A court in South Sudan has fined 7 of 26 Church leaders who for close to two months protested against an attempted takeover of a church-owned Evangelical school by a Muslim business man.
According to Morning Star News, court on Monday found Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) elder Yohanna Tia guilty under articles 182/183 for objection to authorities and fined him 5,000 Sudanese Pounds (US$275).
Tia was one of 26 church leaders who appeared in court since last week to defend the evangelical school located in Omdurman, found across the Nile River from Khartoum.
Morning Star News says seven were ordered to pay fines of 2,500 Sudanese pounds (US$137) each, and the other 19 were freed for lack of evidence.
Muslim businessman Hisham Hamad Al-Neel has been attempting to take control of church lands, sources purported, a judge ruled in December that he should also be allowed to take over houses belonging to church elders.
Al-Neel’s takeover efforts forced two Christian families to be evicted from their homes in December, with children as young as 1 year old being left homeless.
Christians have told Morning Star News that Al-Neel’s move is part of an ongoing campaign to trample the rights of believers in the country who, according to persecution watchdog groups such as Open Doors USA, suffer some of the worst persecution in the world.
The country’s government has been carrying out systematic confiscation and demolition of both churches and mosques. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan called for an end to such efforts back in November during a visit to Al-Koran Al-Karim University in Omdurman.
“The government of Sudan, including the federal states, should also immediately suspend demolition of places of worships, including mosques and churches,” Sullivan said at the time.
Despite the ongoing arrests and escalating persecution in the country, a pastor in Sudan said in November that Christianity is “still alive” and remains strong, albeit a minority.
“I want to say, as a ministry in Sudan, we want people to know that in spite of the situations that we are going through, that Christianity and the Church in Sudan I think is still strong. What has happened has astonished us,” a Baptist pastor, identified only as James, said at the time.
“But the simple Christians or simple Church or simple people who believe that God is involved in this situation, they encourage us and give us the hope that Christianity will not finish in Sudan,” he added.
“We continue and I want people to know that Christianity in Sudan is still alive.”
Additional Reporting by Agencies.