Archive for September, 2013

Northern Nigeria may be slipping deeper into the violence the government has been trying to prevent with the announcement of a state of emergency in three of its northern states in May this year.

Suspected Boko Haram insurgents killed at least 40 male students in an attack on an agricultural secondary school in Gujba, 30 km South of Damataru, Yobe State. The attack took place around 1 am on Sunday. The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are discovered.

A surviving student, Ibrahim Mohammed told the press that the extremists rode into the college in two double-cab pickup all-terrain vehicles and on motorcycles. Some were dressed in Nigerian military camouflage uniforms. He said they appeared to know the layout of the college, attacking the four male hostels but avoiding the one hostel reserved for women.

“We ran into the bush, nobody is left in the school now,” Mohammed said.

One eye witness told Reuters, “They started gathering students into groups outside, then they opened fire and killed one group and then moved onto the next group and killed them. It was so terrible.”

Another witness said, “They came with guns around 1 am and went directly to the male hostel and opened fire on them … The college is in the bush so the other students were running around helplessly as guns went off and some of them were shot down,” said Ahmed Gujunba, a taxi driver who lives by the college.

President Goodluck Jonathan called the attack “the creation of the devil”.  It came just a few days after the school re-opened following widespread closures after militants attacked Mamudo School outside Damaturu and killed 29 pupils and a teacher in July 6. Two weeks ago, the state commissioner for education, Mohammmed Lamin, urged all schools to reopen and promised protection from soldiers and police.

In May, President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States. Shortly after the announcement there was a lull in the violence. However in recent months, there has been a sharp increase in attacks. Several hundreds of people have died in BH-related violence at schools and against security personnel and civilians suspected of assisting the army. The violence persisted despite rumours in August that the leader, Abubakar Shekau had been killed.

Earlier this month, presumed BH fighters, disguised as Nigerian army soldiers, set up check points and fired at motorists and bystanders in Borno, Yobe and Maiduguri State. They killed at least 142 people in Benisheik, Borno. OD staff reported that at least 10 Christians were killed in similar road blocks in Yobe and Maiduguri states last week. Among them was the youth leader of an Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) congregation in Maiduguri. OD staff members were told that his body was badly mutilated. A medical student in his final year suffered the same fate.

Staff also reported the murder of a pastor and his son Thursday night. No further details were available.

Last week, BH members killed a total of 27 people in two attacks in the village of Gamboru, near the Cameroonian border in Borno State. Attackers struck on Wednesday night and killed six villagers. The attackers returned on Thursday night and killed 21 more villagers. The motive for the attack is unknown. A government official told Reuters it was a coordinated attack.

A local newspaper, the Nation, also report that seven people travelling between Damaturu and Maiduguri were beheaded. In a separate incident, the throats of four people were slit.

In an attempt to curb BH operations, the government cut phone lines in Borno, making it almost impossible to get any information on the incidents.

The renewed violence is creating uncertainty and fear among people,” reported OD workers. “It is intensifying an already explosive atmosphere as the government continues its battle against BH.”

Prayer points

  1. Pray that the government will be able to bring this intense, growing conflict under control. Pray for a just and lasting solution to the problem.
  2. Pray for thousands of civilians uprooted by the violence
  3. Pray for tightened accountability among security who has been blamed for using excessive force.
  4. Although many of those affected in this case are of another religion, Christians have been widely affected by BH activity. Please pray for God’s grace for churches in these areas who continue to minister to their people despite the dangerous situations. Pray for the Lord’s protection.
  5. Pray for the families of all those killed in recent incidences of violence. Most of the affected families are non-believers. Pray that God would use these circumstances to bring many to faith in Christ.

Gunmen in two separate attacks in Wajir and Mandera in Kenya’s volatile North Eastern Province left 2 dead and 7 injured.

On Wednesday, unidentified armed men attacked civilians at the Soko Mjinga market in Wajir town in Kenya’s volatile North Eastern Province. The assailants first detonated a hand grenade near the market at around 7.30pm before indiscriminately shooting at fleeing people. One person died. Five others sustained serious injuries and are receiving treatment at Wajir District Hospital.

One of the attackers identified as Ayub Omar Gullet was shot and injured, and then arrested and handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit.

