Yesterday, August 5th, our prayers were answered. After nearly eight months in prison the South Sudanese pastors have been released.
Originally charged with at least six criminal offenses, the pastors were found guilty of one allegation each. The judge of the Khartoum North Central Court, Ahmed Ghaboush, found Pastor Yat Michael guilty of breaching peace (Article 69) while Pastor David Yein Reith was found guilty of taking part of a “criminal or terrorist organization” (Article 65).
The judge, who was believed to be in favor of the prosecution, was reported to have stated, “The sentence they served in prison is enough, release them immediately and return the mobile phones and laptops.”
The families of the pastors were both happy and relieved and were reported to have been rejoicing, singing, and crying tears of joy.
After South Sudan gained independence in 2011, Sudan has dedicated itself to being a Muslim nation. The case of the South Sudanese pastors brought pressure on the judge, who was striving to balance local expectations of upholding Sharia law while also respecting international human rights.
Though the pastors have been released, persecution among Christians persists. During the years following South Sudan’s independence more than 200 expatriate Christians were deported from Sudan, most of them to South Sudan. In addition, the government of Sudan has stated that it will not allow new churches to be built nor will it offer new land for the churches that have been destroyed. The government has continued to confiscate the land of churches and arrest believers.
In June, 12 Christian women were arrested in front of their church as they were exiting the worship service in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, for wearing trousers and skirts in public. The women were aged between 17 and 23 and are from the Nuba mountains, an area that borders South Sudan. The group was charged under article 152 of the criminal code that prohibits “indecent dress”.
Although we count the release of the pastors as a victory, we must continue praying for Christians in Sudan as persecution worsens.
Thank you to all who sent letters to the Minster of Justice of Sudan and to all who continue to pray for Christians in Sudan.