World Watch Monitor

Five Sudanese Christians arrested, but later released earlier in October have now been charged with causing sound pollution through overly loud church services.

The five church leaders – Ayouba Telyan, Abdelbagi Tutu, Ali El Hakim, Ambarator Hamad and Haibil Ibrahim – were summoned to court on Thursday, but immediately told their hearing was to be postponed until 31st October).

On 23rd October, the chairman of Sudan’s main opposition National Umma Party, Sadiq al-Mahdi, said their arrests were “an attack on religious freedoms that may lead to a sectarian strife in the country”. A former Sudanese Prime Minister, he returned to Sudan from Egypt in January, vowing to “to stop war, achieve peace and set up democracy and restitution of rights” and to “work to fight Islamic extremist groups and revive moderate Islam”.

“The continued violation of religious, media, and political freedoms is another proof that the lifting of the US sanctions was only a means of granting an umbrella for the regime to continue its oppression [of the people] in all its forms,” he said on 23rd October. “[We call on] all political forces, unions, civil society and pressure groups to condemn this brutal attack against our Christian brethren.”

Christians wonder whether the easing of sanctions will prompt the Sudanese government to be more open to finally releasing a consignment of Bibles held in Port Sudan for at least two years. A senior church leader told World Watch Monitor last week the Bible Society has not had Bibles to distribute in Sudan since around 2013.

“They need Bibles, they need materials. It’s very difficult for them to get them now,” he said. “The government is denying their right to know their own belief and study their own religion.”

Meanwhile, a verdict is expected on  30th October in the case of another church denomination, the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), which has been fighting for its right to choose its own chairman.

Rafat Samir, who was appointed chair of the Council in 2012, is accused by his predecessor of trespassing, criminal possession and illegally impersonating the chair of the Council, a role his predecessor, Hamad Muhammad Salah, claims still belongs to him.

Mr Salah was dismissed from the role in 2012 for fraud, but the government reinstated him, even though it had no legal authority to do so.

Since his reinstatement, Mr Salah has sold off church property to businessmen with links to the government, even though last year an administrative court in Sudan ruled that Samir, not Salah, is the legal chair of the council.