On Thursday, September 26, heavily armed militia supposedly linked to Al-Shabaab also attacked a Kenya Administration Police Camp in Mandera, a town near the Somali border, at 3 am. Two Administration Police officers died and two others sustained serious injuries. The attackers also launched a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) into the local District Officer’s premises, causing extensive damage, including the destruction of seven government vehicles parked in the compound.

The attacks came barely a day after Special Forces secured Westgate Mall – after a siege that lasted four days leaving more than 70 dead, 60 missing and hundreds injured.

Prayer

  • Continue to pray for grace for the government of Kenya as they deal with the current security situation in the country. In a YouTube video claiming to be an Al-Shabaab exclusive, the speaker warned Kenyan’s to prepare for greater instability. Pray that there will be no further bloodshed.
  • Pray for calm among the people of Kenya. The atmosphere remains very tense.
  • Please pray for God’s grace to the families of the many victims of recent violence.
  • Pray for the Church in Wajir and Mandera to be able to shine the light of the Gospel in these circumstances. Pray that the Lord will protect them. They have in the past borne the brunt of extremist anger through direct attacks. 

In Sudan the atmosphere for Christians are becoming increasingly dangerous. Since the secession of South Sudan, the government in Khartoum has made it clear that the country is a state that will be governed by religious law. The government of President Oman Hassan al-Bashir has made it clear that there is no room for Christians. However, contrary to the desire of the government and society at large, there are Christians in Sudan who are holding on to Christ at great cost, many of them losing “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, …” for the sake of the gospel (Matt 19:29).

Jose*, 31, was born to a successful businessman in Sudan. As a young man, he helped his father run the business. Sadly the father died when he was 16 years old.

Jose’s mother remarried after a short while. An uncle took in the young Jose. But he was not an honest man. He grabbed all of Jose’s father’s property. When Jose protested, the uncle sent him to a state-run school for ‘problematic’ young people. There, Jose faced disciplining and strict, religious instruction. He endured regular beatings and hard labour.

After some time, Jose escaped. He found refuge for a few years in a separate town where he made ends meet by doing menial jobs. Then he returned to Khartoum to live with his brother. But that did not last. When Jose and his brother had a disagreement about their late father’s property, Jose moved out.

One day in 2011, Jose walked past a church and noticed the cross. He unexpectedly felt “something stirring in him”. He entered the building on an impulse and was met by a church elder. They had a brief discussion about the Christian faith.

This conversation led to a number of follow-up meetings. After two years of discussion, Jose accepted Christ. The regular discussions turned into discipleship sessions.

Soon after this, Jose married a woman who is of his previous faith, Aida*. She regularly joined Jose for church services at the local church and Jose sincerely hoped she would follow him to Christ.

But it did not happen.

At first, the couple did not tell any of their families about Jose’s Christian faith. They thought it best to keep it a secret. But in April this year, Aida spilled the beans to her mother.

Aida’s mother was furious! And she spread the word. When she told her sons, they immediately went to Jose’s house and burnt it to the ground. Jose lost everything in the fire – including all of his documents.

Not surprisingly, Aida left Jose. She said she would only return if he renounced his Christian faith.

When Jose’s in-laws informed his own relatives about his Christian faith, they also started pressurizing him to return to his former faith. Jose noticed that they started monitoring his activities and realized that he was in grave danger.

But he was determined to hold on to Christ. So Jose decided to relocate once more.

Like several times before, Jose has had to start all over again. But although he has been separated from his earthly family, God has provided for him a spiritual family. In Sudan, this is a blessing and a privilege not to be taken for granted.

Before secession, the greatest section of Sudan’s Christians were Southerners. When South Sudan chose independence, it caused a great, almost forced, exodus of Christians from Sudan. This has greatly diminished congregations.

But thankfully, there remains an indigenous local church, and by the grace of God, Jose found a good spiritual home in his new town where he is being nurtured and discipled.

Jose remains adamant to hold on to Christ, despite the cost. He is a representation of many converts in Sudan who are in great need of prayer and encouragement. Open Doors is supporting the small but courageous local Church in Sudan and is strengthening their efforts of reaching out to unbelievers in love and helping converts such as Jose to grow strong in the faith despite the many challenges they face for choosing Christ.

