More good news from Sudan as eight church leaders have been acquitted after being charged with illegally occupying their church buildings. Restrictions and discrimination against Christians appear to be lifting under Sudan’s interim government.
A Sudanese court has acquitted eight church leaders of charges that they occupied their church buildings illegally.
The criminal court in Omdurman, near the capital Khartoum, found the eight leaders of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCoC) not guilty of the charges brought against them.
The senior leaders, including the church's president, Ayoub Telyan, were arrested in August 2017 after they initially refused to hand over the churches’ properties and administrative control to an illegally established government committee.
After a court dismissed the case in August 2018, it was appealed and re-opened as a criminal case by Sudan's Supreme Court in October 2019. Charges included ‘criminal trespass and illegal possession of SCoC properties’.
The confiscation of church properties was part of a campaign against Sudanese Christian faith communities by Sudan's government under former president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April 2019. The campaign against churches such as the SCoC and the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church included the destruction of their buildings, arrests and court cases against their leaders
Churches have previously been marked for demolition, like this one in Khartoum
Sudan's interim government, however, has shown an intention to address the religious-freedom violations of the previous regime. In September, it announced it planned to remove Islam as its state religion.
Open Doors has welcomed the news, said Illia Djadi, Open Doors' Senior Analyst for Freedom of Religion or Belief in sub-Saharan Africa.
“However, there are similar cases involving other church denominations that still need to be addressed and resolved,” Djadi said. “Following this latest development, we are cautiously optimistic that these cases will be settled fairly too, both in legal terms and with respect for human rights, including religious freedom.”
Meanwhile, the Attorney General in Ombada has charged 13 people with setting a SCoC church on fire in August in Jaborana, an impoverished sector of the capital Khartoum. The defendants are accused of ‘intimidation’ and ‘criminal mischief’ and will have to appear before the Omdurman Criminal Court. According to CSW, this is the first time anyone has been charged for burning or damaging a church building.
The same church also was targeted during December and January. In March, the Minister of Religious Affairs, Nasr al-Din Mufreh, said a government committee would look into the attacks.
Praise God that things seem to be changing in Sudan for our persecuted church family! But please continue to remember them in your prayers - while the news of these reforms is very positive, many believers who have converted from the majority religion, Islam, face intense opposition from their families and this is unlikely to change soon.
Source of information: CSW
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