Persecution Stories

"Still Not Free" - The Fate of Sudanese Christians, Part II

[Editor's Note: This is part II of an important story published by NubaReports.org on the continuing crisis in Sudan regarding the persecution of that country's growing Christian population. Despite political posturing of Sudan's Islamist government, trying to redefine itself as a "moderate" regime, the sad reality on the ground is very much the same as it ever was. After a lot of rhetoric and promises, Sudanese Christians are still not free.]by Tom Rhodes, nubareports.org

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Just days before the president pardoned Abdelrahim and Abdelmoula, Khartoum state authorities destroyed another church 19 kilometers outside the capital in Soba al-Radi. Authorities under the Ministry of Planning and Development bulldozed the church on a Sunday, May 7, as Christians prepared to worship.

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The government said in a statement the church was built on land allocated for residential use. The church is among 25 other churches the state has marked for demolition in a June 2016 letter, claiming they were all built on land zoned for other purposes.

But according to Pastor Elias Abdelrahim, who manages the Soba al-Radi Church, the building was first built on empty land in 1986 and they have been trying to attain legal documentation ever since.

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(Muhanad) Nur, who also represents the now demolished church, said the government had provided land registration certificates for several mosques in the area but not the church – despite its long tenure. Nur had filed a 15-day abstention with the court of appeal to block the church’s demolition but the government ignored the court order.

“Now we gather at the church’s yard to pray, because we fear the remains of the building may fall on our heads.”

–Pastor Elias Abdelrahim, Head of Soba Al-Radi Church

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Three congregations used to attend Soba Al-Radi Church since it was the only church in the area following the demolition of 12 other church buildings over the past six years, news reports said. Sometimes over 200 people would pray there, Abdelrahim said.

“Now we gather at the church’s yard to pray, because we fear the remains of the building may fall on our heads,” he said.

The U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Ervin Massinga visited the demolition site. “This is a very sad and regrettable situation,” Massinga said in a short video. “Religious freedom and rule of law go hand-in-hand. Yes, rule of law is important, but without religious freedom, it is hollow.”

The parliamentary chairman of Sudan’s Legislation and Justice Committee, Ahmed El Tijani, defended the demolition in a statement, claiming the move was purely for land ownership reasons and not based on religious discrimination.

A month earlier, a group raided the Evangelical School of Sudan to quell a protest and killed church elder Yunan Abdullah. The April raid represented another move by Sudanese authorities to grab church land for investment, the Sudanese human rights Sudan Democracy First Group reported.

An armed group supported by Sudan’s ministry of guidance and endowments attacked civilians at the Evangelical School, Christians who had staged a protest against the attempted seizure of the building, local sources told Nuba Reports. Abdullah had rushed over to the Evangelical School from the neighboring Bahri Evangelical Church to help defend the protesters against the armed group. One of the members of this group stabbed Abdullah, who died of his injuries in a nearby hospital. Abdullah is survived by his wife and two children.

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Why target Christians now?

This state persecution of Christians appears at loggerheads with the October conclusions of the National Dialogue, a state-led peace initiative ostensibly designed to end Sudan’s internal conflicts.

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The conference attendants, including government and some opposition parties, concluded the event by issuing a National Document that makes at least four references to religious diversity, the freedom of worship and to end religious discrimination in Sudan.

Sudanese authorities continue to target Christians, however, seemingly apathetic to these events.

“You can’t imagine how this government works sometimes,” Nur said. “Human rights defenders, Christians, among others, are just locked up without any consideration of the consequences.” One explanation for this may be that government institutions are not in control – instead, divergent units within the security apparatus call the shots.

“It is not the minister of foreign affairs or minister of justice. It’s really the secret service in control”

Petr Jasek, Christian Aid Worker

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“The major problem is the NISS (National Intelligence and Security Service) is ruling the country,” said Petr Jasek, a Christian Aid Worker who was imprisoned by the Sudan government for more than a year. “It is not the minister of foreign affairs or minister of justice. It’s really the secret service in control.”

Sudan’s foreign ministry made several promises to the Czech government to release Jasek, for instance, which were unfulfilled.

“But I was kept hostage by one of these generals in the security wing,” Jasek said. “He wanted to show how important he was and refused to comply.”

The justice ministry also often works at the behest of NISS and controls the courts, he added. Nur agrees.

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“It’s true, it’s not a secret,” he said. “NISS control everything and is accountable to very few.”

In the midst of writing this article, authorities demolished another church in an area called Kalagala, south Khartoum, Abdelrahim told Nuba Reports. In this environment, Abdelrahim still fears conditions for Christians will deteriorate further in the years ahead. Security forces continue to monitor his movements upon his release.

“It’s a difficult time for us," he said. “Even with our release from prison last week, we are still not free.”

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"Still Not Free" - The Fate of Sudanese Christians, Part 1

[Editor’s Note: NubaReports.org recently published a very important story on the continuing crisis in Sudan regarding the persecution of that country's growing Christian population. Despite positive political posturing of Sudan’s Islamist government, trying to redefine itself as a “moderate” regime, the sad reality on the ground away from the spotlight is very much the same as it ever was. After a lot of rhetoric and promises, Sudanese Christians are still not free.]  

