[Juba, South Sudan, TCT] A senior cleric in the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan has called for the release of four men, including three pastors, held in detention in Sudan by national security agents.
Bishop Andudu Elnail (left), who is the chairman of the Committee for Religious Freedom and Citizenship Rights (CRFCR), called for the immediate release of the men being held, adding that their charges should be cancelled and their trial stopped.
The bishop from diocese of Kadugli in the Nuba Mountains, has accused Sudan government of a deliberate prosecution policy aimed at uprooting Christians from the country.
“In pursuance of this new policy, three priests and an abstract artist have been unlawfully arrested by the agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS),” he said.
Bishop Andudu is urging the international community to put pressure on the government of Sudan to respect the constitutional rights of Sudanese citizens, including observing religious freedom; to stop persecution of Christians; and to stop destroying churches and places of worship.
He revealed that the men being detained are Rev. Hassan Kodi Taour, a 49-year-old Nuba native, who is the Secretary-General of the Sudanese Church of Christ; Pastor Kuwa Shemaal, a 40-year-old Nuba native, who is the Head of the Missions of the Sudanese Church of Christ; Abd al-Moneim ‘Abd al-Moula Issa, a 30-year-old native from Darfur, who is a pastor and human rights activist; and Peter al-Jack, an abstract artist.
“We are gravely concerned about the Sudanese Government’s ongoing detention of these pastors,” he said in statement extended to TCT.
The four, who have been in detention since December 2015, are charged with conspiring against the state, espionage, entering and photographing military areas, calling for the use of violence against the authorities, provoking hatred against or among sects and spreading false information. If convicted, the four could either be sentenced to death or imprisoned for life.
The CRFCR says it strongly believes that the charges are fabricated and are only intended to harass and terrorise Christians in the country and to prevent them from practising their faith.
The families of the accused and church authorities have been prevented from visiting them. The bishop and families believed that the detained pastors are at risk of torture.
Lawyers have also been denied access to them. One of them, Rev. Kodi is believed to be suffering from a duodenal ulcer and there are fears that his conditions could worsen as a result of this prolonged detention.
The CRFCR says that arrests, confiscations and demolition of churches have increased, and the government has stated that it will not issue licenses to build new churches, leaving a number of congregations without a place of worship.
At the same time, foreign Christian workers have been deported out of the country and Sudan has stopped the import of Christian literature and scriptures, while confiscating most of Christian literature in the country and closing the only Christian bookshop in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
“Despite the constitution, public rhetoric and media smart public relations, the Sudan Government continues to follow and apply a radical version of Islam that has no room or tolerance for other faiths,” bishop Andudu said.
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This is not the first time that Christians in Sudan are finding themselves in such a situation. In April 2013, the NISS detained more than 60 Nuba Christians in Omdurman and al-Obeid. Although some Muslim activists were detained during the campaign, the authorities concentrated its arrests on members of Episcopal and Christ churches.