Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir under pressure to allow more religious freedom.
KHARTOUM, SUDAN (BosNewsLife)-- Devoted Christians in Sudan's largest city were without a place of worship Sunday, February 23 after authorities of the heavily Sunni Muslim nation destroyed their church building, local Christians and activists said.
Sudanese officials reportedly demolished and confiscated the Sudanese Church of Christ building in the Ombada area of Omdurman city on Monday, February, 17..
The building, home to a congregation of 300, was destroyed without prior notice to church authorities, Christians said.
When church leaders asked authorities to justify the demolition, they were allegedly told that it was in a "Muslim area" where the church was not wanted.
Police reportedly said orders for the demolition "came from above", apparently from local municipal authorities.
The reported attack against the church is part of wider campaign against Christians, suggested advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
"Since December 2012, CSW has noted an increase in the detention, harassment, monitoring and deportation
of Christians," the group said
"In April 2013, the Sudanese Minister for Guidance and Endowments [who oversees religious affairs] announced that no new church licenses would be issued. His justification was that the July 2011 secession of South Sudan led to lack of worshipers."
Christians have expressed concern that following South Sudan’s secession, President Omar al-Bashir said Sudan’s new constitution would be founded on Sharia, or Islamic law.
"The subsequent and seemingly systematic targeting of Christians and churches lends credence to widespread misgivings that the government is moving from a multi-ethnic and multi-religious national identity to a system where the rights of religious and ethnic minorities may not be respected," CSW argued.
CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that irregular demolition and confiscation of church property is "in violation of Sudan’s international obligations under article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)" to which the African nation is signatory.
"We urge the Sudanese authorities to return the land to the Sudanese Church of Christ and to resume the issuing of church licenses."
Thomas also said that his group is calling for drafting a new constitution in which the rights of Sudan’s minorities, such as Christians, are respected, "including the right to freedom of religion or belief."
He said that only a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state with rights for everyone "can guarantee the peace and prosperity the country so desperately needs after decades of war and upheaval."