Prayer Items:

  • Thank the Lord for saving Jose, and for providing for him a spiritual home.
  • Pray that God will uphold Jose, other Sudanese converts and church leaders as they come under increasing pressure and state sanctioned persecution.
  • Jose desires to know Christ even better. Pray that the Lord grants this desire.
  • Pray for Aida’s salvation. Pray that the seed sown in her heart during the time she was exposed to the Gospel will germinate and bring forth much fruit.
  • Pray that Jose’s young business will prosper.

* We used pseudonyms to protect the identity of the convert

OD Position Statement on Westgate Attack

Posted: September 25, 2013 in Articles

As the team leader of the work of Open Doors in the Lakes Region, including Kenya, what is your response to the Westgate siege?

This is indeed is a very sad event that we condemn in the strongest terms possible. We call on supporters around the world to pray for this nation and particularly for all those who have been affected by this terrible act.

Many people know Kenya as a famous tourist destination and are surprised by the turn of events.

Although we are appalled by the attack, we are by no means surprised by it.

Al-Shabaab has always threatened to invade Nairobi. And there have been attacks in the past.

Additionally, we have to keep in mind that Kenya is neighbour to countries where conflicts have left a proliferation of weapons floating around. Terrorists find Kenya a soft target because of the ease with which they can smuggle such weapons into the country.

Kenya also hosts many prime terror targets, such as U.S. and Israeli properties and businesses.

In your observation, is there more to this attack than merely revenge on Kenya’s involvement in Somalia?

Yes, we believe there is. The attack has to be seen in terms of wider regional political and religious context.

The Kenya Defense Force (KDF) campaign in Somalia was launched to protect the North Eastern Province from the chaos that was raging across the border. The campaign also came in the interest of protecting those drawn to the area through the tourist and relief aid industries after tourists and staff were kidnapped and murdered.

In terms of the wider geo-political agenda, Al-Shabaab counts among those Somalis who believe that the North Eastern Province belongs to them and is waging a low-level guerilla war there. They are trying to exploit historical grievances against the Kenyan government. Their aim is to have this area secede from Kenya and join Somalia.

Apart from the geo-political motive, Al-Shabaab also has a religious agenda. Al-Shabaab is waging war against Christians and Christianity in Somalia and Kenya. Their agenda is to bring Africa under “the House of their religion”, as described by the Open Doors World Watch List. Similarly, attacks on churches in Garissa, Wajir and Mandera are aimed at ridding North-eastern counties of its Christian testimony.

We have long warned that the religious atmosphere in Kenya is changing and for us the Westgate attack is another vivid indication to the deepening new dimension of persecution that has been dressed up as terrorism and tribal conflict.

Why Westgate?

Sheikh Abulaziz Abu Muscab, al-Shabaab military operations spokesman told Al-Jazeera, “[Westgate] is a place where tourists from across the world come to shop, where diplomats gather. It is a place where Kenya’s decision-makers go to relax and enjoy themselves. Westgate is a place where there are Jewish and American shops. So we have to attack them.”

What does this attack mean in terms of religious freedom in Kenya?

We are worried about the religious aspects to this conflict. The group claims to have let all who were of their religion go free. Their claim is substantiated by many witnesses.

Unfortunately, news like this only deepens religious divisions. If this aspect is not carefully managed, it will lead this country down a precipice. Although not all of them are terrorists, but people are noticing that all terrorists are of the same religion.

Christians are tired of the senseless killings and of politicians downplaying the role of radicals in driving such attacks. This soft stance only serves to infuriate Christians. We fear further confrontation.

We need to pray for the country at this time. We pray that the Church maintains the love of Christ and that they are not distracted from their collective mission of loving people to Christ. We pray that Christians will focus on eliminating religious false teachings by an increased impetus on outreach with the gospel in love.

How will these events influence Open Doors activities in Kenya?

At Open Doors, we will continue to help the Church to respond in a biblical manner to persecution. We will also continue to help churches equip their members for cross cultural outreach and ministry in their communities through a dynamic and contextual approach.

Kenya Hostage Situation Update

Posted: September 25, 2013 in Articles

The stand-off at Westgate shopping centre in the Kenyan capital Nairobi continued well into the night on Monday, the third day since the siege started. In the late afternoon there was heavy gunfire and explosions as Kenya Defence Forces engaged the attackers. Kenyan officials announced later that they were in the final stages of bringing the stand-off to an end.

