Sudan is increasing its harassment of Christian ministers. On Wednesday, authorities arrested seven church leaders in the region of Omdurman and held them for six hours before releasing them on bail.
The men were arrested after refusing to comply with an order from Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments to turn over leadership of their congregations to the Sudanese government, according to a report from Morning Star News.
Two ministers from the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), Rev. Ayoub Mattan and Pastor Kwa Shamaal explained that they received the order on August 14; the ministers stood united in refusing, prompting law enforcement to begin an investigation.
Shamaal said, “Police asked if we still maintain our stance on our refusal to acknowledge the committee appointed by the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments, and we said yes, because it is not the work of the [South Sudanese government] to appoint committees for the church.”
SCOC elects new church leadership every three years. Ministers Mattan and Shamaal were legitimately elected and their terms do not expire until March 2018. They were arrested with fellow staff members Rev. Yagoub Naway, pastor Musa Kodi, finance secretary Abdulbagi Ali Abdulrahaman, and SCOC deputy finance secretary El-Amin Hassam Abdulrasool.
According to reports, the Sudanese government is trying to take over the church in order to sell off the property.
SCOC is not the only church that has been targeted for foreclosure. Earlier this month, members of the Sudan government and Muslim businessman Hisham Hamad Al-Neel targeted Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) and Omdurman Evangelical Church, seizing the houses of two lead ministers.
SPEC Pastor Nalu, his wife, and one-year old son were left homeless as a result of the raid.
“They came and knocked on the door strongly, then said, ‘Should you not open, we will have to break it by force to get in,” Nalu told Morning Star News. He added, “The situation is very difficult, and we are living on the street.”
The churches have since appealed the decision, but there is little interest from the judiciary.
Open Doors, a nonprofit that monitors Christian persecution, ranked Sudan number five on their World Watch List.