Date: October 29, 2012
Burned and ransacked in April, Christian compound faces further threats.
Special to Morning Star News
JUBA, South Sudan, October 29, 2012 (Morning Star News) â€“ Amid threats of further losses, classes resumed this month at a Khartoum Bible school and church compound that Muslim extremists set ablaze in April, an area Christian source said.
Students and administrators at Gerif West Bible School in Sudan have yet to fully recover their losses from the April 21 attack, but the source said classes resumed on Oct. 15 even as area Muslims vie to take school land and anti-Christian messages emanate from a nearby mosque loudspeaker on most Fridays.
Muslim leaders have been asserting through the mosque loudspeaker that Christian institutions should not be permitted in Sudan, as the country should be a â€œpurely Islamic stateâ€ since the secession of South Sudan on July 9, 2011, he said.
â€œWe are expecting the level of persecution to rise in Sudan in the coming days,â€ a pastor who works at the Bible school told Morning Star News by phone, adding that hostilities against churches and Christians were intensifying.
Islamist assailants shouting threats against Christians and â€œAllahu Akbar [God is greater]â€ on April 21 broke down the Christian compound wall with a bulldozer and set fire to the school and a Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) building. Also damaged were a clinic, a home for the elderly and living quarters.
The hard-line Muslim sheikh who led the attack, Muhammad Abdelkrim, on Sept. 21 urged Muslims to tolerate no Christian presence and to have no dealings with them because they were â€œinfidels,â€ the source said.
â€œWe will never forgive Christiansâ€ for not being Muslims, the imam declared during a mosque service on Sept. 21 through amplified loudspeakers, besides asserting that Christian institutions have no place in Sudan.
The attack ruined four halls used by three churches and burned the belongings of students at a dormitory. School library books, including 50 cartons of Bibles, were also destroyed. The assailants destroyed school furniture and broke into a safe and stole college funds.
Police stood by watching the destruction, according to a statement from SPEC.
The attacks followed an effort by area Muslims to take control of at least part of the land, and another attempt has since emerged.
The first attempt to seize the land came after the attacking Islamists obtained an approval from the Commissioner of Khartoum to take part of the property in April; with the intent of taking all of the property, according to SPEC, the mob showed up with a bulldozer on April 9 and threatened to demolish the Bible school.
â€œThe church was not informed [of the commissionerâ€™s decision],â€ said a SPEC statement at the time. â€œIt is not the mandate of the Commissioner of Khartoum to allocate a private property to others.â€
SPEC leaders held the documents showing proof of the churchâ€™s ownership of the land, and police were able to persuade the mob to withdraw. But with the support of â€œPublic Committees,â€ Islamist bodies supported by the government that monitor Christian activities in Sudan, the Islamic extremists continue to lay claim to the land as a justification for their threats to take it by force.
The Commissioner of Khartoum based his approval of the takeover on the mistaken assumption that the land belongs to South Sudanese Christians, and that it must therefore be confiscated since they were no longer citizens of Sudan following secession, according to SPEC.
In June, a new threat developed. Police on June 25 summoned three Bible school staff members to answer assertions by the sons of a former Arabic teacher at the school that they were the legal heirs of a part of the property since their father, Jabrah Hanaha, had lived on it before his death three years ago.
Police dropped the case after the schoolâ€™s lawyer presented the documents showing SPEC was the legal owner of the land, but Adil and Ezat Hanaha have continued to lay claim to the property with hopes that authorities sympathetic to Muslims will aid them.
Sudanese law and policy favors Muslims, and Sudanâ€™s Interim National Constitution holds up sharia (Islamic law) as a source of legislation, according to the U.S. Department of State. President Omar al-Bashir has vowed that Sudan will become a more strictly Islamic state.