Fears for religious minorities in Sudan

The secession of South Sudan in 2011 prompted many Christians to leave the largely Muslim SudanAP

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has raised concerns about the future of Christians and other minorities in Sudan after reports that authorities demolished a Sudanese Church of Christ building and confiscated the land.

Morning Star News reports that the church in the Ombada area of Omdurman, the second largest city in Sudan, was demolished on February 17 without prior notice to church authorities.

When the church complained, authorities said it was a Muslim area and as such, a church was not wanted there.

The authorities also said they had been ordered to demolish the church by superiors. Christian Solidarity Worldwide said this indicated the orders had come from the Ombada locality or the Omdurman city council.

The demolition leaves the congregation of 300 with the difficulty of having to search for another place to meet for worship.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said the demolition and confiscation of church land was a violation of Sudan's international obligations under article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

"We urge the Sudanese authorities to return the land to the Sudanese Church of Christ and to resume the issuing of church licenses," he said.

CSW said there had been an increase in detentions and the harassment, monitoring and deportation of Christians in Sudan since December 2012.

The Sudanese Minister for Guidance and Endowments announced in April last year that no more church licenses would be issued on the grounds that the secession of the largely Christian South Sudan the year before had led to a lack of worshippers in Sudan.

There are concerns that harassment and "systematic targeting" of Christians and other minorities will increase in the future as the new constitution is being drafted according to Sharia law.

Mr Thomas called upon Sudan to guarantee the rights of minorities in the new constitution, including the right to freedom of religion or belief.

"Only the creation of a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state in which the rights of all citizens are respected can guarantee the peace and prosperity the country so desperately needs after decades of war and upheaval," he said.

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