Sudan bans the construction of new churches days after a church was demolished in Khartoum

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Sudanese Christians reacted with anger and surprise last weekend when it was announced that no new churches will be allowed to be built.

Guidance and Endowments Minister Shalil Abdullah announced Saturday that there were enough churches already, and prohibited the construction of new houses of worship.

Sudan Council of Churches Secretary-General Rev. Kori El Ramli said the announcement follows the destruction of a church on June 30 in Khartoum. Officials have not identified a reason for the demolition, and church leaders were given only one day's notice before the church was destroyed.

Rev. El Ramli said that the number of Christians in Sudan is increasing, and that more churches will be needed.

"We want the government to give us new plots so we can build a new church," he told BBC's "Focus on Africa" radio show.

"We are citizens and the constitution says there is freedom of religion and worship so we are using this to get our rights."

In addition to the destruction of churches, El Ramli reported that Christians were forced to move from an area outside of Omdurman to an area north of the city. The church that the Christians attended was bulldozed, and they no longer have a place to worship.

The Council of Churches held a workshop on Monday, but it was interrupted by government officials who accused them of proselytizing, El Ramli said.

Some Sudanese Christians are afraid to attend church services out of fear of violence or other retaliation.

"The church is now contaminated with terror," a Christian activist told Radio Dabanga after the Khartoum church was destroyed. "You don't feel safe in prayer."

A church was also demolished in Omdurman in February.

Sudanese religious freedom became an international topic this year after Christian Meriam Ibrahim was arrested and sentenced to death for apostasy. Her sentence was overturned on appeal, and she is awaiting transport to the United States, where her husband is a citizen.

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