In accordance with sharia law, apostasy – leaving Islam – is punishable by death in Sudan, although nobody has been executed for the “crime” in nearly 20 years. Almost 170 people were however jailed or charged in 2011 and 2012.
The danger for converts has increased following the secession of South Sudan in July 2011; Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has repeatedly stated his intention to strengthen sharia law, making the country 100% Islamic.
A Christian from the Nuba Mountains who fled Sudan last month has now revealed how the authorities are trying to track down converts from Islam.
He was arrested in a raid on his home in Khartoum on 23 February and taken in for interrogation. Officials from the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) told the Christian, “If you need your life, just cooperate with us.”
His computer, two laptops, iPad, mobile phone, passport and other documents were confiscated, along with his brother and sisters’ mobile phones.
The security officers accused the Christian of being a spy for insurgents in the Nuba Mountains, against whom Sudan has been waging a ferocious military campaign for two years, and threatened to kill him in accordance with Sudanese law.
He was released but ordered to report to the NISS office daily. He told Morning Star News before fleeing the country:
"They told me I must cooperate with them in giving them the names of Muslims who have changed their religion, and they asked me about the whereabouts of my friend, a guy who was a Muslim and became Christian.
I am now threatened badly before them, and they were making me every day to be in their office, saying if I refused to deal with them, they will accuse me with unknown fate."
Persecution of Christians in Sudan, which is 98% Muslim, has increased sharply since the secession of the predominantly Christian South Sudan. Churches are being demolished, Christian institutions and schools closed, Christians arrested, foreign Christian workers deported and literature seized. In April, a government minister announced that no new licences will be granted for church buildings.
On 25 June, plain-clothes police officials raided the offices of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, chasing pastors and others out, in an apparent bid to take over the property.