From nubareports.org

It was unexpected but much welcomed news. On May 11, Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir pardoned Pastor Hassan Abdulrahim from the Nuba Mountains, along with a Darfur activist, Abdulmoneim Abdelmoula.

After spending 17 months in several prisons, the two were released early from a 12-year sentence facing charges of undermining the constitution, espionage and spreading false information, their defense lawyer Muhanad Nur told Nuba Reports.

Abdulrahim came out of Kober prison, a facility in the capital of Khartoum used to lock up political opponents and terrorists alike. “It’s hard to remain in prison all that time, especially when we think about our families,” Abdulrahim told Nuba Reports. “But it was also a good experience for us – to help build up the church in prison and encourage parishioners.”

The targeting of churches and Christians ratcheted up after South Sudan gained independence in 2011. Once the predominantly Christian South Sudanese populace seceded, those Christians remaining within the country had less institutional support and protection against state authorities. In April 2013, the Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced that no licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population. Two years later, government officials stiffened penalties for apostasy and blasphemy.

“Christianity is not welcome in Sudan,” said Nur who routinely defends Christian cases in court, including the Sudan apostasy hearings against Meriam Yahia, now in the United States. “It seems as if every week I am hearing about another case of Christians being persecuted here.”

In Nur’s latest case, the accused’s sentences were largely based on their association with a Christian aid worker from the Czech Republic, Petr Jasek. Authorities arrested Jasek around the same time as Abdulrahim and Abdelmoula along with another Nuba pastor, Kuwa Shamal, who was released in late 2016 for lack of evidence.

In October 2016, state prosecutors presented video footage and photographs taken from Jasek’s laptop as evidence. The prosecutor’s case included footage Jasek took interviewing Christians in the Nuba Mountains. The state evidence also included evidence of the four suspects assisting a student and Christian convert who suffered skin burns from a teargas bomb during a 2013 university protest.

“They were monitoring me,” Jasek told Nuba Reports upon his release. “They [Sudan’s security agents] showed photos of all the meetings I had with church members. There were even night photos –they were monitoring every step.”

But the heavy state surveillance hardly produced any criminal offense.

"Despite being locked up for over a year, the whole legal process was actually six months," Jasek said. "It took them [state prosecutors] about three months to raise their concerns and then our lawyers were able to destroy their accusations in three hours."

Despite a weak case against Jasek, Sudan only released him in February after a visit to Khartoum by the Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek.

All four faced considerable duress, shifting to several different prison facilities during their incarceration.

"I was in five different prisons in total," Jasek said. "Usually the transfer meant that conditions were going to be even worse."

At one state, Jasek was placed in a cell with Islamic State fighters who would beat and torture him. One of the fighters from Libya boasted that he had beheaded 20 Coptic Christians in Libya and carried a fishing line that "could kill anyone in seconds," Jasek said during a press conference after his release....

Christians continue to worship even though Christianity is not welcome in Sudan.

A "Sea Change" of "No Change"

On Friday, January 13th, 2017, in the final days of the Obama administration, the President signed an Executive Order lifting sanctions against the Islamist Government of Sudan. One of the reasons cited for lifting the Clinton and Bush-era sanctions was a “sea change” of behavior by the Islamist regime in providing humanitarian access to war-torn regions of Sudan.

Destruction at a Bible College

There was just one problem: there has been no “sea change” of behavior by President Omar al Bashir’s government.

The Obama administration’s move was widely criticized by Sudan watch groups on both the political Left and Right. Sudan expert Prof. Eric Reeves referred to the decision as “The final betrayal of the Sudanese people.”

People fleeing the Nuba

Of course, there is an age-old debate on whether economic sanctions are actually more effective in harming oppressive regimes, or the innocent victims of those regimes. But the Obama administration wasn’t coming down on one side vs. the other of this debate when it decided to lift Sudan sanctions. Rather, the Administration was coming down on the side of fiction instead of truth.

For example, just days before the January 13th decision to lift sanctions, President Bashir’s forces committed more massacres in Darfur.

Hospital building bombed

President Obama’s order created a six-month probationary period, during which time the US Government will monitor the situation to see if Bashir’s government has truly “turned over a new leaf.”

Bashir didn’t waste any time in sending his first report.

Unexploded bomb next to a primary school

On January 29th, an Islamist court in Khartoum sentenced three men to long prison sentences. One of those men was Petr Jasek, a Christian aid worker and Czech national. He was sentenced to life behind bars for “espionage.” The reality is that Jasek was in Sudan to document Christian persecution and help pay the medical expenses of a Darfuri student severely burned by Sudan’s Intelligence Services.

Remnant of a missile found on the grounds of a hospital

The verdict against Jasek and his associates was not a surprise considering this is the same government which sentenced Miriam Ibrahim to death in 2014 for the alleged “crime” of converting to Christianity. Thankfully, strong international pressure compelled her release, and she's now living in America with her family.

Evidently, the Islamist government of Omar al Bashir sees any promotion of the Gospel as a direct threat to its survival.

