22 May 2004
His Excellency Dr Issam Ahmed al Bashir
The Minister of Religious Guidance and Endowments
Government of Sudan
We are writing to protest against recent action of Federal and State Authorities in Khartoum against the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS).
Without any notice or warning, armed police arrived at the ECS Guest House (Sharia Baladia, al Mugran) at 9am on Thursday 20 May 2004. The police ordered the immediate 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. Three truckloads of armed riot police were threateningly positioned at the gate for this purpose.
The police then entered the guest house and ordered clearance of all furniture, carpets and effects. Additional trucks and labourers had been brought for this purpose and everything was removed to the trucks.
We wish to make a serious protest at this provocative action against the Church. The police treated the premises and staff as if we were criminals. The court order was made in such a way as to cause maximum disruption to church activities:
- Giving no advance notice of the eviction
- Authorising the use of force
- Being served on a Thursday in such a way that no appeal was possible to stay the action
When ECS lawyers requested the court for details of the court order, they were refused.
This is the fourth time that ECS principal church properties in Khartoum have been acted against by the police:
- First, the confiscation of the old Cathedral in 1971
- Then attempts to seize the Diocese of Khartoum's headquarters in Omdurman in 1997
- Then the Easter incident in April 2001 when riot police stormed All Saints' Cathedral
- And now, on 20 May 2004, the forced eviction from the ECS Guest House
The ECS Guest House houses the Office of the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan as well as the Office of the Diocese of Renk and other church offices. The action against the guest house is therefore directed against the top leadership of the Episcopal Church. As the fourth major police action, the eviction appears to be part of a systematic attempt to undermine the work of the Church. The eviction was clearly well planned - the presence of large numbers of armed riot police, and the removal trucks and labourers ready to clear the property. We hold the Government of Sudan accountable for this action.
This event serves to highlight the vulnerability of Christians in Northern Sudan under Sudanese Sharia law. It raises serious questions over the unity of the country if the Government is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens and if Christians are to be deliberately targeted in the national capital. We challenge the Government of Sudan to give a clear indication that it is serious about peace. We call upon the Government of Sudan:
- Immediately to restore the ECS Guest House to its rightful owner - the Episcopal Church of the Sudan
- To ensure the protection of religious freedom for all citizens
- To recognise and respect the legitimate authorities of the Church
- To explain why the Ministry of Religious Guidance misled the Court to believe that Mr Gabriel Roric Jur, who was dismissed from his position as bishop in 2003, was "Archbishop of ECS"
- To cease using Mr Gabriel Roric Jur to attempt to destroy the Episcopal Church of the Sudan
We look forward to hearing from you and to seeing action on these important points.
Rt Revd Daniel Deng
Secretary to the Episcopal Council
and Bishop of Renk
Rt Revd Ezekiel Kondo
Bishop of Khartoum
Revd Enock Tombe
Interim Provincial Secretary
The Most Revd Joseph Biringi Hassan Marona
Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan
The Most Revd Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Secretary General, Sudan Council of Churches
Secretary General, Sudan Inter-Religious Council
Secretary General, All Africa Conference of Churches
Sister Churches in Sudan