Date: May 25, 2015
By Scott A. Morgan, Special to ASSIST News Service
KHARTOUM, SUDAN (ANS – May 25, 2015)-- May 19th, 2015, was a dark day for Christianity in Sudan. For on that date, two pastors from South Sudan, Yat Michael and Peter Yen, went on trial. They are being charged with spying and crimes against the state. The punishment for these charges is capital punishment.
So what did these gentlemen do to warrant such a response from the authorities in Khartoum? We know that these pastors were not arrested together, but at different times. Mr. Michael was taken into custody while leading prayers in a Presbyterian church on December 21, 2014. The initial reason for the trip to Khartoum was to seek medical attention for an illness affecting their child.
According to some reports, Mr. Yen aka David Yein Reith was taken into custody after entering the Religious Affairs Office inquiring into the Status of Mr. Michael after being taken into custody on January 11th. Both Men are members of the South Sudan Presbyterian Church.
As with most cases of Freedom of Religion violations there is a interesting backstory. It appears that the congregation at the heart of the controversy the SPEC (Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church) in Khartoum North. (Bahri). This congregation has had a series of issues with the Government over land rights. In December 2014 part of the Church was destroyed.
This is not the first time the authorities in Khartoum has destroyed Churches in the country. In 2014 churches in the capital of Khartoum and in Omdurman were destroyed. The Minister for Religious Affairs had indicated that no new permits for Church construction would be issued by his ministry in July 2014. There were very few voices of criticism within the International Community after this announcement was made last summer.
What is the next step? Currently there is a twelve-day recess in this trial. This was to give the National Intelligence and Surveillance Service (NISS) time to send a representative to the trial. It was this agency that first took the pastors into custody and drafted the charges that they currently face. Regarding the question of whether or not these two pastors will be convicted, there is some optimism that the two could be acquitted. But the justice system in a heavily Muslim country may not be fair to the South Sudanese.
Photo captions:1) Church service in Sudan. 2) Scott A. Morgan in Washington, DC..