last month, Christians said.
The August 14 attack came after the same congregation was attacked by suspected Islamic extremists four times between December 2019 and January 2020, according to rights investigators.
Sudan’s Minister for Religious Affairs and Endowments Nasr al-Din Mufreh reportedly pledged to investigate the attacks, but Christians say nothing was done so far.
Authorities have also not action against residents threatening to clear the square where the church was located, said Christians familiar with the situation.
Separately, Bethel International Christian Church was not allowed worship in the El Haj Yousif area of Khartoum Bahri, said advocacy group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). The congregation used to meet in the Evangelical Church before the authorities demolished it in 2018.
Two years ago, the church began gathering in a rented house for worship. “However, on August 16, the local committee ordered them not to use the house as a church anymore”, CSW added in a statement to Worthy News.
Authorities were reportedly citing noise reasons, although the church has no loudspeakers and only meets on Sundays afternoons, Christians said as a result, authorities prevented the congregation from gathering on August 23, according to CSW investigators. Christians were reportedly asked to provide a permit from the Ministry of Endowment, which they did not have.
The church is one of several house churches in Sudan as it is tough and often to obtain permission for the construction of a church in the Islamic nation.
The incidents came after a judge in Khartoum, the capital, sentenced a Christian woman to two months imprisonment for selling alcohol, CSW said. Under the August 13 ruling, she also received a fine of roughly $900, several times the average monthly wage in the impoverished nation, trial observers added.
The verdict contradicted recent amendments that say aspects of alcohol legislation are no longer applicable to non-Muslims unless they supply alcohol to Muslims, CSW noted.
Last week Sudan’s transitional government signed an agreement pledging to separate religion from the state in the country’s new constitution. “The agreement, if implemented, will bring an end to over three decades of Islamic rule in the country. However, it is currently an agreement ‘in principle’ and is dependent on the redrafting of the constitution,” CSW said in an assessment.
And CSW’s Founder, President Mervyn Thomas, cautioned that the SCOC building attack and other incidents “only highlights a residual societal hostility that is inimical to freedom of religion or belief.”
It was also needed for “the Sudanese authorities to take effective action to protect these Christians and to bring those responsible to [for attacks] to justice,” he stressed. “The forced closure on spurious grounds of Bethel International Christian Church is also a further illustration of a societal hostility that must be challenged and addressed whenever it is manifested.”
He said that while ”Sudan has come a considerable way since the removal of President Omar al Bashir last year, it is clear from developments...that there is still a long way to go. International scrutiny remains essential.”
His group has urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution allowing for annual independent reports from an individual or body to investigate reported abuses and make recommendations to the Council.