Sudanese churches in defiant open letter: We are victims of 'systematic violation of Christian religious freedoms'
Sudanese Churches have written a defiant open letter to the government, criticising a spate of church demolitions and accusing it of 'systematic violation of Christian religious freedoms'.
The strongly worded letter from the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) is likely to provoke a reaction from Khartoum and one source inside Sudan described it as the churches' 'boldest move' yet.
'Over the past years they have complained against all violations of religious rights to all pertinent government bodies, but it is the first time such a letter is distributed on social media,' he said according to the persecution watchdog World Watch Monitor.
Dated May 16, the letter outlines the 'hard conditions' Christians leaders have faced in recent years, including the demolition of churches, confiscation of property, government failure to allocate land for construction of any new churches, and travel restrictions on senior figures.
Dozens of buildings have been destroyed or are set to be taken down, including Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical, Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostal churches, with the government claiming they violate designated purposes for these plots of land.
'We feel deeply sorry and strongly condemn these abusive procedures against the holy places, and we hold the National Intelligence and Security Services [NISS] responsible for the damages and other consequences [that] can be caused due to their confiscation of documents,' the letter states.
'We also hold the land authorities of the Ministry of the Planning and Infrastructure Development of the Khartoum state responsible for the attacks against the Church and [for] the financial damages caused.'
It goes on to call on the government to hand back land confiscated and asks foreign human rights groups to intervene.
It comes after the Sudanese government blocked new licences for churches in April 2013 saying there was no need for more church buildings as the mainly-Christian South Sudanese refugees were returning to their country since its succession in 2011.
But since then authorities have also continued the gradual confiscation of properties linked to churches, World Watch Monitor claims.