At time of publication, Jasek has just been released, but his associates remain in prison awaiting the outcome of their appeal.

Homes destroyed

A damaged classroom

Regardless of whether Khartoum bows to diplomatic pressure and releases the men, one thing is clear: President Bashir and his NCP government have sent a message to the new Trump Administration with their conviction of Petr Jasek: the leopard hasn’t changed his spots — and has no intention of doing so.

The same government which supported international terrorists, cozied up to Iran, and killed and displaced millions of Sudanese after coming to power in 1989, is the same government which recently received $110 million in aid from the EU, and thanked it by imprisoning one of its citizens for life for the “crime” of loving his neighbor.

Unexploded bomb near medical facility

It was reported that after Jasek was told of the verdict against him, he sent a message to his family, encouraging them to meditate on Psalm 31. Men and nations rage, and plot against the LORD and His Anointed. But David, speaking through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was able to pen the following verses. May it constitute the summation of all our prayers for the release of Petr and all those in chains for the sake of the Gospel.

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Psalm 31

“Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit”

A Psalm of David

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

in your righteousness deliver me!

Incline your ear to me;

rescue me speedily!

Be a rock of refuge for me,

a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;

and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;

You take me out of the net they have hidden for me,

for you are my refuge.

Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,

but I trust in the Lord

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,

because you have seen my affliction;

you have known the distress of my soul,

and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;

you have set my feet in a broad place.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;

my eye is wasted from grief;

my soul and my body also.

For my life is spent with sorrow,

and my years with sighing;

my strength fails because of my iniquity,

and my bones waste away.

Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,

especially to my neighbors,

and an object of dread to my acquaintances;

those who see me in the street flee from me.

I have been forgotten like one who is dead;

I have become like a broken vessel.

For I hear the whispering of many—

terror on every side!—

as they scheme together against me,

as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O Lord;

I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hand;

rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

Make your face shine on your servant;

save me in your steadfast love!

O Lord, let me not be put to shame,

for I call upon you;

let the wicked be put to shame;

let them go silently to Sheol.

Let the lying lips be mute,

which speak insolently against the righteous

in pride and contempt.

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,

which you have stored up for those who fear you

and worked for those who take refuge in you,

in the sight of the children of mankind!

In the cover of your presence you hide them

from the plots of men;

you store them in your shelter

from the strife of tongues.

Blessed be the Lord,

for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me

when I was in a besieged city.

I had said in my alarm,

“I am cut off from your sight.”

But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy

when I cried to you for help.

Love the Lord, all you his saints!

The Lord preserves the faithful

but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the Lord!

Christians in the Crosshairs: Pastors Face Execution for Spreading Gospel

[Editor's Note: The following article recently appeared in the major online news source The Daily Beast (formerly Newsweek) and has generated quite a buzz as more and more people are waking up to the reality that the only real difference between the Islamist government in Sudan and ISIS is that Sudan has a seat at the UN.

A few days after this article was published, Sudan authorities released a Nuba pastor it had incarcerated for more than a year. But as of this publication, there are still three other men facing the death penalty for the sake of the gospel, including Czech national Petr Jasek. Please continue to pray for our brothers in bondage, and share this story to your own network/social media. The more people aware of what's happening is more light being shown on the dark deeds of radical Islamic terrorists.]

Four men, including two pastors, face the death penalty in Sudan a full year after they were arrested on what critics say are trumped-up charges targeting Christians.

Tom Rhodes

In this season of celebration and contemplation, we are publishing a series of articles about Christians who are imprisoned and in some cases threatened with death because of their beliefs. Such religious persecution is not limited to Christians. Indeed the most intense fury of zealots like those of the so-called Islamic State is directed against fellow Muslims deemed heretical. But Christians find themselves targeted not only for their faith, they are treated as symbols of the West, even if their history in a country like Egypt goes back millennia. Thus ISIS hopes attacks like the suicide bombing of a Coptic cathedral in Cairo earlier this month will help draw clear battle lines between Islam and what it calls “crusaders”—the soldiers who bear the cross. A few cases like that of Asia Bibi, a mother of five now serving her seventh consecutive Christmas in jail in Pakistan on blasphemy charges, have drawn international attention. But many others have not. As advocacy groups have made clear, Christians are under pressure from non-Muslim Mexico to non-Muslim China, but they face the most ferocious persecution in the Muslim Middle East, South Asia, and parts of Africa.

Petr Jasek

For more than 365 days, two Sudanese pastors, a Czech aid worker, and a Sudanese civil rights activist have seen their loved ones only at court sessions and only in passing, says the Rev. Kuwa Shamal, one of the detained pastors who spoke to Nuba Reports by phone from prison.

“We are considered to be spies,” said Shamal, who shares a cell at Al Huda Prison in Omdurman with fellow pastor Hassan Abdelrahim. Both are from Sudan’s Nuba Mountains region of South Kordofan State, where civil war has raged for the last five years.

The four suspects face seven separate charges including espionage, waging war against the state, and provoking hatred among sects. Yet human rights observers and religious leaders say the case is baseless—just the latest example of growing persecution of Christians in the Islamic country since the 2011 secession of South Sudan.

