Tuesday, May 12, 2015

RLPB 309. Sudan: Pastors Charged

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 309 | Wed 13 May 2015

Update: Middle East Concern (MEC) reports that while the court hearing took place on 13 May, the prosecutor could not produce his witnesses from Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Consequently, the judge postponed the hearing until Tuesday 19 May. Prayer requests remain unchanged (see below).

SUDAN: PASTORS CHARGED
By Elizabeth Kendal

After predominantly Christian South Sudan seceded from the Republic of Sudan in July 2011, Sudan's Arab-Islamist regime in Khartoum declared its intention to Islamise Sudan fully.
click on map to enlarge
The Islamisation includes a campaign of systematic persecution, especially in the strategic major centres of Khartoum, Khartoum North (Bahri) and Omdurman. Foreign Christians have been expelled, numerous Southerners have been driven out and several churches have been seized and destroyed.

In mid-November 2014 National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents oversaw the partial demolition of the Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church, a property belonging to the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) [see RLPB 288 (26 Nov 2014)]. Then on Sunday 21 December 2014, Rev Yat Michael, an SSPEC pastor visiting from Juba, South Sudan, was arrested as he addressed the congregation at the partially demolished property.

Rev P.Y.Reith (MSN)
Then, on 11 January 2015, SSPEC pastor, Rev Peter Yein Reith, was arrested as he returned to his home at the Gerif West Bible School in Khartoum after a prayer meeting. It has been suggested that Pastor Reith was arrested because he had delivered a letter to the Office of Religious Affairs in Khartoum in which denominational leaders enquired about the arrest of Pastor Michael. Both pastors were taken to a secret location and held incommunicado without charges or access to their families or a lawyer, triggering grave concerns for their welfare. On 30 April the men were transferred from a police station in down-town Khartoum to a NISS detention centre in Khartoum, before being transferred to Omdurman Prison on Monday 4 May.

Both pastors faced the Khartoum Bhari Criminal Court on 4 May where they were charged jointly with undermining the constitutional system (Article 50 of the Sudanese Penal Code); waging war against the state (Article 51); disclosure and receipt of official information or documents (Article 55); arousing feelings of discontent among regular forces (Article 62); breach of public peace (Article 69); and offences relating to insulting religious beliefs (Article 125). Of the five charges, Articles 50 and 51 carry the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty.

Morning Star News (MSN) was able to speak briefly with Pastor Michael on 7 May. 'God will intervene and protect us even in prison despite the serious charges brought against us,' the pastor said. 'Thank you all for your prayers and concerns for us over this long period of imprisonment.' According to MSN, whilst NISS officials offered to drop the charges if the SSPEC paid $12,000, SSPEC will not open itself up to extortion. The pastors commenced a hunger strike on 28 April to protest their detention. Their families are understandably anxious. Pastor Michael's wife implored MSN, 'Let us continue to pray for them so that God can help them to be released.' The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday 14 May.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR

* JUSTICE: that the court will see the charges for what they are -- ridiculous, unfair and vindictive. 'For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong ...' (Isaiah 61:8a ESV)

* MERCY: that Rev Yat Michael and Rev Peter Yein Reith might be sustained and protected while in prison and then vindicated and released with all charges dropped. 'Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.' (Psalm 116:5 ESV)

* WISDOM: for all Sudan's Christians -- especially for church leaders -- that they will know how best to navigate the escalating repression and persecution. 'If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.' (James 1:5 ESV)

* DIVINE INTERVENTION in Sudan and in South Sudan, to bring war, corruption and religious repression to an end for the sake of the suffering church and millions who are harassed and helpless, lost and perishing, like sheep without a shepherd.  'The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few;  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.' (From Matthew 9:35-38 ESV)

* DIVINE GRACE to open the hearts of Sudanese Muslims to the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. 'For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.' (Ephesians 2:8,9 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
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PASTORS CHARGED IN SUDAN

In November 2014 Sudanese security agents oversaw the partial demolition of the Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church, a property belonging to the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC). Then, on 21 December 2014, authorities arrested Rev Yat Michael, an SSPEC pastor visiting from Juba, South Sudan, as he addressed the congregation at its property. When SSPEC pastor Rev Peter Yein Reith delivered a letter to the authorities in Khartoum enquiring about the arrest of Pastor Michael, he too was arrested. In court on 4 May, both pastors were charged with serious national security offences, two of which carry the death penalty or life imprisonment if there is a guilty verdict. Persecution in Sudan has escalated markedly since the South seceded in July 2011. Please pray for the Church in Sudan.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).