Human Rights Agency Condemns Closing Down of Catholic-owned Building in Sudan

Sudanese Church of Christ after apparent razing and looting in Um Bartumbu, South Kordofan. Credit: Eyes and Ears Nuba

UK-based human rights foundation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), has condemned the closing down of a building owned by the Catholic Church in Sudan where worshippers from different religions in the Northeastern African country meet for social activities and prayers.

In a March 4 report, the leadership of the human rights foundation also condemned the arrest of two church leaders who were detained for presiding over prayers at the building that had been shut down by Sudanese authorities.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas warned that the closing down of the Catholic-owned building and the subsequent arrest and questioning of the two members of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) would escalate if not addressed. 

“CSW is very concerned by the attempts to prevent local Christians from accessing a place of worship... We call on the authorities to address the situation before it escalates further,” Mr. Mervyn said.

He added, “We also note with concern the detention and interrogation of the church leaders by the police. Intentionally or not, the actions of the police appear to substantiate the claims of extremists that legal action can be taken against those who do not comply with their orders.”


CSW has reported that two SCOC members in Gezira State were arrested and interrogated by police on February 27, a week after local extremists ordered that the building used by the church was to be closed.

According to the Christian human rights group, the building, in the Al Haj Abdalla locality of Sudan’s Gezira State, belongs to the Catholic Church, but has been used as a place of worship and activities by several Christian denominations.

“In 2011, after the secession of South Sudan, the local people’s committee confiscated the building, preventing the Christian community in the area from using it,” CSW has reported, and added, “However, in 2019, after the ouster of the National Congress Party (NCP) and former President al Bashir, the building was vacated, and church leaders asked permission from the Catholic Church to use it again.”

CSW has reported that since then, the building has been used by the church for religious purposes, but has also been open to the local Muslim community who have used it for social purposes, including a nursery school.

“Despite being open to the Muslim community, the church has experienced harassment from local Wahhabi extremists since 2019,” the Christian entity that advocates for religious freedom across the world has reported.

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The entity highlights some alleged harassment incidents, including 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.

Additionally, the church has been accused of giving food to children “to entice them to Christianity”, amid claims that the building does not belong to Christians.

On February 21, church members found an order posted on the building banning all activities including praying, and warning that anyone breaching the order or entering the building would face legal action.

The order was signed by the Neighborhood Youth Association of the Sudanese State, but local sources informed CSW that it was issued by extremists and not the neighborhood committee, whose members have been living in peace with Christians and do not agree with the extremists.

CSW reports that on February 27, church members found the building had been padlocked, but that they entered and began a short prayer service.


Police are said to have disrupted the service but allowed them to conclude their prayers, and then arrested the two church leaders.

The men were taken to the police station and interrogated for several hours before being released without charge, CSW has reported, and added, “After their release the church leaders met with the Area Director, a local government executive who is familiar with the history of the building, and urged him to intervene; however, the official said he is powerless to act in this situation.”

Mr. Mervyn said that the harassment in Sudan is a reminder of the oppressive “latter years of the al Bashir regime”.

“There are unmistakable parallels between this case and the kind of harassment experienced by religious leaders in the latter years of the al Bashir regime, and we call on the international community to recognize this,” the CSW official said in the March 4 report.

He called on the Sudanese authorities to act and to “swiftly return power to a civilian-led administration.”

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Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.