A Special Report by ICC/Persecution.org
7/4/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – An Islamic leader has rebuked his government for not taking decisive action against Christians operating “boldly” in the country, typifying the disturbing response of Islamic leaders to the growth of the Church in Sudan.
On May 14, Ammar Saleh, the chairman of the Islamic Centre for Preaching and Comparative Studies, bemoaned the increase in apostasy, the growth of the Church and the alleged failure of the state to protect Islam from the double threats of Christianity and Atheism.
Saleh pointed out the disturbing decline in people’s interest in converting to Islam, stating that it was non-existent. He argued that anyone who believes there’s growth in Sudan’s Islamic faithful is “living on Mars,” drawing attention to increasing proselytizing and an exodus of Muslims to Christianity.
Taking Khartoum as a pattern of things, he pointed out that aggressive missionary work resulted in 109 “apostates” who abandoned Islam and turned to faith in Christ. He also added that cases of apostasy and atheism are on the rise, while authorities are negligent in addressing the issue. He expressed concern over the way the figures were rising in a “continuous” and “scary” fashion, especially with the presence of atheists and homosexuals.
Although Islamic law has not yet been fully implemented, Saleh derided his government for neglecting the issue of apostasy, appealing to official bodies and the community to take a stand against the “Christianization” of Sudan and find a long-term solution to the problem. He also stated that the government’s efforts to curb the rise of Christianity were timid as compared to the efforts of missionaries to lead people to Christ.
In response to his comments, Open Doors USA Spokesman, Jerry Dykstra, says, “The bad news is that he wants to put more pressure on the government and the army to crack down on the Christians there. But the good news is that many there are coming to Christ. It's been difficult for them obviously, but they are growing in numbers.”
Saleh’s derision of the government was paired with accusations against the church by Adam Mudawi, a member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), who claimed the NCP has information that the Orthodox Church in Ombadda is hiding a large cache of weapons. He also accused Christians of exploiting the poor by offering financial support and assistance if they convert to Christianity.
Saleh and Mudawi’s criticism of the government and accusations against the church come at a critical time in Sudan, when Sudanese Christians have seen a dramatic increase in pressure over the past few months.
In February, at least 55 Christians linked to the evangelical church in Khartoum were detained without charge. On Feb. 18, the cultural center of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Khartoum was raided by the National Intelligence and Security Services. Three people were arrested and several items were confiscated, including books and media equipment, according to Charisma News.
Spike in Repression
Churches are being forced to close down, foreign workers are being kicked out of the country and Christians are constantly pressurized by the government and society in all kinds of ways, so much so that the recent increase in Christian persecution in Sudan moved the country from being ranked 16th on the 2012 Open Doors World Watch List to 12th in 2013.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s (CSW) advocacy director, Andrew Johnston, says, “The recent spike in religious repression in Sudan is deeply worrying. The minister’s claims of guaranteeing freedom to worship are at odds with regular reports of Christians being harassed, arrested and, in some cases, expelled from the country at short notice.”
According to a briefing published by CSW in April 2013, Sudan has witnessed 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. There has also been a systematic targeting of members of African ethnic groups, particularly the Nuba, lending apparent credence to the notion of the resurgence of an official agenda of Islamisation and Arabisation.”
The report also stated that, “In addition to the arrests and deportations, local reports cite a media campaign warning against ‘Christianisation,'" a concern that was confirmed in Saleh’s comments at the press conference.
It is feared that Saleh’s reckless indictment of the government and public denouncement of Christianity will only fuel the rising hostility against Christians, inviting unwarranted backlashes from government and society.
The Sudanese government is called upon to respond to Saleh’s comments with wisdom and fortitude, recognizing the suffering inflicted on Christians for simply choosing their religion. Sudan is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and it must honor its responsibility to bring an end to its campaign of harassment against the Christian community and work towards establishing a just society where people are free to choose their faith.