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Sudan to probe attacks on Jabarona Church in Khartoum state

Pastors help South Sudanese worshippers after attending Sunday prayers in Baraka Parish church at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, February 10, 2013. 'Photo Reuters)
March 21, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The Minister of Religious Affairs of Sudan formed on Friday a committee to investigate alleged attacks on a church in a Khartoum Suburb and reaffirmed his government’s keenness to ensure and protect religious freedoms.

On Thursday, the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) a religious freedom group said that the Church of Christ in Jabarona on the outskirts of Omdurman was attacked on 18 December, 14 January, 21 January and 29 January. The assailants sought to burn the place of worship, according to the group.

Jabarona, which is one of the largest slums around the capital, is located 28 km west of Omdurman. The majority of its 30,000 population is from the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan.

The religious freedom group said that Jabarona church leaders also received serious threats from Muslim extremists living in the area, who voiced their opposition to building churches in the area stressing that the incidents and threats had been reported to the police.

Reached by Sudan Tribune, the Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments Nasr al-Din Mufreh said they decided to investigate the attacks despite the lack of complaint.

"The concerned church did not officially inform the security authorities of any threats, but the ministry decided to investigate the incident in conjunction with the competent authorities, to take the necessary measures to protect the church and arrest anyone found to be involved in terrorist attacks or threats," said Mufreh.

The minister further emphasized the keenness of the transitional government to preserve religious freedoms in Sudan, adding that Khartoum efforts have been praised by local religious set and groups but also by the international community.

He further pointed to a recent statement by the United States Committee for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which hailing Sudan’s seriousness to promote religious freedoms.

On 17 March, the USCIRF commended Mufreh’s decision to dissolve the church councils established by the former regime "to legitimize and obfuscate its persecution of several Christian communities, including the confiscation and destruction of church properties".

"This decree confirms our sense that while Sudan has many serious challenges ahead, its transitional leadership is sincere in its promise to implement concrete and meaningful measures to improve religious freedom conditions in the country.” said, USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins

Under the regime of deposed former president al-Bashir, USCIRF described Sudan as "one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom".

CSW also mentioned the attacks between December 2019 and January 2020 on three churches in the Blue Nile state saying that not tangible progress has been made on the ground.

"Despite assurances from the Federal and State governments that the churches would be rebuilt and perpetrators would be brought to justice, the churches are still waiting for a resolution. Local sources report that the government has offered the churches the equivalent of US$900 compensation to assist with rebuilding their places of worship".

In December 2019, the US State Department removed Sudan from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) on Religious Freedom, 20 years after its designation.

Since Sudan has been added to a Special Watch List (SWL) for countries where the religious freedom remains fragile but the violation does not rise to the statutory level requiring CPC designation.