In the early hours of Tuesday, officials said they had freed hostages, but did not say how many. They also said they had killed three of the attackers and were combing the mall for more survivors.

Just before 2 am local time, Tuesday, news spread that security and medical personnel were packing up and leaving the scene. Then, at around 06:30 more gunfire and an explosion were heard. No further details were available.

While the death toll was revised from the earlier 68 to 62, it is still expected that it would rise considerably as more bodies are discovered. The Kenyan Red Cross said at least another 62 people were unaccounted for.

More than 1,000 persons were rescued and survivors told of miraculous escapes. Many of the wounded had bullet, shrapnel and soft tissue injuries.

Meanwhile, responses came from religious leaders in the country.

“Pray for those who are traumatized from the incident, that the Lord will give them strength and the ability to stand the trial. Also, pray that the Lord will continue to hold this country together as we too pray for the leadership of this country,” the call came from one Christian leader whose name was not immediately available.

“I ask the community of the Catholic Church to pray for the victims, to pray for those who are still held in the mall,” a Catholic priest told media.

“As Christians, we should be able to reach out and share love with our brothers and sisters from different faiths,” Rev. John Mark, Anglican Church of Kenya commented.

Various religious leaders also came out to condemn the attack, appealing for calm and vowing to work with the security agents as investigations continue.

“We curse the incidence that has led to injuries and deaths of innocent fellow Kenyans as well as many international visitors. As a community, we stand alongside all Kenyans to condemn the attack. Those injured and killed were innocent men, women and children and it is not acceptable. Together with fellow Kenyans, we will cooperate with the security agents to ensure something like this never happens again. We also call upon our fellow Kenyans to unite during this time of grief and donate blood and other material towards helping the wounded and affected. Finally, we appeal to all Kenyans to remain calm during this trying time and to not allow ourselves to get divided along religious, tribal or racial lines,” the leader of the Supreme Council of Kenya said.

“If those who are in that mall are hearing us, let those people go! I have not come across any religion that encourages wanton violence. Some of you have used the name of religion in the most negative of ways but it is high time you let the Kenyans and the rest of those people in that mall go, alive,” Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar Hassan appealed to the attackers.

The witness accounts, long stand-off as well as lack of information on what exactly is happening to hostages led to increased public anger and several political leaders tried to diffuse the tension.

“There is an attempt to divide Kenyans along religious lines. There is nothing like that! Kenyans have vowed to be united irrespective of religious differences. We wish a quick recovery to all wounded. We want the Kenyan people to remain calm at this very trying moment and appeal to all to come together. We have witnessed attacks in Garissa, Wajir and so on, but we Kenyan people are strong,” Former Prime Minister Hon. Raila Odinga said at a press conference on Sunday.

“We are a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi religious society and believe that our diversity is our strength. Sadly the evil and cowardly act of terrorism has claimed lives and wounded many. Let us keep the affected in our thoughts. I share your grief at our nation’s loss as my nephew and his fiancée were among the people killed. Take heart that you are not alone as you bear your hurt. We are praying for your quick recovery… We will punish the masterminds swiftly and painfully. I call on Kenyans to stand courageous and united. Let us not sacrifice our values and dignity to appease cowards. Our victory must be conclusive. As we give blood, donate money, distribute food and blankets, we have shamed our attackers. Let us win the moral war as our forces win the physical one,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said at a media briefing on Sunday. 

Pakistan Church Bombing

Posted: September 24, 2013 in Articles

Excerpt taken from Fox news – http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/09/23/christians-fear-attacks-after-pakistan-church-bombs/

A devastating double suicide attack on a church in northwest Pakistan has triggered fears among the country’s beleaguered Christian community that they will be targeted in a fresh wave of Islamist violence.

The blasts that tore through the congregation at All Saints church in Peshawar after the service on Sunday morning, killing 82 people, are believed to be the deadliest attack ever on Pakistan’s small Christian community.

The country has been wracked by years of Islamist violence and a rising tide of sectarian attacks among Muslims, but before now the biggest concern among Christians has usually been mob violence triggered by blasphemy allegations.

