By Troy Augustine
8/30/16 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) – Sudanese Christian pastors Hassan Abduraheem Taour and Kuwa Shamaal are walking by faith down a path through persecution that countless other believers have walked before.
Not only were heroes of the faith such as the Apostle Paul, John the Baptist, and Jesus’ disciples arrested for their faith, but Taour and Shamaal are experiencing much of the same that even their Sudanese contemporaries have faced. They are staring down the possibility of execution on trumped-up charges, in prison in Khartoum because they dare to preach the Gospel.
Hard Pressed, but Not Crushed
On August 21, Taour and Shamaal were charged with a host of offenses including espionage, blasphemy, and various crimes against the state, a similar menu of accusations that Sudanese pastors Peter Yein Reith and Yat Michael Ruot faced in 2015.
Their case aroused international furor calling for their release. Thankfully, Sudanese authorities released Peter and Michael in August 2015 after almost nine months locked up.
Taour has languished in a Sudanese prison cell since December, suffering stomach ulcers, facing bribes and pressure to recant his faith. Authorities also blocked his access to legal counsel and family visits for the first five months, a direct violation of his human rights. Shamaal was arrested on the same date in December, released, but then re-arrested on May 24.
“Initially they were put in a very small dark room but they have yet been transferred to a bigger room of 4, Haasan, Kuwa, another Christian, and a Muslim. They are not tortured, per se, but sometimes wardens come by and threaten them that if they don’t convert to Islam and accept their charges they will be hung,” their lawyer told International Christian Concern (ICC).
Ridicule and intimidation is nothing new for followers of Christ. Jesus urged his followers to consider themselves “blessed… when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11b ESV).
Taour and Shamaal are walking through a season of faith that unites them to saints who came before, unyielding in their devotion to Christ under extreme pressure.
“They are scared about their lives,” their lawyer told ICC. “They have been very prayerful and cooperative so far. Their families have been a great inspiration,” he said.
Much like Peter and Michael who went before them and rejoiced through suffering, Taour and Shamaal appeal to Jesus who promises “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7a ESV),” which guards them in this time of trouble.
A Legal Irony
According to their defense attorney, the case presented against Taour and Shamaal is “both vague and silly, based on pictures of Sudan’s Army headquarters found on their computers, pictures of people gathering and conspiring against the government, [and] pictures of suspicious people planning a terror attack and preaching to Muslims.”
Similar to Peter and Michael’s case where the defendants faced similar evidence, the defense lawyer believes this prosecution’s case is “unacceptable” and fails to substantiate any credible reason to put the accused to death.
“They need a fair hearing,” he said. “They have not committed any crime against the state and they deserve to be free.”
The attorney also noted that preaching is also legal in Sudan, even though it remains a Muslim-dominated country.
The great irony is that while Shamaal and Taour are innocent, the Sudanese government has broken its own law. The Sudanese constitution demands that anyone arrested must face charges or be released within 45 days, a threshold Taour passed in February.
While Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir remains committed to an agenda promoting a fully Islamized nation, his government’s means of trying to accomplish this actually handicaps their global image.
Every day that Taour and Shamaal add to their time served emphasizes the obvious gulf between their own blamelessness while subject to authorities who expose their own crimes and legal failings through these Christians’ ongoing detention.
ICC calls on anyone concerned to contact the Sudanese Ambassador to the United States, Maowia Osman Khalid, at (202) 338-8565 to demand the immediate release of Hassan Abduraheem Taour and Kuwa Shamaal, according to the tenets held out in Sudan’s own constitution. You should also mention that ICC and our partners have authored a letter and have petitioned the Sudan Embassy for the release of these men.