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Sudanese authorities tear down evangelical church despite pending court battle

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

Authorities in Sudan have demolished an evangelical church in the Khartoum suburb of Haj Yousif shortly after the worship service on Sunday despite a pending court battle over its ownership.

Officials reportedly confiscated furniture, Bibles and musical instruments before sending a bulldozer to tear down the evangelical church building belonging to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC).

"We had hoped [officials] would not attack our church outside of the court ruling, but it is clear the government is acting outside of the courts," a SPEC leader, who wished to remain anonymous, told World Watch Monitor.

The authorities said that the demolition took place because the worship service at the church created public disturbances, but Christian leaders claimed that the building was situated on a land that a Muslim businessman wanted to seize with the help of the government.

The leaders of the demolished church have said that the Muslim who wanted to seize the property have produced forged documents claiming ownership of the church. However, the leaders noted that the church has owned the property since 1989, and its ownership was verbally confirmed by a judge last year.

SPEC pastor Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu said that the demolition would not stop Christians from worshipping.

"These crazy actions will not stop us from praying and praising God! God is Almighty," he told Morning Star News.

World Watch Monitor noted that the demolished church has been placed on a list of 27 churches that the government wanted to tear down because they were said to be in violation of the designated purposes of the land they were built on.

Earlier this month, a court had imposed fines on seven SPEC leaders for resisting the takeover of their school in Omdurman.

As many as 26 church leaders have appeared in court recently for resisting attempts to illegally take over the Evangelical School of Omdurman. Nineteen leaders have been freed for lack of evidence, but seven were fined 2,500 Sudanese pounds (US$137) each.

Meanwhile, five leaders of the Sudan Church of Christ (SCOC) will be appearing in court on March 6 to face unknown charges in another case involving a church in Khartoum. They were arrested in October 2017 and were asked to turn over the ownership of their church from their church-elected committee to a state-sanction rival committee.

The five men refused and were eventually released, but they were arrested again a few days later and were charged with causing sound pollution because their church services were "too noisy."

Christians in Sudan have been increasingly facing arrests, harassment and persecution since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011.

In April 2013, the Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced that it will no longer grant new licenses for the construction of new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

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