Sudanese authorities arrest two Christians during demolition of church

(Wikimedia Commons/David Stanley)St. Matthew's Cathedral, Khartoum.

Sudanese authorities arrested two Christians on Sunday as bulldozers tore apart their church in Khartoum's Soba al-Aradi suburb on Sunday.

Christians were reportedly preparing for the worship service when a bulldozer sent by Jebel Aulia locality and the Ministry of Planning and Urban Development arrived to demolish the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) building at about 2:30 p.m., Morning Star News reported.

Two church members, Bulis Salah and Naji Abdalla, were arrested for refusing to open the church gate. They were taken to the National Intelligence and Security Services office and interrogated before the authorities released them later that day.

The church building, established in 1989, was used by three congregations because it was the only one left in the area following the demolition of 12 other church buildings in 2011.

Reverend Elias Abdelrahim, a priest of the SCOC, said that the officials cited the lack of construction permit as the reason for the demolition, but the church leaders did not receive any official notification.

"The only warning was an unofficial verbal warning from a police sergeant without specifying the date of the removal," he said.

Sudanese authorities announced expressed their intentions to demolish 27 churches in February, but the plans were delayed after a court appeal was made.

Government officials have claimed that the churches were built on either government land or on designated residential areas, but church leaders asserted that it is part of a wider crackdown on Christianity.

Abdelrahim said the church leaders are now trying to find a temporary place to pray. He said that they will make the effort to complete all administrative procedures before attempting to rebuild the church.

A team of lawyers is also negotiating with the land authorities and the Ministry of Urban Planning to plan the reconstruction of parts of the church.

Dimas James Marjan, one of the lawyers that follows-up the case for SCOC, said the material loss resulting from the demolition was huge.

"The removal process was not done by legal means and confirms that we will resort to the judiciary in order to get compensation for the losses," he told Radio Dabanga.

Marjan argued that the authorities should have issued a written legal warning that can be "affixed to the door in event of the absence of a person in the building, and a known time limit, before launching the removal."

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