Christian lawyer flees Sudan after death threats

Published 22 November 2013  |  

Morning Star News (http://morningstarnews.org), is reporting that a Christian lawyer helping to promote religious freedom in Sudan has fled the country after authorities threatened to kill him if he failed to report to them every day, his attorney said.

As Sudan prepares to draft a new constitution, personnel from Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in Khartoum this year questioned the lawyer, Nahmia Ibrahim Omer Shaloka, about conducting training on religious freedom and reconciliation in Sudan, he told Morning Star News.

"After security officials arrested him at his home in Khartoum on May 27 and seized his documents, laptop and Internet modem, they interrogated him for eight hours, he said," reported the Sudan Correspondent for Morning Star News.

"While in custody, they interrogated me about many things, including workshops I conducted on freedom of religion in Sudan," Shaloka said.

If he failed to report to their office on a daily basis, the NISS officials threatened to kill him, he said. Later in the year, he managed to flee to another country, where the now destitute Christian from the Nuba Mountains has few options but feels that his life is less in jeopardy.

"I knew it would be bad if I had returned back to them," Shaloka said.

As a rights worker for a Christian organization, Shaloka had been collaborating with other civil society groups urging Sudan to include religious freedom provisions in the constitution to replace the Interim National Constitution that grew out of the 2005 peace agreement with southern Sudan.

"The interim constitution upholds sharia (Islamic law) as a source of legislation, and the laws and policies of the government favor Islam, according to the U.S. Department of State," added the story. "If Sharia is further entrenched in the Sudanese constitution, Christians fear they and people of other faiths will lose all religious and many other civil rights.

"How and when the new constitution will be formulated is a matter of deep uncertainty.

"Christian institutions formerly owned by or associated with southern Sudanese Christians have already faced months of seizure or destruction at the hands of authorities influenced by Islamist elements. Among them is a Catholic school that authorities confiscated on the claim that its ownership can be traced to southern Sudanese who lost citizenship rights following the secession of South Sudan on July 9, 2011."

Authorities from Khartoum's Karary District - north of Omdurman District, where the church is located - first forcefully entered Comboni School more than a year ago, confiscating the building on August 5, 2012 on the claim that it belonged to South Sudanese who were no longer citizens.

"We were so surprised to learn that some people are determined to seize the school and make many students go without school," said a school official.

Morning Star News went on to say that the school produced documents showing it belonged not to South Sudanese but to the Khartoum Diocese of the Catholic Church and made several appeals to Khartoum state officials and the Court of Appeal. That court ruled on March 26, however, that the school belonged to South Sudanese.

The Khartoum state minister of education subsequently determined that the school was owned by the Catholic Church, not South Sudanese, and school officials on May 14 instructed the Karary District officials to turn the property over to them. The Karary officials refused based on the court's refusal to acknowledge ownership by the Catholic Church.

"We would like to assert that the school belongs to the Catholic Church," the school official said.

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