JUBA, South Sudan, August 18, 2021 Christian leaders in Sudan said government officials have detained a shipment of Bibles by demanding customs fees from which it is exempt.
he Rev. Saad Idris Komi, chairman of the Sudan Pentecostal Church, said customs officials refused to release the Bibles earlier this month after rejecting his denomination’s application for tax-exempt status for the shipment. Sudan’s Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act, enacted in July 2020, eliminates customs duties for religious literature, Pastor Komi said.
Botrous Badawi, a Christian and an advisor to the minister of Sudan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments, raised a complaint about the detained shipment during a workshop on religious freedom in Khartoum in Aug. 8.
Church leaders say there is a dire need for Arabic-language Bibles among the country’s estimated 2 million Christians.
Badawi also criticized the government for taking no action to return confiscated church buildings. The facilities include the former Catholic Club, strategically located opposite Khartoum International Airport. The building was turned into a headquarters for the National Congress Party led by former President Omar al-Bashir, deposed in April 2019.
A building of the Sudan Interior Church, used by the Khartoum International Church and other Christian organizations, was turned into offices for the former National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which previously had broad powers to jail without charges or trial Christians and others deemed undesirable.
In March 2020 Sudan ordered the removal of committees imposed on churches by Bashir’s government, a move expected to return oversight of church properties to their rightful church owners, and Christian leaders are awaiting legal action needed to regain them. They are demanding that the transitional government return all church buildings, lands and properties wrongfully confiscated by the former regime.