Pastors meeting for fellowship and study

“They don’t have any political relationships, their work is religious and they are not supposed to be arrested for simply spreading the gospel,” said Pastor Emmanuel Ofendi, who runs the Cush Theological College in the Nuba Mountains. “We send our message to the whole world of what is happening—to release these men. They have done nothing wrong.”

Sudanese national security in December 2015 arrested the two pastors and civil rights activist Abdelmoneim Abdelmoula at home. Petr Jasek, an aid worker from the Czech Republic, was on his way out of the country when authorities detained him at Khartoum International Airport.

The court case began in August, more than eight months after the men were first detained. According to defense lawyer Muhanad Nur, the arrest stems from state suspicions that they are trying to encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity and for publicly speaking out against the ill treatment of Christians in Sudan.

Pastor Morris sharing the Word of God

During the last hearing at the Khartoum Centre Court on Dec. 19, national security officer Sayed Abdel-Rahman claimed the group had aired radio and online YouTube videos by two “hostile foreign organizations” and that Jasek was a member of one of these organizations. One of the YouTube videos alleged that the Sudan government had killed Muslim converts to Christianity.

In October, the state prosecutor presented video footage and photographs taken from Jasek’s laptop as evidence. The prosecutor’s case included footage of the Nuba Mountains and the four suspects in Khartoum North assisting a student, Ali Omer, as he suffers from skin burns from a teargas bomb during a 2013 university protest. Abdelmoula, an engineer and activist from Darfur, is Omer’s brother and sought help from the two pastors and Jasek. The trio are accused of helping Omer with his costly medical bills after the incident.

Shamal suspects authorities had wished to arrest the Darfur activist for some time—Abdelmoula’s collaboration with the pastors and Jasek fulfilled this desire.

Authorities also arrested Omer last December, imprisoned him for six months and questioned him repeatedly about the source of the money used to cover his medical treatment, the human rights organization Amnesty International reported.

Jasek, with over 20 years of medical experience, had assisted the Christian aid organization Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) on different occasions, VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton said. He has given medical assistance to persecuted Christians in Sudan and Nigeria, according to the spokesman.

The two indicted pastors suspect their participation in a Christian conference in October 2015 based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, may have triggered their arrest.

“There were 10 pastors from Sudan who attended the conference to discuss the situation of Christians in Khartoum after secession of South Sudan,” Shamal explained from prison. Abdelmoula presented a paper on the oppression of Christians in Sudan.

The current trial appears at loggerheads with the October conclusions of the National Dialogue, a state-led peace initiative ostensibly designed to end Sudan’s internal conflicts. The conference attendants, including government and some opposition parties, concluded the event by issuing a National Document that makes at least four references calling for religious diversity, the freedom of worship, and to end religious discrimination in Sudan.

A Nuba pastor

Both pastors can speak from past experience about state-led targeting of Christians and Christian institutions. In June 2014, the state demolished Shamal’s church, the Sudanese Church of Christ in Thiba Al Ahamida, Khartoum North, claiming the land was reserved for a private hospital.

Land authorities rejected ownership documents he presented, including receipts of fees paid for the church over 30 years ago. Incredibly, authorities visited him on a Sunday before they leveled the church, requesting that he sign a document calling for the church’s demolition.

“I refused to sign the paper,” Shamal said over the phone from prison. “How can someone come to us asking us to demolish our own church?”

The following day vehicles and a bulldozer accompanied by dozens of police, military, and security personnel came and tore the building down. Now, the 400-odd parishioners worship in the open air despite repeated requests to many government ministries for permission to rebuild their church.

Gathering outside a local church

The Sudan government has demolished at least six churches since 2011, according to Morningstar News, a faith-based news service that monitors Christian persecution. In the last few months, authorities have demolished a popular Christian school serving Christian and Muslim students alike and detained the school staff twice for resisting their school’s destruction.

The targeting of churches and Christians ratcheted up after South Sudan gained independence in 2011. Once the predominantly Christian South Sudanese populace seceded, considerable institutional support previously used to defend Christians against state authorities diminished in Sudan.

In April 2013, the minister of Guidance and Endowments announced that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population. Two years later, government officials stiffened penalties for apostasy and blasphemy.

Praying for the persecuted

And more churches are sure to face challenges in the future. In August, the Chief of Office for the Khartoum State Ministry of Planning rejected a request from the Sudanese legal firm, the Justice Centre for Advocacy and Legal Advice, calling for an end to state-sanctioned church demolitions in Khartoum State. Instead, the state ministry issued a letter ordering four churches to be demolished in Khartoum. The officer accused the four churches, based in Al-Baraka, Al-Bashir, Arta Kamul and Dar el Salaam Jedidah of being built too close to “community areas.”

While these events take place, Pastors Shamal and Abdelrahim continue to be awakend at 5 a.m., surviving on two meals of beans per day, and worry over their respective families outside. Shamal is especially worried over their children who are no longer receiving any support from them.

