Sudan has started the new year by continuing its crackdown on the Christian minority still living within its boarders. A church located outside of the country's capital, Khartoum, has been destroyed by authorities because the government claimed it lacked a building permit. Since South Sudan separated from Sudan in July of 2011, the Sudanese government has become more and more hostile towards the Christian minority still living in Sudan.
1/12/2013 Sudan (MorningStarNews) – Sudanese authorities rang in the new year by bulldozing a church building outside Khartoum because it belonged to Christians of South Sudanese origin and lacked a permit, a source said.
South Sudanese have been ordered to leave the country following the new republic’s secession from Sudan in July 2011, but thousands are reportedly stranded in the north due to loss of jobs, poverty, transportation limitations and ethnic and tribal conflict in South Sudan.
The source told Morning Star News by telephone that officials from the Khartoum State Ministry of Physical Infrastructure accompanied by police on Jan. 2 demolished the building of the Sudan Pentecostal Church in Soba Al Aradi, a Khartoum suburb that began as a refugee camp for South Sudanese. The destruction came without warning as part of a government survey of the area, he said.
“We are surveying this area because it was not officially demarcated,” a civil engineer surveying the area told area Christians, the source said. “We are bulldozing this building because it belongs to a church whose members are South Sudanese, but they are no longer citizens of Sudan.”
Officials said South Sudanese in the area are there illegally, but Christians said the government is targeting churches in its stated objective of making Sudan a purely Islamic country.
A Presbyterian church building in Soba Al Aradi also is slated for destruction, and authorities have already demolished a pastor’s house that was attached to it, the source said. Officials told pastor Mubarak Hamad of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, an Arabic-speaking congregation, that he needed to apply for a property permit. Pastor Hamad is from the Nuba Mountains, an area of Sudan populated by many of South Sudan origin.
The Pentecostal church building that was reduced to rubble was also lacking official permission, officials told church members. The church had erected the building on land donated by church members, who said they are victims of selective enforcement.
“I saw staff from the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure of Khartoum state with policemen in plain uniform, and a bulldozer destroying the church building,” the source said.
Harassment, violence and arrests of Christians have reportedly intensified since the secession of South Sudan, when Sudan President Omar al Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.
Church leaders say the government is targeting missionaries and expelling them from the country. Last month Sudan arrested two Coptic priests for baptizing a woman who had converted from Islam to Christianity. The whereabouts of the priests remain unknown, and security organs have refused to allow their families to visit them.