SUDAN – Christians who criticise church demolitions pressured to keep silent


Since 2012 Sudan has been bulldozing church buildings and harassing and expelling foreign Christians.  In April 2013 it was announced that no licenses would be granted to build new churches. Now the Sudanese government plans to demolish 25 church buildings in and near the capital of Khartoum. The targeted churches include both Catholic and Protestant buildings. The order to demolish the churches was made in June 2016 and government officials notified several congregations in September to vacate their properties.

The Sudanese authorities claim the church buildings scheduled for demolition were illegally  built on lands which are zoned for other uses. However, Christian officials have challenged the claims saying the properties were legally obtained and have legal titles. “This is not an isolated act but should be taken with wider perspective,” Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, moderator of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church’s Sudan Evangelical Synod.

Now Intelligence and Security Services are putting pressure on Christians who criticise the government’s action against churches and some Christian leaders have been threatened with retaliation. Two Christian leaders in Sudan have been sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of “espionage”. Since 15 Feb Milad Musa, a member of the Sudanese Church of Christ who spoke out against the proposed demolitions,  has been required to report to security services offices from 6 am to midnight every day. Sometimes he is not even given any food while in custody.

Rev Mubarak Hamad, chairman of Sudan’s Council of Churches, faced similar requirements to report to the custody of the security services from 8 am to 9 pm daily after he held a press conference on 11 February during which he called on the government to reconsider the demolitions and stated that mosques in the same area were not ordered to be demolished. Security services eventually lifted the custody requirement but ordered  Rev Hamad not to speak publicly about the persecution of Christians and the demolition of church buildings unless he had authorization from security forces. “They told me not to talk about the demolition of churches or the two church leaders who are in jail” Hamad said.

Christians are a small minority in Sudan where at least 90 percent of the population is Muslim. Sudan’s legislation is based on sharia law and apostasy from Islam is punishable by the death penalty. Sudan is a country of particular concern regarding  religious freedom violations. International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need noted in its 2016 Religious Freedom Report that Sudan’s constitution was amended to “widen and increase” the power of the National Intelligence and Security Services, which has impacted “human resources issues and the prosecution of individuals, media outlets and organisations for alleged breaches of the law.”

ACN Malta