Bible translation work

The Nuba pastors, along with Jasek, spend their days teaching in the prison church—all the while suffering frequent verbal abuse by the prison staff, Shamal said.

The Nuba community, where it is not uncommon to find inter-faith families living together, has largely denounced the four men’s continued incarceration. A court hearing scheduled on November 14, for instance, was postponed after a large group of the four suspects’ supporters attempted to attend the hearing.

Shamal still manages to remain hopeful and prays for their release and forgives those who arrested them.

“We know it is not out of the will of God that we are in prison,” Shamal said from behind its walls, “but God knows that we are in prison.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/23/christians-in-the-crosshairs-pastors-face-execution-for-spreading-gospel.html 

The Wicked Flee When No One Pursues...

"The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion." Proverbs 28:1

img_5634-1Christian persecution is a reality in many parts of the world. But so is Christian boldness. In late August, a friend sent us a link to a Facebook account of a Sudanese man. The man had posted a blurry cell phone video of a crowd of mostly women singing on a street corner. We asked our friend, "What is this?" His answer amazed us: "It's members of the Nuba church in the capital of Khartoum standing outside a courthouse in solidarity with their brothers inside who are on trial for their lives."

And what were they singing? A hymn about David slaying Goliath. That's pretty gutsy.

img_5656-2Those braves souls in the video we watched offered up their imprecatory hymns outside a "trial" where four men face a series of "criminal conspiracy" charges brought against them by the infamous NISS (National Sudan Intelligence Service).

Nuba pastors Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Kodi and Rev. Kuwa Shemaal, Darfuri student Abdelmoneim Abdelmoula, and Czech national Petr Jasek, a Christian aid worker, have already been unlawfully detained for more than 10 months. They are facing capital charges because of their solidarity with other persecuted believers abused by the Islamist regime in Sudan.

we-are-also-human-beingsThis is a story we have been following for months. But what we could not get over was the amazing boldness of the Nuba Christians in this video. They are standing in defiance of their own modern day Goliath of Gath.

When we read the news during this political season, it's easy to get frustrated about what's happening in America today. But as bad as we see things getting, we are still amazingly blessed with a level of freedom and privilege millions of Christians around the world only dream about.

img_5697-2This is why PPF exists. We exist for those believers. We exist for the brave Christians in Khartoum, who are willing to literally stand at the gates of hell (their hell) facing their persecutors and sing about David slaying Goliath.

Go to our Facebook page and you can find the video posted on September 29th to watch for yourselves.

dscf2540-1After you hear those voices, please consider adding yours to theirs! In this season of Thanksgiving, perhaps the greatest thing we can do when offering thanks to God for all He has done for us, is to be a cause of thanksgiving for those being persecuted in places like Sudan.

Let us all lift our own voices on behalf of the four imprisoned brothers and their families, as well as all of the other believers throughout Sudan who are laying down their lives for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

the-problem-1Please go to savethenuba.com and sign the petition to President Obama, appealing to pressure the regime of Omar al Bashir for the release of these innocent men who are on trial only for refusing to turn away from those suffering and persecuted. And please share this message with your friends and family and ask them to intercede as well.

But most importantly, please pray and petition the King of Kings, Who holds the heart of every earthly ruler in His hands, and the keys to every prison cell.

 

 

 

 

Christian Men on Trial for Their Lives!

"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." Hebrews 13:3

Petr Jasek

At the time of publication, four Christian men are on trial for their lives in Sudan. Their accuser is the Islamist government, specifically the infamous National Intelligence and Security Services.

The men on trial are Nuba pastors Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Kod and Rev. Kuwa Shemaal, Darfuri student Abdelmoneim Abdelmoula, and Czech national Petr Jasek, who is a Christian aid worker. They stand accused of several crimes against the State; but their only "crime" is standing in solidarity with the persecuted church in Sudan.

We have seen the brutality of the Islamist regime in Khartoum in the trial of Miriam Ibrahim, who was under sentence of death in 2014 for allegedly "converting" to Christianity. She was only released after intense international pressure.

It seems the only voices the government in Khartoum listens to are not of reason or of human rights and dignity, but those of political pressure.

So be it. If it's pressure they want, we'll give it to them. That is, if you'll join us.

By ourselves, we're nothing. "But with God, all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

You can do three short things right now which will help free these brave brothers:

  1. Sign our Petition to President Obama at www.savethenuba.com.
  2. Call the White House Comment Line at 202-456-1111 and leave a brief comment asking the President to intervene to help save the four Christian men who are imprisoned in Sudan for standing with persecuted beleivers in that country.
  3. Share this post with your friends and family members and ask them to take a couple of minutes to help fight Christian persecution.

Thank you so much for your "active compassion." Our brothers and sisters are on the front lines risking all for the sake of the gospel. We must stand with them in solidarity!

The Wicked Flee When No One Pursues...

"The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion." Proverbs 28:1

khartoum-protests

The above blurry photo taken on a mobile phone outside a Federal Court in Khartoum is testimony to the fearlessness of Sudanese Christians.

These brave souls are offering up their worship of imprecatory hymns outside a "trial," where four men face a series of  "criminal conspiracy" charges brought against them by the infamous NISS (National Intelligence and Security Service).

