JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Days after Muslim leaders in Egypt came to his apartment to warn him to return to Islam, a Sudanese Christian in Cairo received a death threat by phone last week, he said.
Having fled Sudan after authorities tortured and threatened to kill him if he refused to return to Islam, Al Hadi Izzalden Shareef Osman said he has had to change apartments once again in the face of fresh threats.
On May 27 he received a phone call from someone speaking in Sudanese Arabic threatening to kill him, he said.
“You are infidel and fuel for hell,” the called told him, according to Osman.
It was one of several threats he received in the past month. He recognized the voice as one of the Muslim clerics, both Sudanese and Egyptian, who knocked on his apartment door the previous week, Osman said.
Living in hiding after death threats began last year by radical Muslims monitoring his movements in Egypt, Osman said he was terrified when he opened the door to find the five Muslim clerics ordering him to renounce Christ and return to Islam or face consequences.
“They kept telling me to go mosque, but I refused,” Osman told Morning Star News. “I was afraid and had to relocate from the apartment to another location.”
In a country where at least 2 million Sudanese migrants, including thousands of refugees, already face racial discrimination and resentment from Egyptians embittered by a cracked economy, Osman said his life is in danger for having become a Christian.
The 40-year-old Osman applied for asylum on grounds of religious persecution with the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees when he arrived in Egypt, without success.
“There is no response from UNHCR, and they seem to be unwilling to protect me from this danger,” Osman said. “Egypt is no longer safe for me. I want to relocate elsewhere, I am tired of these threats.”
After unknown persons on Aug. 15, 2018 raided his apartment and seized his passport, he went into hiding, he said. Osman was not at home at the time of the theft and reported it to police.
He had left Khartoum in April 2014 after police from Sudan’s Criminal Investigation Department accused him of apostasy, punishable by death in Sudan. National police arrested him from the streets of Khartoum, covered his eyes with a cloth and took him into secret detention, where they tortured him for three weeks, he said.
Osman said he was suspended from the ceiling while agents poured cold water on him, leaving his left hand permanently damaged.
Ordered to report to their offices daily, Osman said he was repeatedly arrested and tortured in efforts to get him to return to Islam but refused, telling agents he would rather die as a Christian then live as a Muslim. He fled after he was threatened with death if he did not return to Islam, he said.
Osman had begun to examine the Koran in 2005, at the age of 27, after reading about Jesus in the Bible. After studying the Bible, he put his faith in Christ, and by 2007, his family and friends began abandoning him after noting he had stopped fasting during Ramadan and saying Islamic prayers, he said.
Osman worked odd jobs living with Sudanese friends, but when they discovered that he was a Christian, they ordered him to leave, he said. In December 2016, he was baptized in the Episcopal Church in Egypt.
Osman said Sudanese Muslims friends who first took him in told Egyptian Muslims that he had left Islam.
The tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees in Egypt live among the more than 2 million – possibly 4 million – Sudanese who have fled military and political conflict and economic woes in Sudan. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants reports many migrants from Sudan are actually refugees but see little hope in applying for asylum.
Osman’s plight has deepened as Christians in Sudan are hopeful for a more sympathetic government following the April 11 ouster of strongman Omar al-Bashir as president. The military forced out Bashir, an Islamist and Arab supremacist in power for 30 years, following protests that began on Dec. 19.
Churches joined the opposition after Bashir’s departure and are hopeful for a civilian government that does away with sharia (Islamic law) as the legal framework.
Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, while Egypt ranked 16th.