Sudan arrests eight church leaders in six weeks

Authorities in Sudan have taken into custody eight church leaders in the recent weeks in what is seen as part of the government's efforts to take control of the churches in the country.

(REUTERS / Muhamed Nureldin Abdallah)A South Sudanese worshipper arrives to attend Sunday prayers in Baraka Parish church at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, February 10, 2013.

Speaking to the World Watch Monitor, local sources said police apprehended Sudan Church of Christ senior leader Mahjoub Abotrin in his home in Omdurman on Sept. 22. Officers reportedly interrogated him before he was set free, although it has not been confirmed if he was charged or not.

However, WWM thinks Abotrin was arrested because of his refusal to surrender his church leadership to officials determined by the government. His situation is not unique, though, as there are also other denominations in Sudan that are resisting the Sudanese government's attempts to take over their organizations.

The term of the present leadership of SCOC is set to end in March, but four of the church's leadership committee members were already warned by security officials last month of impending charges if they refuse to surrender their positions to government-appointed officials. In August, seven senior leaders of the SCOC were detained and interrogated for one day before being freed on bail.

Meanwhile, in refugee camps bordering Sudan and South Sudan, the children of Christian refugees are being pressured to convert to Islam in order to receive food rations, according to the Aid to the Church in Need. Some are being told to recite verses from the Quran and pray Muslim prayers even though they are Christian, Crux relayed.

"We have heard stories where children are conditioned to say Islamic prayers before [being] given food. This is not right," said an ACN worker who spoke under condition of anonymity. "These children are Christian. They should be respected as such."

The conflict between the two countries, which began in 2011 when South Sudan seceded from Sudan, has caused more than 400,000 South Sudanese people to flee to the neighboring Muslim majority country. Unfortunately, the latter country's government lacks resources to provide the basic needs of the refugees.