Sudan church demolitions continue, 500-member Khartoum church shut

(Photo: REUTERS / Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)South Sudanese worshipers attend Sunday prayers in Baraka Parish church at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, February 10, 2013. Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said he wants to adopt a "100 percent" Islamic constitution now that the South has split off. The government says the new constitution will guarantee religious freedom, but many Christians are wary. They say authorities started a crackdown in December and it has been getting worse.

Security agents have padlocked a 500-member church building in Khartoum, Sudan, where Muslims are the overwhelming majority.

This is the latest in a number of church demolitions, closures, and confiscations done by the Sudanese government in two years.

Morning Star reported that Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services on August 24 forcibly closed the Sudan Pentecostal Church building in Khartoum, which houses the Khartoum Christian Center.

The government warned that members and leaders of the church are not allowed to worship inside the building until further notice Morningstar News reported.

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Non-compliance will lead to arrest.

Officials said that the closure is temporary but they did not give a deadline. The government has decided to close the church since they say that the building was designated for offices.

The Khartoum church building has operated for 20 years and members are surprised because the church possesses a deed stating that it owns the building and property. They are also questioning rumors that the government is planning to sell the building.

"The church is concerned that the building might be sold by the government, which renders more than 500 worshippers to have no place for worship," one church member said.

Since 2012, Sudan has arrested Christians, raided Christian bookstores, and destroyed church buildings.

Persecution of Christians has also intensified after President Omar al-Bashir adopted a stricter version of Islamic law and recognize only the Islamic culture and Arabic language.

On June 30, bulldozers demolished the Sudanese Church of Christ in the Thiba Al Hamyida area of North Khartoum while church members watched the destruction. A few months earlier, the Sudanese Church of Christ was also bulldozed without notice.

"We need prayers for the churches in Sudan, because the government is planning to close the churches," one church member said.

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