By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A human rights organization has learned that at least 55 Christians have been detained without charge by the Sudanese government for about two weeks.
According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), its sources say the group, which has no political affiliations and includes church leaders, has been falsely accused of receiving money from foreign countries, including Israel.
CSW said the arrests are the latest development in a wave of repression that began towards the end of last year targeting Christian volunteers. It has reportedly resulted in the deportations of around 100 foreign workers, while a number of Sudanese Christians have been detained for questioning by the security services.
According to local reports, CSW said, the repression was preceded by a media campaign against "Christianization," and was accompanied by the closure of a number of Christian-affiliated schools, colleges and training centers.
CSW said there have been concerns about increasing pressure on churches in Sudan since the creation of South Sudan in 2011. President Al-Bashir has repeatedly stated that Sudan's new constitution would be 100 percent Islamic.
The president has also claimed that "all parties, religious sects and Sufis" would be represented in the constitutional drafting committee. However, CSW said, no further details have been given about its progress.
CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said in the news release, "CSW is deeply concerned at these arbitrary arrests and news of an escalating crackdown on Christian citizens in Sudan. We urge the Sudanese government to release these prisoners and end its campaign of harassment against the Christian community."
He added, "We also urge the government once again to undertake broad consultations during the drafting of the new constitution and to ensure that it recognizes the rights of all Sudanese citizens, to freedom of religion or belief, as outlined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is a signatory."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
For further information, visit www.csw.org.uk.