Sudan Releases One Church Leader While One Remains Imprisoned
Pastors Rejoice and Reflect on their own Incarceration in Sudan for their Christian Faith
5/11/16 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) – Sudanese Christians rejoice at the news of the release of one Christian leader from prison in Khartoum, while another pastor who was arrested one week later remains in custody.
Sudanese authorities released Telahoon “Telal” Nogossi Kassa Rata on May 10, according to sources close to the case. Rata never faced charges and remained in solitary confinement for nearly five months, having been granted only two brief visits with family during that time.
“We are happy and thankful to God for the release of Telal. His family, the churches in Sudan, and the entire body of Christ is rejoicing,” Rev. Peter Yein Reith told International Christian Concern (ICC). Peter and his associate Yat Michael Ruot faced trumped-up espionage charges in Sudan, and were held for nearly nine months before a judge released them in August 2015.
Rata heads the Fellowship of University Christian Students (FOUCS), a student discipleship movement, and ministers with the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, which Sudanese authorities regularly harass with arbitrary arrests, beatings, and building demolitions.
Officers from the National Intelligence Security Service (NISS), Sudan’s notoriously hardline Islamist intelligence unit, arrested Rata on December 13, 2015, after calling him in for questioning, and held him at Kober Prison in Khartoum. Rata’s imprisonment represents part of a larger crackdown on Christian church leaders in Sudan that began in December 2015.
Arrests of Pastors in Sudan Nothing New
Sudan continues to hold Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Taour without charge after his arrest on December 21, 2015. Sources tell ICC that Taour suffers from a stomach ulcer and has been transferred to custody of the Attorney General who is preparing to bring him up on serious criminal charges. Authorities have blocked Taour’s access to family and legal counsel.
Officials also detained Pastor Kuwa Shamal on December 18, releasing him three days later, but required him to report for questioning from 8:00 a.m. until midnight each day until January 16, 2016.
Pastors Peter and Michael know what Taour is going through and remember what it was like when they were released, like Rata.
“It was a joyful experience when we were released in August 2015, after going through an extremely hard time for nine months and appearing 11 times in court. Tears of joy covered our eyes when we reunited with our families once again. This is the same feeling [Rata] experienced,” Peter told ICC.
Meanwhile, Christians in Sudan continue to suffer persecution where Islamic Sharia law forms the law of the land.
Sudan’s crackdown on Christian pastors represents a massive legal contradiction, considering the country’s constitution and international treaty obligations.
Sudan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects religious freedom, as well as the right to a fair trial. Additionally, Sudan’s 2005 Interim National Constitution of Sudan provides for freedom of religion.
“ICC applauds the release of Telahoon Nogossi Kassa Rata, but calls upon Sudan to immediately release Hassan Abdulraheem Taour. Sudan’s continued harassment of Christian leaders displays unacceptable examples of thuggish intimidation designed to intimidate the Christian minority. We urge everyone concerned to pray fervently for this persecuted population and call on Sudan to hold to its constitution and treaty obligations in protecting religious freedom for all people,” ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Troy Augustine, said.