The truth is that the men, who have already been unlawfully detained for more than 10 months, are facing capital charges because of their solidarity with other persecuted believers abused by the Islamist regime. More on them later.

What I want you to please take note of is the incredible courage of these pictured believers who are truly "as bold as a lion." The hymn they are singing in their Nuba dialect tells the story of David and Goliath. Specifically, the part about David hurling the rock and striking Goliath dead (as you listen, you will understand the verse when they recount the sound of the stone "thwack" as it hits the mighty Goliath).

Christian persecution is a reality in many parts of the world. But so is Christian boldness! These Nuba Christians are standing in defiance of their own modern day Goliath of Gath.

Let us lift our own voices on behalf of the four imprisoned brothers and their families, as well as all of the other believers throughout Sudan who are laying down their lives for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please go to savethenuba.com and sign the petition to President Obama, appealing to pressure the regime of Omar al Bashir for the release of the innocent men who are on trial for refusing to turn away from those suffering and persecuted. And please share this email with your friends and family and ask them to intercede as well!

But most importantly, please pray and petition the King of Kings, Who holds the heart of every earthly ruler in His hands, and the keys to every prison cell.

Our New "Normal"

On the evening of July 14th, the world learned of the terror attack in Nice, France, by an Islamic extremist. This tragic event killed 84 people and injured scores of others. In the wake of this terrible event, and so many others in recent memory, the conversation quickly turned to how people need to prepare for such events in the future. “Is Nice the new ‘normal’ for the West?

In the U.S., instructional videos have even been produced to educate staff on what to do during an office shooting.

Homes and land destroyed

With violence and terror becoming a part of the landscape of much of Europe and America, we are getting a taste of what it’s been like for our brethren in the Nuba mountains of Sudan, who have endured a systematic campaign of violence and terror for more than five years.

Refugees from Heiban

Attacks are so common, all the Nuba have trained ears. When an Antonov bomber flies over, and we run for cover to a bomb shelter, we'll often look around and see the Nuba going about their daily business. This is because locals know when a plane is flying towards them, when it’s getting ready to bomb, and roughly how long they have to make it to shelter before the bomb hits.

Foxholes - A constant reminder of the ongoing terror campaign

What a terrible way to have to raise children! Foxholes are everywhere. Our team once saw a two-year-old instinctively run for a hole when he heard a plane in the distance. This is normal for the Nuba.

So, what do we do? We can personally refuse to live a life of fear and refuse to allow terrorists to influence our daily routine. But it’s not enough to be stubborn. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We must be proactive in doing good if we are to combat the forces of evil.

This is exactly how the Nuba church is responding to their daily “normal.” The church has reached out, not only to their own communities, but to the communities of Muslim neighbors, who share equally in the suffering. Even the POWs of the enemy receive material aid and medical attention from the church.

Offering of food donated by Nuba church

The Nuba church has chosen to unite in doing good works to confront the evil that seeks to destroy their homes. Sure, they also defend their homes with lethal force when attacked. Christian families send their sons to battle just like Nuba Muslims and animists. But the Church knows that the biggest battle is in their own hearts. The battle against despair, sinful anger, and bitterness. How is this battle fought and won?

By doing good.

In the West, our "new normal” is the “old normal” for the Church in Sudan. But our response should be the same: overcome evil with good. On the day we read about the attack in Nice, we also read a report from our staff in the Nuba, celebrating the distribution of 7,000 crisis relief kits for internally-displaced families.

Reply formWhile talking heads wring their hands about how to deal with Islamic extremists, we’re repairing broken well pumps to give communities of Christians and Muslims access to safe, clean water. We’re providing medicine to 180 regional Nuba health clinics, where everyone, regardless of their background, receives the help they need to fight malaria, typhoid, and even the common cold. And the local church is leading the way. It's preaching the Gospel primarily by living the Gospel.

And thousands of Bibles and gospel pamphlets are being distributed to provide spiritual hope in addition to physical relief.

It’s not enough to curse the darkness. We must shine the light. Thank you for your role in keeping the lamp burning bright!

Save the Nuba -1

A Bittersweet Victory

This used to be the school in Karkaria In the distance, we could hear the pounding of artillery and the short, three-round bursts from AK-47s. We asked some passing soldiers what was going on, and they said a great battle was taking place in Karkarai, a large community in Sudan’s Nuba mountains. Through the help of a guide, we skirted around the fighting and continued our mission. The battle lasted for a few days, and in the end, the Islamists were defeated and retreated back to their base in Kadugli.

This was once someone's home-1

But the victory was bittersweet. We waited several weeks before visiting Karkarai out of concern for landmines and other unexploded ordnance still littering the area. When we were given the “green light,” what we saw shocked us. Virtually the entire village was destroyed.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia gave $5 Billion to the Islamist government of Sudan — the same government which has committed countless acts of ISIS-style terror against its own citizens.