Shaloom Nazir, 14, was getting ready for Bible study at the 100-year-old church when the bombers struck just before noon.

In an instant he lost his mother, father, sister, brother and uncle.

“I was going to sit down in the church for a Bible class when I heard the explosion, so I ran out,” Shaloom Nazir told AFP, his voice choked with grief, his eyes fixed lifelessly on some distant point.

“There were about 300 people lying on the ground. I recognised my mother, I took her in my arms.”

It was to no avail — she later died of her injuries.

The walls of the courtyard were pockmarked with the ragged metal ball bearings that had been packed into the suicide bombers’ explosive vests to cause maximum carnage.

Many Pakistani Christians are the descendants of low-caste ancestors who converted during the days of British rule, and most are poor, relegated to dirty, undesirable jobs.

They make up just two percent of Pakistan’s 180 million population and have suffered attacks and riots in recent years over allegations of profaning the Koran or Prophet Mohammed.

Sectarian violence between majority Sunni Muslims and the Shiites, who make up about 20 percent of the population, has risen alarmingly in recent years, but Christians have largely escaped the bloodshed.

Sunday’s carnage has raised fears that this might change.

“We have been treated like sinners. We have no lands, we have no factories, we have no business,” said Saleem Haroon, who came to see two wounded cousins at Peshawar’s main Lady Reading hospital.

“It is a new war. Before, the Shias were the target, but now we are the target. They want to create a new battle, a new battleground.”

In a corner of a room at the hospital, the blood of some of the victims mingled on the tiled floor with rubbish and dirty water.

“We are just sweepers and still we have been treated like this. Look over there in the washroom,” he said, gesturing angrily at the mess.

“If all the Christians die, who will clean it? All the sweepers died yesterday.”

Danish Yunas, 35, a driver who was lucky to escape from the blast with just a leg wound, said Christians and Muslims had got on well in the past, but he feared those days were at an end.

“We had very good relations with the Muslims — there was no tension before that blast, but we fear that this is the beginning of a wave of violence against the Christians,” he told AFP.

The Bishop of Peshawar, Humphrey Peters, said he had asked the authorities to review security for Christians but to no avail.

“I am afraid that this is the beginning, it can spread to the rest of Pakistan. We are the soft target. The Christians are the soft target,” he told AFP.

“We are the poorest of the poor in this particular region and then we are also marginalised.”

A militant faction linked to the Pakistani Taliban claimed Sunday’s attack, but the main spokesman for the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group denied responsibility.

The government has proposed talks with the Taliban and TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the church bombing was an attempt to sour the atmosphere.

Speaking in London on Sunday Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the government was “unable to proceed further” with talks following the church attack.

Thousands of angry Christians protested around Pakistan on Monday to demand better protection from the authorities.

In the poor, grimy streets around All Saints church, they raged against the national government in Islamabad and in particular against the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government led by former cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

“We have been betrayed…. Yesterday, none of the government came here,” said teacher Asif Nawab outside the church.

PTI came to power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in elections in May on the promise of a “tsunami” of change.

But after losing most of her family in the attack, Shaloom’s aunt Afia Zaheen was left to wonder if the change that had come was a new fear of attacks.

“In the elections Imran Khan said this is a tsunami, it will bring change, but where is the tsunami? Is this the change?” she said.Image

Bishop, human rights groups slam ongoing human rights violations

Full report

Sudan’s President Hassan Omer al-Bashir’s visa application to attend the United Nations General Assembly hit international headlines this past week. In the light of al-Bashir’s indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Darfur, his application was condemned. A State Department spokeswoman declined to indicate whether the visa would be granted, but said, “We condemn any potential effort” by al-Bashir to attend the UN meeting. She said al-Bashir should present himself to the ICC in The Hague. The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said the proposed trip would be “deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate.”

In reaction to the visa application, the ICC called on the United States to arrest the Sudanese president if he travels to this September’s UN General Assembly in New York. The United States is not a member of the Hague-based ICC so would not be legally bound to cooperate.

Sudan’s foreign ministry promptly issued a statement insisting that al-Bashir has the right to attend the UN General Assembly meetings in New York. The ministry said the US as host country has no legal right to object to a UN member state’s participation in activities at the world body. In a news conference in Khartoum on Sunday, the president expressed confidence that he will get the visa.

