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28 April 2022

Pastor in Sudan jailed after being attacked

A pastor in Sudan was the victim of a violent attack - but when he went to report it, he was jailed. It's a sign of worsening persecution in Sudan, which had begun to see steps towards religious freedom.

Pasotr Stefanous was arrested after reporting an attack in his church (image is illustrative)

If you were the victim of a violent attack, you’d probably expect the authorities to help you. But that wasn’t what happened when Pastor Stefanous Adil Kajo in Sudan went to the police, after being assaulted in the middle of a church service. Instead, both he and his persecutor were convicted.

There were signs that Sudan had taken steps towards religious freedom, and Sudanese Christians were encouraged – but incidents like this make it seem like progress is being reversed.

Jailed for being attacked

Pastor Stefanous was leading a church service in his community in Gezira State on 10 April when a man called Ibrahim Kodi entered the building and attacked him. Shortly afterwards, two other men joined Kodi in the attack – Pastor Stefanous was injured, as were two women in the church. The persecutors destroyed Bibles and chairs during the assault.

When the victims went to file a criminal complaint, the police responded by charging both Pastor Stefanous and Kodi with ‘disturbing the peace’. It’s not a light charge. Pastor Stefanous has been sentenced to a month in prison – simply for being the victim of an attack.

A campaign of persecution

It’s not the first time that the church – which is part of the Sudanese Church of Christ – has faced persecution recently. The church is owned by the local Catholic Church, which allows other religious groups to use it for services – both Christian and Muslim. But local Muslims have repeatedly tried to prevent Christian groups using it. Their tactics have included harassment, padlocking the church and setting up loud speakers outside the church to criticise the pastor and his congregation.

In February, a group of local Islamic fundamentalists posted an order on the building to stop all activities and threatening action against those who persisted in meeting. Church members did continue to meet, and two church leaders were arrested – but, after several hours of interrogation, the police let them go without charge. When the pastors appealed to a local government official to intervene, he refused to do so. Instead, he took the side against them.

Discouraging changes in Sudan

Sudan is number 13 on the World Watch List, having fallen in recent years – but Christians in Sudan and experts on the country are worried that this is changing for the worse. Sudan’s Christians – who had started to dream cautiously of living in a country where they would be free to profess their faith openly – are seeing their hopes dashed as Sudan's military releases and re-appoints allies of former president Omar al-Bashir. The army seized power in a coup in October last year, upending the country’s transition to civilian rule after 30 years of military dictatorship.

There has been an increase in interference in church affairs by government-backed groups, and last month a court ordered the demolition of part of an Evangelical church near the capital, Khartoum, resulting in the closure of the building. 

The country is ‘sliding towards an economic and security collapse, and significant humanitarian suffering’, the UN’s Special representative in Sudan, Volker Perthes, told the UN Security Council last month. The World Food Programme estimates that almost half of Sudan’s population will go hungry this year, twice as many as last year. This context makes unrest within the country, and pressure on Christians, even worse.

But God is still sovereign, and we must keep praying for the church in Sudan. Let’s persevere.

Please pray
  • That Pastor Stefanous’s prison sentence would be overturned, and justice done
  • That all religious minorities in Sudan would be able to worship freely and safely
  • For stability in Sudan, and further steps forward in religious freedom.
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