Shell casings littered the lanscape-1

The trench used by the Islamists to hold Karkaria-1

In Karkarai, we saw evidence of what the Sudan government spent much of that money on. The ground was littered with tens of thousands of shell casings. A huge empty trench flanked the main road through Karkarai. This was where the Sudan government troops made their last stand before retreating. All around, there was destruction.

The school was bulldozed, the church was shot up, and roofless houses stretched as far as the eye could see.

The sun shines through bullet holes in the roof of this church building in Karkaria-1

A huge blooming Baobab tree stands as a simbol of hope that the roofless houses all around will one day be rebuilt-1

We were told 4,950 families were made homeless by this one battle. Now, at the start of the rainy season, these people are coming home to rebuild among the charred remains of their community.

Tons of PPF medicine ready for distribution in the Nuba

With your generous support, PPF is helping these internally displaced refugees with material relief and spiritual hope.

A monument in Karkarai reads - "I was glad when they said to me, 'let us go into the house of the Lord.'"

 

Tons of medical aid is currently being distributed throughout the Nuba, in preparation for the seasonal increase of disease during the rainy season. Thousands of refugee kits, containing blankets, cooking pots, soap, and other items, are also being distributed.

Much of our relief work is spear-headed by the local Nuba church. PPF has delivered thousands of Bibles and discipleship materials to equip hundreds of local pastors for the important work of encouraging and strengthening communities affected by the conflict.

Thank you for continuing to bear witness to the faith in your lives, as you use your community to serve the community of the persecuted in Sudan.

Your giving makes a difference-1

Please continue to stand with us in service to our brothers and sisters.

Crackdown on Christians Intensifies in Sudan

[Editor's note: Our friends at NubaReports.org recently published a very informative story about the rise of Christian persecution in Sudan. News such as this should not surprise us, but it should motivate us to continue engaging in "Active Compassion" for our brothers and sisters.] -- NubaReports.org

Just a week before Christmas, security forces arrested Reverend Kowa Shamaal and Reverend Hassan Abdelraheem from the Sudan Church of Christ denomination at their homes in Khartoum North and Omdurman, respectively.  No reason for the arrest has been given for the two church leaders who come from the Nuba Mountain region in South Kordofan State, according to news reports.

Church Demolitions

On October 17th, government officials warned the administration of the Lutheran church in Al-Thawra, Omdurman, that it will be demolished because they want to restructure the area. Without media attention except for a few Facebook posts and pleads from churchgoers, Sudanese authorities bulldozed the 33-year-old church building just three days later.

What's left of a church in Sudan...

“They gave us a notice that the church will be demolished after 72 hours,” said Pastor Gabriel Koko of the Omdurman Lutheran Church. Pastor Koko added that they were in the process of attempting to register the church when the demolition happened. “The government  asks you for consent from the local committee which in turn will not agree unless the higher council for Dawah and Guidance gives permission and vice versa, you are lost in the middle,” the frustrated pastor told Nuba Reports. Now parishioners worship outside in Omdurman’s blazing sun, singing hymns with the rubble of their church piled next to them.

A destroyed church building in Abyei, Sudan

Two more churches were destroyed that month after alleged arsonists burnt down another church in Gedaref, Eastern Sudan, and security officers illegally demolished another church in Al-Thawra, Omdurman, according to human rights reports. “The Lutheran church in Gedaref was demolished by the police in 2006, then rebuilt and now burnt to ashes, nothing remains of the church which had a 300-member constituency,” said Samir Makeen, a lawyer closely involved in this case. Makeen travelled to eastern Sudan to follow-up on the case proceedings and found that the police force was largely uncooperative. “The case file at Rowena police station cites an unknown assailant although I believe that the police can easily catch the arsonists, but they seemed unprepared to do anything regarding this case,” added Makeen who has worked on similar cases before.

South Sudan’s independence and the fate of Christianity in Sudan

The Gedaref-based church is at least the third church to be set ablaze while another four churches were demolished or partially demolished since a referendum in January 2011 that led to South Sudan’s independence from the country. Just a month before the referendum, Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir told supporters in Gedaref that Sudan will not be religiously diverse if South Sudan separates and the constitution will only be guided by Shariah law.

A broken cross... but not broken resolve!

“On the eve of South Sudan’s secession in July 2011, Sudanese phone users received a text message (from the state-influenced telecommunication companies) saying that Sudan is now 97% Muslim and since then we’ve felt that we don’t have a place in this country,” said Samia Joseph*, a Nuba human rights activist. In April 2013, the Minister of Guidance and Endowments, Al-Fatih Taj El-Sir, announced in parliament that no new licenses would be granted to build churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the mainly Christian South Sudanese population, according to news reports.

While those in South Sudan started to enjoy the opportunity to practice their faith without oppression since independence in 2011, Christians in Sudan have faced greater religious persecution. Even the Christmas holiday has become challenging to celebrate. “Christmas is no longer a holiday in Sudan, Christian civil servants and students used to get three days off work, but now we can’t even celebrate Christmas properly. Last year the police stopped our celebration at four p.m.,” added Joseph.

