Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has confirmed that South Sudanese clergymen Rev Yat Michael and Rev Peter Yein Reith are currently detained in Khartoum by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). NISS officials are also orchestrating a campaign of harassment against the chairman of the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church (SEPC) council responsible for church buildings and land, Mr Rafat Samir Mussad Obid.
According to local sources, NISS agents arrested Rev Yat Michael on 21 December 2014, after he addressed the congregation at Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church, a church belonging to the SEPC denomination which was partially demolished by the authorities on 2 December 2014. NISS officers said they were offended by his reference to government confiscation of church property in his sermon.
Rev Michael was later charged with instigating Sudanese citizens against their government. Local sources also report that Rev Peter Yein Reith was arrested on 11 January 2015 shortly after arriving in Khartoum from South Sudan. The two clergymen have been held incommunicado since their arrest.
As chairman of the SEPC council responsible for buildings and land, Mr Obid has challenged government attempts to sell land belonging to the Church.
On 8 December, lawyers representing the SEPC and 12 tenants in one of the church’s properties in Omdurman, Khartoum State, lodged a constitutional appeal following a dispute over ownership of the property, which resulted in the Ministry of Justice issuing the tenants with a one-week eviction notice. The NISS campaign of harassment began as a result of his work as chair of the council.