Authorities in Sudan arrested and jailed a Christian leader on charges of witchcraft last week after he held a prayer meeting for his mother at a local church.
According to sources, Pastor Abdalla Haron Sulieman was leading a prayer meeting for his mother, who suffered from an infection in her legs, when authorities in El Hasahisa town in Al Jazirah state walked into the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church building, Morning Star News reported.
The outlet noted Sulieman's mother, 60-year-old Aisha Adam, was reportedly healed after he prayed for her. As the news spread of her miraculous healing, others from the predominantly Muslim community began coming into the church for healing.
In response, Muslim extremists who were angered by the public response to the prayer meeting were successful in persuading the police to arrest Sulieman on the charge of claiming to be a witch doctor under the Sudan Criminal Code of 1991.
"This is a serious violation against Christians in Sudan," evangelist Francis Ismail told Morning Star News.
According to the outlet, Sudanese Christians shared the news of the pastor's plight on social media. Some demanded the pastor's immediate release. Others said his arrest and incarceration was just more evidence of the ongoing systematic persecution of Christians in Sudan.
"We need to continue to pray for our brother because he is in jail for the sake of the gospel," said one Sudanese Christian on his Facebook page.
Christians in Sudan face regular persecution. As CBN News reported in September, a prosecutor told four Christians they would face the death penalty if they did not renounce their Christian faith and agree not to pray, share their faith or participate in any activities that would identify them as Christians.
The four were arrested on apostasy charges under Article 126 of Sudan's 1991 criminal code – which had been nullified two years ago.
For nearly 30 years, Sudan's apostasy law condemned to death anyone found guilty of violating strict Islamic sharia law.
The apostasy charges against the four were finally dismissed in Central Darfur state by Judge Ibrahim Hamza, who stated that apostasy is no longer a crime in Sudan.
As CBN News has reported, after the end of Omar al-Bashir's Islamist dictatorship in 2019, a brief period of freedom followed. But then the specter of state-sponsored persecution in Sudan returned with a military coup in October of 2021.
After Bashir was ousted from 30 years of power, the transitional civilian-military government managed to undo some sharia (Islamic law) provisions. It outlawed the labeling of any religious group as "infidels" and thus effectively rescinded apostasy laws that made leaving Islam punishable by death.
But with the military coup, Christians in Sudan fear the return of the most repressive and harsh aspects of Islamic law, according to Morning Star.
Sudan is the third-largest country in Africa. It ranks #13 on Open Doors' 2022 World Watch List of the top 50 countries where Christians face the worst persecution.
The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report states that conditions have improved somewhat since the decriminalization of apostasy and a halt to the demolition of churches, but hardline Islam still dominates Sudanese society. Christians face discrimination, including problems in obtaining licenses for constructing church buildings.
The Christian population of Sudan is estimated to be almost 2 million, or 4.5 percent of the total population of more than 44 million.