M.M., a Nuba hailing from Um-Dorein county in Southern Kordofan State and affiliated with a church in Omdurman said authorities have essentially stopped acknowledging the existence of other religions other than Islam after the 2011 secession. “They cancelled Christian studies from public schools and many parents had to resort to the church for religious teachings,” said M.M. who insisted on using her initials to protect her security.

Nabil Adib, a well renowned human rights lawyer, said that 2012 saw a sustained escalation of religious persecution in Sudan in the form of land-grabbing and demolishing of churches and mass arrests of church-related employees, including foreign and Sudanese pastors. “Since then, around 200 foreign pastors or church-affiliates were rounded up and arrested by the security apparatus and were given two choices, either leave the country and give up all belongings or continue to be detained and face charges,” said Adib adding that all of them chose the first option and fled the country. State security’s infamous “religious security” unit have arrested dozens of Christian leaders, including five Anglican pastors in Khartoum after the  Anglican Cultural Center was shut down and all the books in its spacious library were confiscated.

Land grabbing

President Omar al Bashir - indicted war criminal

In 2014, three churches in Khartoum states were demolished under Bashir’s zero-tolerance policy towards religious pluralism. The policy also acts as a veneer for land-grabbing opportunities with investors affiliated to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), according to several Christian sources in the capital.

The Pentecostal church on Sayed Abdel-Rahman street in Khartoum, for example, lies on a valuable and very expensive piece of land which was sold as a house in the 1990s. Adib was involved in the land sale for the church almost two decades ago and again involved when state security took over the church land last year without recourse to the law. “We filed a constitutional case citing the illegal acquisition of the Pentecostal church without any allegations for persecution on religious basis” said Adib who added that they have received no response for almost a year now. National security currently occupy this land, one of the most expensive plots in the capital, Adib said, even confiscating personal belongings found on the land, such as cars.

A bombed-out town in a Christian section of the Nuba mountains of Sudan

The Anglican Church in Khartoum North faces a similar fate after the state replaced a democratically-elected Church committee in 2014 with a government-appointed one in a bid to acquire the large Church land plot. According to Adib, the government’s land-grabbing schemes usually involve authorities appointing a new, state-controlled, administrative committee that takes over the church and eventually sells the land to investors. “The church became a scene of constant chaos as the churchgoers would find their prayers interrupted by investors who would tell them that they now own this plot of land and they have a court order to tear it down,” said Muhanad Al-Nour, a lawyer who represents the elected committee. Private investors purchased the church land on Baladiya Avenue claiming the sale was made through the church committee, allegedly unaware of the existence of another, legitimate non-government affiliated committee, Al-Nour said. “The Anglican sect is wealthy, they have a lot of property in the most expensive areas of Khartoum, so not only were Christians targeted especially the South Sudanese, Nuba and Egyptian-born Christians who make up the Anglican church constituency, but the high-value lands were targeted for their value,” Adib added. To date, Adib concedes, no church property has been converted for commercial purposes but expects this to take place in the near future.

On 1 July 2015, over 300 police officers arrived with an engineer tasked to facilitate the demolishing of a block where a school for the Anglican Church sits. Al-Nour and Pastor Hafiz Fassaha attempted to stop them. “I argued with them and they were angry because they had to stop demolishing a church building; so angry that they arrested me and the pastor,” recalled Al-Nour. Police arrested Al-Nour while the pastor had his hands shackled and escorted by police on foot through the market to the police station to further humiliate him. They remained in a cell for seven hours and were charged with ”obstructing a public servant”. Al-Nour confirmed that he and the pastor currently face these charges that could imprison them for six months. Two months ago, the administrative court ruled that the Ministry of Guidance and Endowments needs to be held responsible for the sale of the Anglican church land as it allowed two committees to simultaneously operate. Despite this, the ministry challenged the court’s decision and is expected to ignore the court ruling, Al-Nour said.

It's time to take a stand...

Pastor Yat Michael Ruot was one of the first to bring attention to the dangers facing the Anglican Church in Khartoum North. In late December 2014, he was arrested by the NISS from a church-organized seminar. A month later, Pastor Peter Yein was also arrested when he tried to inquire about his colleague’s detention. After nearly five months in Sudan’s high-security Kober Prison, they were charged in May 2015 under a flurry of litigation including: undermining the constitution, espionage and religious incitement. Facing the death penalty, the two were eventually acquitted and released in August this year. Both fled the country shortly after. Khartoum’s high court has now challenged the decision and re-opened the case, Pastor Yen told Nuba Reports. “We were accused of ‘christianization’ although we are pastors and we were doing our job which is to spread the message inside the church, [Sudan] is where we lived and worked for years without trouble,” said Yen. Their lawyers believe that they will remain unsafe as long as they remain in East Africa and face the risk of extradition to Sudan where they will face imprisonment. The criminal court has since issued an arrest warrant for both pastors.

While some of his Christian colleagues have either fled persecution or remain incarcerated, Pastor Koko continues to hold prayers in the open air. There is no alternative. “After the demolition we asked [authorities] for alternative land,” Pastor Koko told Nuba Reports. “We will continue praying outdoors until the authorities react.”

* The real name has been changed to protect the source.

Reprinted by permission from NubaReports.org