Sudan banning the construction of Christian churches raises the specter of a country-wide government crackdown on religious freedom for Christianity. Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments, Al Fatih Taj El-sir, announced April 17 that no more licenses will be issued to build churches. He stated a growing number of abandoned churches and lack of worshippers since South Sudan seceded in 2011 as the reason, the Sudan Tribune reported.
Since June 2012 authorities have reportedly destroyed several churches in and around Khartoum, including two churches belonging to the St John’s Episcopal Church. The two churches, located in Khartoum, were bulldozed under the order of the Ministry of Planning, who claimed they lacked permits. In April 2013, several Presbyterian churches were looted. Many other churches have been raided and had their books confiscated for content-checking.
Simultaneously, since December 2012 there has been “an increase in arrests, detentions and deportations of Christians and of those suspected of having links to them, particularly in Khartoum and Omodorum, Sudan’s largest cities,” Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported.
More than 50 Christians were detained without any charge in February in Khartoum, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported. In one instance, “the cultural center of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Khartoum was raided by the National Intelligence and Security Services,” resulting in three arrests and confiscating books and media equipment.
Whether someone is arrested or deported depends on citizenship status; foreign Christians are deported and Sudanese citizens are arrested, detained, and questioned. According to Charisma News, their mobile phones, identity cards, and laptops have also been confiscated. There is also a local media campaign warning Sudanese against “Christianisation.”
Church-affiliated institutions, such as orphanages and schools are also being targeted and closed, according to the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.
Minister Al Fatih Taj El-sir claims that while there is no need for new churches, people are guaranteed freedom to worship.