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Sudanese court imposes fines on 7 church leaders for resisting takeover of church property

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

A Sudanese court has ordered seven church leaders to pay fines of 2,500 Sudanese pounds (US$137) each for resisting the takeover of their school in Omdurman.

According to Morning Star News, as many as 26 leaders of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) have appeared in court last week for participating in protests against the takeover of the Evangelical School of Omdurman. The seven church leaders were ordered to pay the fines, while 19 were released due to lack of evidence.

SPEC elder Yohanna Tia has been fined 5,000 Sudanese Pounds (US$275) after the court found him guilty under articles 182/183 for objection to authorities.

The church leaders had been resisting the demands to hand over church properties to Muslim businessman Hisham Hamad Al-Neel. In December, a judge ruled that Al-Neel should be allowed to take over the houses of two SPEC pastors, leaving two Christian families with children as young as 1-year-old homeless.

Al-Neel has been accused of trying to take over SPEC properties in Khartoum and Khartoum Bari. He is reportedly behind almost all of the cases filed in an attempt to acquire church property.

The cases of harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have increased since South Sudan seceded 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 the decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Many foreign Christians have been expelled from the country and several church buildings have been demolished on the pretext that they belong to the South Sudanese.

Additionally, the authorities have also raided Christian bookstores and reportedly threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.

In November, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan called for an end to the systematic confiscation and demolition of churches and mosques during his visit to Al-Koran Al-Karim University in Omdurman.

"The government of Sudan, including the federal states, should also immediately suspend demolition of places of worships, including mosques and churches," Sullivan said at the time.

The U.S. State Department has designated Sudan as a Country of Particular Concern since 1999 due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended in its 2017 report that Sudan remained on that list.

Meanwhile, persecution watchdog group Open Doors has ranked Sudan in its 2018 World Watch List as the fourth country where Christians face the most persecution.

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