On Wednesday August 5, 2015, two South Sudanese Christian pastors were released after they had been arrested for their Christian faith. Yat Michael, 49, was convicted in December 2014 for “inciting hatred” and Peter Yein Reith, 36, was convicted in January 2015 for “breaching public peace”.
Michael was convicted after “delivering a message of encouragement” to the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church in North Khartoum. The Baptist Press previously reported that on December 2, 2014, Sudanese police forces beat, arrested, fined, and later released around 38 Christians from this church.
Baptist Press also reported that on October 5, 2013, Sudanese police and security forces attacked the church, breaking through the fence to beat and arrest more Christians.
Furthermore, this church had been the subject of “government harassment, arrests, and demolitions” in the attempts of Muslim investors to take over the land. This is consistent with the belief of many in Khartoum that “the real battle with authorities is over the land”.
Reith was convicted after sending a letter looking into Michael’s location. The letter came from leaders of Michael and Peter’s denomination, the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church.
When South Sudan seceded in 2011, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir vowed he would push for stricter Islamic Shariah law implementation and proliferation of the Arabic language, knocking aside years of various tribal cultural traditions, languages, and ways of life.
Open Doors, an organization devoted to supporting persecuted Christians, reported that Sudan ranked sixth on its 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. Considering that last year Sudan ranked 11th, it seems that Sudan is not too concerned with changing its behavior any time soon. In fact, it seems to be doing just the opposite. Open Doors also reports that, “The incumbent regime is authoritarian and strives to control all aspects of life of its citizens. Blasphemy laws are used country-wide to persecute and prosecute Christians”.
Sudan should be pressured to changes its actions towards and treatment of these Christians. So far, however, the current administration has not been a fighting force for this cause. President Obama met in Ethiopia with foreign officials to discuss the South Sudanese civil war, and failed to invite South Sudan to the table while representation from Sudan was present. Such a tone-def approach portrays a confusing picture about the US’s priorities in Africa. Protecting minority rights is clearly not a priority in U.S. policy toward Sudan.
It is time to take a stand against this religious persecution. The administrations’ acceptance of a consistent and clear African foreign policy would definitely be a step in the right direction.
BY STAFF WRITER AT STPC ON 08/07/15 (Save The Persecuted Christians Coalition)