“Those people [US government] we put them in a corner… We [can] go to the US and no one can do anything to us because there is no law in America that affords U.S. authorities the right to take any action against me because it is not a member of the Rome Statute. Attending the [UN] General Assembly [meeting] is our right,” the Sudanese president told reporters.

Prior to the visa application controversy, several entities spoke out against the ongoing violations of human rights in the Sudan.

Bishop calls for US intervention

A Sudanese bishop has written to U.S. President Barack Obama, calling for prompt actions to save the lives of those still alive in the country’s Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur regions. Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, the bishop of Kadugli diocese, called for tough actions against the Sudanese regime. He reminded world leaders to not just focus on the Syrian conflict, but pay more attention to the war raging in various part of Sudan.

According to Rev. Andudu, his country is currently plagued by “government-sponsored crimes against humanity” which deserve Obama’s attention.

“As a victim and survivor of genocide, I would like to remind your respected office that great effort is needed to end the deaths and displacement and restore peace to our community, which has suffered for so many years,” Rev. Andudu wrote in the letter, published in the Sudan Tribune. “Our people feel as though the world has forgotten them. We wonder why you have not acted to end our people’s suffering or that of the people of Darfur, who are still suffering and whose plight is getting worse.”

“We continue to be bombed from the air daily. Bombs land on farms and schools, churches and mosques, clinics and markets. Innocent civilians, women and children, are killed carrying on their daily lives. Those who survive live in constant fear, and for two years they have lived in caves in the mountains.”

The bishop also deplores the conditions of people living in the war-affected Sudanese territories, citing starvation conditions in Kao Nyaro and Warni areas of the Nuba Mountains.

“If the political situation is not addressed and aid is not delivered to the people immediately, the catastrophe will grow until it is too late.”

Meanwhile, Andudu urged Donald Booth, the newly appointed U.S. envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, to develop a new pro-democracy and civilian protection-oriented policy on Sudan.

Groups outline violations

In another strong call for action, a collection of 20 international human rights organizations had sent a letter on September 9 to the UN Human Rights Council outlining serious human rights violations in Sudan during the past year, urging them to address these during its session ending 27 September.

The letter cited specific violations by the government forces and allied militia, accusing them of continued abuse against civilians — including failure to protect civilians, indiscriminate bombings of civilians, denying of humanitarian access in conflict areas, use of excessive force to subdue protesters and mass detention of perceived enemies. The violations occurred in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and also spread to Northern Kordofan.

According to this detailed critique, the human rights abuses also included religious freedom violations targeting Christian minorities:

  • “Since South Sudan’s independence, public rhetoric by Sudanese leaders and religious figures has become increasingly intolerant. In 2013, we have seen a marked increase in harassment of ethnic Christian groups and individuals. Authorities have shut down Christian educational institutes and harassed and arrested employees and church members.
  • “On 15 January 2013, authorities closed down the Life Institute for Learning, an Egyptian Christian educational institute in Khartoum teaching Arabic to non-Arabic speakers. “The non-Sudanese owner and students were ordered to leave Sudan, and the institute’s assets were confiscated. On the same day, three other Christian educational organizations, including the Karido Institute for English Languages and Computer Studies, the Nile Valley Academy for Primary Education and the Aslan Academy for English Language and Computer Studies were closed down and had their assets seized.
  • “On 3 February 2013, an Undersecretary in the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs sent a letter to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Sudan threatening to arrest the church members if they began any missionary activity.
  • “On 2 March 2013, a group of armed security forces raided the New Life Church in Omdurman Town, arrested two church members and interrogated them about sources of funding and whether the church had any foreign members. Since the raid on the New Life Church, church members have reportedly been afraid to enter the church to worship. A large number of other non-Sudanese church members have also been deported in 2013.”

Sudan is due to adopt a new permanent constitution, which the government has declared will be based on Islamic Sharia, and is preparing for national elections in 2015. Sudan Tribune reports that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) see the general election as a crucial means to renew its contested legitimacy and vote in a new constitution in the country since the secession of South Sudan. The paper reported that al-Bashir has said the armed rebellion and tribal clashes will be brought to an end by the end of next year, so that the 2015 general elections will be held in a Sudan that is “free of wars.”

