Sudanese authorities demolish Christian church and arrest pastors in the middle of Sunday service

Authorities in Khartoum State demolished a Christian church in the Soba Al-Aradi suburb on May 8 and arrested two of the pastors there in the middle of the Sunday service.

(REUTERS / Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)South Sudanese worshippers attend Sunday prayers in Alsalam, a destroyed church, at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, February 10, 2013.

In a statement, faith activist group International Solidarity Campaign with Sudanese Christians said members of the Sudanese Church of Christ Congregation were gathering for their Sunday service when government authorities arrived to bulldoze the church. The incident comes despite government officials' call to put a stop to church demolitions in the country, Sudan Tribune notes.

"This morning Sunday, May 7, 2017, while Sudanese Church of Christ Congregation gathering for Sunday services, Khartoum authorities bulldozed their church 'Soba Al Aradi church,'" said ISCSC in its statement. "Sudanese Christians are suffering from freedom of worship, arrestment of pastors, and confiscation of church properties."

In addition, ISCSC shared that two of the church's pastors, Paul Salah and Naji Abdallah, were arrested by Khartoum authorities. The faith activist group is now calling for an international campaign to protect Sudanese Christians' freedom of worship as well as their churches.

Around 27 churches in Sudan were set to be demolished as authorities do not recognize them as official churches, but the plan was delayed. Church leaders, on the other hand, contend that authorities do not issue building permits even when they apply for the construction of a house of worship. The situation has reportedly pushed them to gather in unofficial churches in Khartoum's suburbs.

Meanwhile, Sudanese authorities insist that freedom of religion is guaranteed. However, the publication notes that the President Omer al-Bashir said in 2011 that he wants to have a "100 percent Islamic constitution" after South Sudan separates from the country.

Just last month, the World Watch Monitor reported that a Sudanese Christian was killed during a peaceful protest against the government's authorizing the sale of a piece of land where a Christian school stood. The deal was done without the school's consent. A group of 20 people wielding knives and other weapons reportedly attacked the protesters, killing Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church member Younan Abdulla and wounding another named Ayoub Kumama.

The attackers were suspected to be linked to the government committee that approved the sale of the Christian school's property. Middle East Concern reported that one of the committee members, Shamshoun Hamoud, was arrested after he was identified by the eyewitnesses as the one who attacked Abdulla.