Morning Star News

The future education of more than 1,000 pupils was unclear after authorities closed down a Christian school in eastern Sudan last week, sources said.

Civilians who bused in from Khartoum and elsewhere aided armed police in taking over the Evangelical Basic School in Madani, Al Jazirah state on 24th October, an area church leader said. It was the third raid on the school in two months, following efforts to seize the school on 4th October and 5th September. On 6th October, authorities jailed for four days Christian staff members who tried to prevent the seizure of the institution.

The National Ministry of Guidance and Endowments ordered the takeover of the Christian school so Islamist officials of Al Jazirah state can control it until courts determine final management, sources said.

“They just want to form a government body to run the school,” an area Christian told Morning Star News. “Muslims were on board the bus that came from Khartoum.”

School administrators and teachers are ethnic Nuba – increasingly targeted by a government that has vowed Islamic religion and Arabic culture will reign in Sudan – and from South Kordofan state, where Sudan is fighting an insurgency.

Parents of the students at the school organised a protest march last week to express their concern for their children’s education, an area pastor said.

“How can the government allow such an incident to happen to one of the best schools in the state?” he said.

A legal advisor for the Christian school urged the state government to allow classes to resume on Monday, but it was unclear whether the school would re-open. Local media reported the state Ministry of Education is planning to run the school via a committee selected by the government.

Arrested on 6th October along with Rev Samuel Suleiman, headmaster of the school, and Rev Ismail Zakaria, were seven other teachers who objected to the takeover of the school. The nine Christian staff members were detained until 9th October before being released on bail, accused of resisting authorities.

Civilians that came from Khartoum, 166 kilometres west, and other parts of the country to forcibly take control of the property acted with the help of five policemen, sources said.

Zakaria is pastor of the church to which the school belongs and is also a representative of the Evangelical Communion, which oversees the property. Armed police and officials from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on 5th September arrested Pastor Suleiman and 12 teachers at the school, accusing them of supporting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N), a rebel group fighting government forces farther south in the Nuba Mountains state of South Kordofan.

Pastor Suleiman has strongly denied the charge.

In the 5th September raid, police presented a letter from the National Ministry of Guidance and Endowments, addressed to the State Ministry of Social Welfare, ordering the handover of Evangelical Basic School to the government. The school serves more than 1,000 students, ages three to 18, in Madani. Established by the American Mission in 1901, it belongs to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church.