Date:  January 27, 2023

Four others wounded in pre-dawn attack.

Our Sudan Correspondent

Location of South Kordofan state, Sudan. (TUBS, Creative Commons)

Location of South Kordofan state, Sudan. (TUBS, Creative Commons)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A church pastor and three other Christians were killed in Sudan on Monday (Jan. 23) when suspected Islamic extremists shot them to death, an area source said.

Four of the victims’ traveling companions were wounded when the assailants opened fire on the team at the facility where they were spending the night in Kadugli, capital of Sudan’s South Kordofan state.

Sudanese-American Pastor Ibrahim Kandr, Ismail Osman, Bashir Almaak and Ayoub Ibrahim were spending the night in Kadugli en route to their home area of Um Durein when the assailants shot them between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., an area church leader said.

Islamic extremists who have been terrorizing people in the area since 2011 monitor movements in and out of town and likely saw the ministry team arrive for the night, said the church leader, whose name is withheld for security reasons.

Wounded in the attack were Imtiyas Marhy Jabdool, 29; Fadul Musa Al Haraba, 23; Zakaria Butros Al Haraba, 34; and Mujahid Hassan 19, the source said.

Sudanese Christians expressed their shock and sympathy for the victims’ families on social media.

“My condolences to the family of the servant of God Ibrahim and the rest of the victims,” wrote one Christian who identified himself only as Komi.

The bodies of the four slain Christians were transported to Khartoum for burial.

In southwestern Sudan’s South Darfur Province, two Christians were arrested on Jan. 8 in Nyala town by masked men believed to be national security personnel, local sources said. They were released without charges the same day.

The two converts, whose names are withheld for security reasons, were arrested by men in a government vehicle at 7 a.m. from an area home, said a source. Muslim sheikhs (teachers) had accused them of evangelizing Muslims and had warned them to stop doing so.

Following two years of advances in religious freedom in Sudan after the end of the Islamist dictatorship under Omar al-Bashir in 2019, the specter of state-sponsored persecution returned with the military coup of Oct. 25, 2021.

The Christian population of Sudan is estimated at 2 million, or 4.5 percent of the total population of more than 43 million.

After Bashir was ousted from 30 years of power in April 2019, the transitional civilian-military government had managed to undo some sharia (Islamic law) provisions. It outlawed the labeling of any religious group “infidels” and thus effectively rescinded apostasy laws that made leaving Islam punishable by death.

With the Oct. 25, 2021 coup, Christians in Sudan fear the return of the most repressive and harsh aspects of Islamic law. Abdalla Hamdok, who had led a transitional government as prime minister starting in September 2019, was detained under house arrest for nearly a month before he was released and reinstated in a tenuous power-sharing agreement in November 2021.

Hamdock had been faced with rooting out longstanding corruption and an Islamist “deep state” from Bashir’s regime – the same deep state that is suspected of rooting out the transitional government in the Oct. 25, 2021 coup.

Persecution of Christians by non-state actors continued before and after the coup.

In Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Sudan was ranked No. 10, up from No. 13 the previous year, as attacks by non-state actors continued and religious freedom reforms at the national level were not enacted locally.

Sudan had dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in six years when it first ranked No. 13 in the 2021 World Watch List. The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report states that conditions have improved somewhat with the decriminalization of apostasy and a halt to demolition of churches, but that conservative Islam still dominates society; Christians face discrimination, including problems in obtaining licenses for constructing church buildings.

The U.S. State Department in 2019 removed Sudan from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and upgraded it to a watch list. The State Department removed Sudan from the Special Watch List in December 2020.

Sudan had previously been designated as a CPC from 1999 to 2018.