Sudan releases pastor held without charges
JUBA, South Sudan (BP) -- Sudanese authorities have released one of two pastors detained without charges since December 2015, Morning Star News reported Jan. 31.
Kwa Shamaal, head of missions for the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), was arrested Dec. 18 and released Dec. 21, but had been required to report daily to the office of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), where he was held from 8 a.m. until midnight, sources said. That requirement was removed Jan. 16.
His colleague, SCOC vice moderator Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor, remains in detention.
NISS officials were said to have been upset with the pastors for telling others that Christians faced persecution in Sudan. Authorities had arrested the two from their respective homes at the same hour. No charges have been brought against them.
Since their arrest last year, Christians in Sudan and elsewhere have been praying fervently for the two pastors and for other Christians jailed in Sudan.
"Please do your best in prayer, and leave the rest to almighty God," one leader said to his prayer group.
"We really miss you very much, my dad," Abdelrahim's son wrote in a Facebook post.
Both church leaders are from the Nuba Mountain region of South Kordofan state. Ethnic Nuba along with Christians face discrimination in Sudan, where President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to adopt a stricter version of Islamic sharia law and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.
The government has destroyed churches and attacked Christians. After bulldozing a Lutheran Church of Sudan building in October 2015, authorities in the Karari area of Omdurman demolished an SCOC building that month without prior warning, church leaders said. Local authorities said the SCOC building was on government land, a claim church leaders adamantly denied. Shamaal's church building had been demolished in the Hai Thiba Al Hamyida area of Khartoum North in June 2014.
The Nuba people have longstanding complaints against Khartoum -- including neglect, oppression and forced conversions to Islam in a 1990s jihad -- but as Sudanese citizens on the northern side of the border with the new state of South Sudan created in 2011, they had never been given the option of secession in the 2005 peace pact between northern and southern Sudan.
The rebels in the Nuba Mountains formerly were involved with the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) forces fighting Khartoum before the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.
Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors' 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.