Muslim extremists in Sudan interrupted worship services at a local church and assaulted three people, including the church’s pastor.
Morning Star News reports the attack happened on April 10 at the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) in Al Hag Abdalla, about 85 miles southeast of Khartoum in Madani, Al Jazirah state.
Three Muslim extremists reportedly stopped the congregation’s morning worship services. One of the men attacked Pastor Stephanou Adil Kujo, punching him in the face. The man also assaulted two women, who later required medical attention.
The other two assailants allegedly tore up Bibles and broke several chairs in the building.
When Pastor Kujo and others went to the police station to file a complaint against the Muslims, the pastor was charged with disturbing the peace and public disturbance, his attorney Shanabo Awad told Morning Star News.
The attorney said the extremist who attacked Kujo is facing the same charges. “It is surprisingly strange that the pastor is accused and charged,” Awad told the news outlet.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported that the previous Sunday, April 3, extremists had prevented church members from entering the church building. They claimed it belonged to Muslims. But area church leaders said the facility belongs to the Catholic Church, which makes it available to the Christian community for worship and other activities.
Local extremists from the strict Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam have harassed the church since 2019, according to CSW.
“Incidents include the positioning of sound systems outside the building to criticize the church and the filing of complaints against church leaders, accusing them of disturbing the peace and disturbing people of other faiths in the area,” according to CSW.
Last February, church leaders were detained and questioned after a group of Muslims locked the church building on Feb. 21. Dalman Hassan, an SCOC evangelist who was arrested on Feb. 27 and released along with the church pastor later that day, said the group of Muslims accused church members of hostility toward Islam by holding gatherings on Fridays, the Muslim day of mosque prayer, according to Morning Star News.
After the end of Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist dictatorship in 2019, the specter of state-sponsored persecution returned with a military coup last October.
The country borders the Sahara Desert in eastern Central Africa. It is the third-largest country on the continent.
Sudan is ranked #13 on the Open Doors Worldwide Watch List. It dropped out of the list’s top 10 for the first time in six years in 2021.
The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report states that conditions have improved somewhat since the decriminalization of apostasy and a halt to the demolition of churches, but hardline Islam still dominates Sudanese society. Christians face discrimination, including problems in obtaining licenses for constructing church buildings.
In 2019, the State Department removed Sudan from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and upgraded it to a watch list. The department removed Sudan from the Special Watch List in December 2020. Sudan had previously been designated as a CPC from 1999 to 2018.
The Christian population of Sudan is estimated to be almost 2 million, or 4.5 percent of the total population of more than 44 million.