“We are concerned about increasing restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms at a time when Sudan is preparing for these important processes that will determine the future of the country,” the human rights organizations said. “Despite passing a 10-year action plan for human rights this year, Sudan has not demonstrated political will to change its abusive and restrictive practices.”

Among other actions, the organizations called on the Human Rights Council to move to condemn the human rights violations, establish an independent investigation into the matter, and urge the Sudan government to grant humanitarian agencies access to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States. They expressed concerns over the ongoing restrictions of basic civil and political rights, harassment, arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and restrictions on association and assembly.

“We regret that previous resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council failed to condemn the widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed in Sudan, and did not identify concrete priority areas of action to improve the protection of basic human rights.”

HRW expresses concern over Independent Expert Report

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also written a letter to the Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council, commenting on the 10 September report of the Independent Expert on the Human Rights situation in Sudan.

The organization expressed concern that the report of the Independent Expert portrays small steps taken by the Government of Sudan on legislative and institutional matters as “signs of progress.” In particular, the expert’s view that “the Government has made progress in putting in place necessary legislations and institutional mechanisms for improving the situation of human rights in the country” caused concern. According to HRW, it refers merely to the government’s promise to retain bill of rights provisions in the current Interim National Constitution (INC) in a permanent constitution, which has yet to be adopted.

“The only other two indicators referenced by the expert are the adoption of a UPR [Universal Periodic Review] implementation plan and a ten-year human rights plan of action – which is still in bullet point form.”

HRW says that to date neither a) the adoption of a plan to implement UPR recommendations, nor b) the establishment of various bodies such as the Advisory Council on Human Rights, the National Commission for Human Rights and other commissions to promote human rights, nor c) the adoption of a 10-year action plan for human rights, have led to changes to laws, policies or practices that violate the rights of the Sudanese people.

It criticized the report for downplaying the continuing, serious violations and repression of basic rights across Sudan. As an example, it stated the lack of prominence the expert gave to continued indiscriminate aerial bombings of civilian areas in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“The expert failed to include a recommendation to the government of Sudan to immediately stop this indiscriminate bombing on civilians in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan which has killed hundreds of women, men, and children. This reprehensible practice, for which the Sudanese government is directly responsible, violates basic principles of international humanitarian and human rights law, and should be a primary concern for the Independent Expert,” HRW said.

It also protested that the report did not make clear the government’s role in Darfur’s complex conflict dynamics. While it described “tribal clashes” in Darfur, it failed to note that at best Sudan is failing to protect civilians, and at worst it is allowing its security forces to participate in killing civilians.

HRW cites research showing Ali Kosheib, a known former militia leader, participating in attacks on civilians in ethnic Salamat villages in Central Darfur in April this year, in his capacity as a commander in the government’s Central Reserve Police. Kosheib, a known former militia leader, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes in Darfur in 2005.

“Moreover, the report did not accurately reflect the continued use by security forces of violence to break up peaceful protests, or the well-established practice of stifling dissent by arbitrarily detaining people with real or perceived links to rebel groups or their continued use of torture and ill-treatment to exact confessions from detainees.”

Despite what HRW called “a long-standing and entrenched tactic of repression,” it noted that the 20-page report included only a paragraph listing some examples of arbitrary arrests.

“Once more, we urge member states of the Human Rights Council not to overlook the gravity of the human rights situation in Sudan, to condemn violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, Northern Kordofan and Blue Nile states and the on-going restrictions of basic civil and political rights across the country.

HRW urged the Human Rights Council to explicitly call for reporting on the on-going violations in Southern Kordofan, Northern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur, and repression of human rights in other parts of the country, including attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and critics.

“Given the gravity of the current situation in Sudan, the Human Rights Council should call on the expert to report on these matters at its next session,” HRW concluded.

Prayer Points:

  • Pray that the UN’s Human Rights Council will move to address the Sudan’s severe human rights issues.
  • Pray that the voices of civil society groups, students, activists and all others who courageously continue to speak out against these acts will be heard by their government and the international community.
  • Pray God will strengthen the Christians in Sudan as they face increasing state sanctioned pressure, intimidation and persecution.