JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – A court in Sudan has fined seven church leaders fighting a takeover of their school in Omdurman for “objection to authorities,” a church leader said.
The court yesterday (Feb. 5) found Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) elder Yohanna Tia guilty under articles 182/183 for objection to authorities and fined him 5,000 Sudanese Pounds (US$275), Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu told Morning Star News.
Tia was one of 26 church leaders who have appeared in court since last week for defending a Muslim business interest’s attempt to illegally seize the Evangelical School of Omdurman, Nalu said. Seven of the church leaders were ordered to pay fines of 2,500 Sudanese pounds (US$137) each, and the other 19 were freed for lack of evidence, he said.
Two pastors—Dawoud Fadul, SPEC moderator, and Edris Kartina—were also fined 2,500 each. Church elders Adam George, Bolus Tutu and one identified only as Azhari, were also fined, along with school director Ustaz Dauod Musa Namnam.
Omdurman is located across the Nile River from Khartoum.
Church leaders have refused to hand over church lands and estates to Muslim businessman Hisham Hamad Al-Neel, sources said. In what Christians in Sudan believe is a campaign to take over church properties, a judge ruled on Dec. 3 that Al-Neel should take over the houses of Nalu and the Rev. Sidiq Abdalla. Al-Neel is attempting to take over SPEC properties in Khartoum and Khartoum Bahri (Khartoum North).
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. 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 since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.
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 2017 report.
Sudan ranked fourth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.