Persecution Watch: Sudan and
-- Assist News Service
KHARTOUM, SUDAN (ANS) -- A young Christian woman displaced by decades of
war was fined and whipped by police for not wearing a headscarf in public
in Khartoum, at a time when the military government of Sudan is re-imposing
shari'a (Islamic law) on all citizens residing in the capital, human rights
watchdog Barnabas Fund said.
The organization, which investigates the plight of Christians in the troubled
African nation and other Islamic countries, said it had learned that 27-year
old Cecilia John Holland was detained after she traveled on a minibus at Badr
Gardens to her home in the suburb of Haj Yousif for not wearing the headscarf
on April 13.
"Ten police forced the bus to stop and dragged her from it. She was
modestly dressed in long sleeves and an ankle-length skirt, but her hair was
uncovered in Khartoum temperatures of 100-105 degrees F (37-41°C),"
Barnabas Fund added.
It claimed that the policemen "forced her into their vehicle, striking
her in the process." Four other women were already inside (the vehicle)
and "seven more had been arrested" apparently for a similar offense.
After a night at the police station, Cecilia was taken to Sizana Islamic Court
where Muslim policemen testified against her, Barnabas Fund said.
"She was not allowed to make any kind of statement or speak in her own
defense (and being) accused of "standing near a garden at night"
and not wearing a scarf on her head. They also misrepresented Cecilia by stating
that she was "jobless", refusing to register her employment,"
the human rights organization explained.
The Islamic court declared Cecilia guilty and sentenced her to 40 lashes
on the back and fined her 10,000 dinars, about $38, and the equivalent to
one third of her monthly salary. She was released that afternoon after being
whipped and paying the fine, Barnabas Fund said.
Cecilia is working as a catering officer for a local non-governmental organization
and holds a diploma in catering from Khartoum Applied Sciences College. She
is one of more than two million non-Muslim southerners in and around Khartoum
who have been displaced as a result of the 21-year civil war between the mainly
Arab Muslim North and the mainly African Christian and animist South, according
to Barnabas Fund.
The People's Liberation Army took up arms in 1983 to demand better treatment
for southerners, who are predominately black Christians and animists, from
the Muslim Arab-controlled government in Khartoum which tried to impose Islamic
law on them.
Sudan's military government and the main rebel group reportedly extended
a ceasefire for three months Monday, May 31, to clinch a peace deal that would
end Africa's longest civil war amid reports that Christianity is growing in
the country of roughly 38 million people on the ashes of burned down churches
and despite persecution.
However in the capital, which is firmly in government hands the authorities
in April renewed their "insistence that all Sudanese citizens residing
in Khartoum would be under shari'a (Islamic law)," Barnabas Fund said.
Cecilia has a European grandparent and therefore has a paler skin and longer
hair than most southern Sudanese, Barnabas Fund explained.
"While the police may have initially mistaken her for an Arab Muslim,
her name and accent should have proved her Christian and southern Sudanese
identity to them. However, the police told her that no-one, "not even
a non-Muslim" was exempt from the Islamic dress code."
The latest incident comes after Open Doors, which supports persecuted churches,
cautioned recently that it remains "a big question" whether or not
a peace accord between the mainly Islamic regime and rebels will hold.
"We're going to have to leave it in the hands of the Lord, because,
right now, it's signed. Of course, it has to be put into effect down the road,
and so that's the key. We need to keep on praying that this will really end
the fighting," said Open Doors' Jerry Dykstra in an interview with Mission
Network News (MNN), a mission news service and broadcaster.
However official Dykstra stressed that two decades of conflict, which killed
an estimated two million people and displaced four million others, has not
been able to destroy the apparently rapidly expanding Christian family in
mainly Islamic nation.
"The tremendous news is that despite the persecution and the burning
of churches, there's been amazing growth of Christianity. In fact, we believe
the figures show it's been grown to almost 70-percent of South Sudan. This
is just the way that the Holy Spirit works," he told MNN.
From Charisma News Service
A Pentecostal preacher abducted by Muslim militants in the country's southwestern
region has escaped from his captors. Wilson Fazal, 41, who pastors a church
in the city of Quetta, disappeared May 16 after receiving threatening letters
from an unknown group of Islamists urging him to convert to Islam or face
unspecified consequences, Reuters reported.
Fazal told police that he had been kidnapped and taken to the northwestern
city of Peshawar, about 375 miles northeast of Quetta, when he managed to
escape recently. No details of his escape were immediately available.
Fazal's son, Jerry, told Reuters that a hand-written letter delivered to
their home in early May warned Wilson to stop preaching Christianity. A group
calling itself Mahaz-e-Jihad, or "Frontier of the Holy War" sent
About 70,000 of Quetta's population of 1.5 million are Christian. They have
largely lived in harmony with the Muslim population, even though the city
is also home to hard-line Islamic militants opposed to religious tolerance
and the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan.
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