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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Persecution Watch: Sudan and Pakistan


CBN.com -- 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.

CECILIA "GUILTY"

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.

MILITARY GOVERNMENT

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."

BIG GUESTION

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 the letter.

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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Content used by permission.

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