Date: March 25, 2016
Pastor required to report to NISS office daily for interrogation.
JUBA, South Sudan, March 25, 2016 (Morning Star News ) – Authorities in Sudan are requiring a church leader in the Khartoum area to report to security officials daily until midnight after arresting and releasing him on Monday (March 21), sources said.
Pastor Ayoub Tilian, moderator of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) was arrested at his office in Omdurman, across the River Nile from Khartoum, and was taken to an unknown location.
Later on Monday he was released but ordered to go to offices of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Services (NISS) for interrogation. NISS agents, upset about a recent conference of church leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, questioned him about whether statements were made at the gathering that the Sudanese government was persecuting Christians, sources said.
NISS, said to be staffed by hard-line Islamists, had also required another SCOC leader, the Rev. Kwa Shamaal, to report daily and questioned him about the same conference. He was arrested on Dec. 18 and released on Dec. 21 but had been required to report daily to a NISS office, where he was held from 8 a.m. until midnight. That requirement was removed on Jan. 16.
Shamaal is head of missions for the SCOC. His colleague, the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor, SCOC vice-moderator, remains in detention without charges. Authorities had arrested the two pastors from their respective homes at the same hour. No charges have been brought against them, although NISS officials were said to have objected to their Christian activities.
“Things are very difficult here in Sudan as time after time we hear that a church leader is arrested,” said an area source.
Along with Abdelrahim Tawor, authorities have detained Telahoon Nogose Kassa of Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church without charges; the families of both church leaders are prohibited from visiting them. Last week NISS also arrested pastor Philemon Hassan of the Baptist Church in Khartoum.
Most SCOC members are from the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, where the government is fighting an insurgency. Ethnic Nuba, along with Christians, face discrimination in Sudan, where President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.
Shamaal’s church building was demolished in the Hai Thiba Al Hamyida area of Khartoum North on June 29-30, 2014. Last year, after bulldozing a Lutheran Church of Sudan (LCS) building on Oct. 21, authorities in the Karari area of Omdurman demolished an SCOC building on Oct. 27 without prior warning, church leaders said. Local authorities said the SCOC building was on government land, a claim church leaders adamantly denied.
The Nuba people have longstanding complaints against Khartoum – including neglect, oppression and forced conversions to Islam in a 1990s jihad – but as Sudanese citizens on the northern side of the border, they were never given the option of secession in the 2005 peace pact between northern and southern Sudan.
The rebels in the Nuba Mountains were formerly involved with the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces fighting Khartoum before the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan broke out in June 2011, when Khartoum forcefully attempted to disarm the SPLA-N in South Kordofan by force rather than awaiting a process of disarmament as called for in the CPA. When the CPA was signed in 2005, the people of South Kordofan were to vote on whether to join the north or the south, but the state governor suspended the process.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.
Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.