After being promised by the government their church would not be destroyed, a Lutheran church in Sudan has been demolished. The church may not be rebuilt because of a law enacted in 2013 in Sudan that bans the building of any new churches.
“The government has lied to us, because they told us that this church will not be demolished,” one leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fear for his life.
The church in Omdurman was ostensibly bulldozed because it violated requirements that buildings in the locale may only be used for business. However, a mosque in the same area was left standing.
According to church leaders, government officials had told them the church would not be demolished. Later, they were notified they had 72 hours to prepare for the demolition.
“This is something that was well planned,” said a church leader.
Sudan has been persecuting Christians – bulldozing churches, arresting Christians, expelling foreign Christian and raiding Christian bookstores – since South Sudan seceded in 2011.
Open Doors International notes, “[Sudanese] President Bashir has used the rise of radical Islam to maintain his power base, and as such, his government has demolished churches, killed Christians through targeted bombings and allowed others to kill Christians with impunity."
The organization says Islamic blasphemy laws are often used to prosecute Christians and put to them to death, particularly former Muslims who have converted to Christianity.
According to Christian Solidary Worldwide, "These incidents are part of the government's systematic restrictions on the rights and freedoms of Sudan's religious minorities that principally target the Christian faith.
The cruelty of Sudan’s treatment of Christians became an international issue in 2014 when Sudan sentenced a Christian doctor, Meriam Ibrahim Ishag, to death for her refusal to renounce her Christian faith.
Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother. Even though her father deserted the family when she was six years old and she was raised as Christian, she was considered a Muslim by sharia law.
Since Ibrahim was married to a Christian, the court also convicted her of having committed "zena" (illegitimate sex) with a non-Muslim man. For this crime, she was sentenced to 100 lashes.
Ibrahim, who was pregnant at the time, was arrested and thrown in jail with her toddler son. She gave birth shackled to the prison floor.
Ibrahim, whose husband was a nationalized American, was eventually freed in June 2014 due to enormous international pressure put on Sudan.
Get a preview of Clarion Project’s upcoming film, Faithkeepers, about the violent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The film features exclusive footage and testimonials of Christians, Baha’i, Yazidis, Jews, and other minority refugees, and a historical context of the persecution in the region.