Authorities in Sudan recently arrested and jailed a church leader on charges of witchcraft for leading a prayer meeting for his ailing mother, sources said.
Pastor Abdalla Haron Sulieman was leading a prayer meeting for his mother, who suffered from an infection in her legs that kept her from walking, when authorities in El Hasahisa town, Al Jazirah state walked into the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church church site, Morning Star News reported.
His mother, 60-year-old Aisha Adam, was healed after he prayed for her, and others from the predominantly Muslim area began crowding in for healing, Morning Star reported. The meeting reportedly angered Muslim extremists who persuaded police to arrest the pastor on charges of claiming to be a witchdoctor.
“This is a serious violation against Christians in Sudan,” said evangelist Francis Ismail, who visited the pastor on Nov. 24.
Demands for pastor’s release
Sudanese Christians took to social media, some demanding the pastor’s immediate release, and others terming the jailing more evidence of ongoing and systematic persecution of Christians in Sudan.
“We need to continue to pray for our brother because he is in jail for the sake of the gospel,” said one Sudanese Christian on his Facebook page.
Following two years of advances in religious freedom in Sudan after the end of the Islamist dictatorship under Omar al-Bashir in 2019, the specter of state-sponsored persecution returned with the military coup of Oct. 25, 2021.
After Bashir was ousted from 30 years of power in April 2019, the transitional civilian-military government had managed to undo some sharia (Islamic law) provisions. It outlawed the labeling of any religious group “infidels” and thus effectively rescinded apostasy laws that made leaving Islam punishable by death.
Fearing old ways
With the Oct. 25, 2021 coup, Christians in Sudan fear the return of the most repressive and harsh aspects of Islamic law. Abdalla Hamdok, who had led a transitional government as prime minister starting in September 2019, was detained under house arrest for nearly a month before he was released and reinstated in a tenuous power-sharing agreement in November 2021.
Hamdock had been faced with rooting out longstanding corruption and an Islamist “deep state” from Bashir’s regime — the same deep state that is suspected of rooting out the transitional government in the Oct. 25, 2021 coup.
Persecution of Christians by non-state actors continued before and after the coup. In Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Sudan remained at No. 13, where it ranked the previous year, as attacks by non-state actors continued and religious freedom reforms at the national level were not enacted locally.
The Christian population of Sudan is estimated at 2 million, or 4.5% of the total population of more than 43 million.