Police seize Church offices in Sudan: CEN 5.27.04 May 27, 2004Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
Armed police seized the offices of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan in a move observers say was designed to split the Church, with the aim of creating a rump group loyal to the Khartoum government.
The Rev Enock Tombe, the Provincial Secretary of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS), reports that on Thursday May 20, police entered the Church’s offices in Khartoum and “ordered the eviction of ECS personnel and properties from the building.”
“Staff were warned that if the order was not complied with, force would be used to ensure compliance,” Mr Tombe writes, as “armed riot police were positioned at the gate for this purpose.” Workmen brought by the police then emptied the buildings of their contents loading them onto trucks.
The Rt Rev Daniel Deng Bul, Bishop of Renk, who witnessed the raid, reports that he and the other members of the Church staff were unharmed as he told them not to resist. Bishop Deng and church staffers have taken refuge at All Saints Cathedral in Khartoum.
In a letter delivered to Sudanese President General Omar el-Bashir on May 24, Archbishop Joseph Marona protested that the seizure was “part of a systematic attempt to undermine the work of the Church”.
He accused the government of perverting the rule of law and targeting Christians for persecution as “this event serves to highlight the vulnerability of Christians in Northern Sudan under Sudanese Sharia law.”
The Bishop of Khartoum, the Rt Rev Ezekiel Kondo, stated that a police major who led the raid told him “the former bishop of Rumbek, Gabriel Roric Jur, has sold the building to someone else and the court has issued order of eviction to this effect.”
“We suspect that the government might be behind Roric to do this to put the ECS into a difficult position” Bishop Kondo added.
In December 2003, the former Bishop of Rumbek announced the formation of a rival Episcopal Church of the Sudan and declared himself Archbishop. Considered a “renegade” by many Christians for his service to the National Islamic Front (NIF) government, he served as Deputy Foreign Minister of the Sudan and is presently the chairman of the government’s Inter-religious Dialogue Commission.
On Sep 5, 2002, the General Synod of the Sudan changed the Church’s canons, requiring a bishop to be resident in his diocese. If a bishop were absent for more than six months, the see would be declared vacant. On May 31, 2003, Archbishop Marona deposed Bishop Roric from office when he refused to return to Rumbek after an absence of 10 years.
Bishop Roric refused to accept the sentence and responded by creating a rival Church with the backing of elements of the NIF government.
The Provincial Secretary, Mr Tombe, states Khartoum has recognised Bishop Roric as “Archbishop of ECS” and continues through all the organs of state to collaborate with Roric’s efforts to undermine the Church’s activities”.
Sudanese law requires Churches to hold property in the name of a trustee, rather than in the name of the institution. Mr Tombe stated, “The property was originally bought in the name of Gabriel Roric as trustee on behalf of the ECS.”
Bishop Roric,the Church has since learned “sold the building” he explained, “while masquerading as the Archbishop of ECS”.
This is the second time the Episcopal Church in Sudan has been divided. In 1987,wrangles over succession between the late Archbishops Elinana Galamu and Benjamina Yugusuk divided the Church and was only resolved in 1992 following the intervention of Archbishop George Carey who reconciled the two groups.