JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – In a surprise move, Sudan has released shipments of Bibles long held in port, including one detained nearly six years ago, according to the head of the Bible Society in Sudan.
The Rev. Ismail Abdurahman Kenani, Khartoum-based director of the Bible Society in Sudan, said port authorities had been delaying several shipments of Bibles in Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. Besides the shipment detained after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir began a crack-down on Christian institutions in 2012, another one detained a little over three years ago was among those released in early August, Kenani said.
The estimated 2 million Christians in Sudan have endured a critical shortage of Arabic-language Bibles, he said.
“We are even planning to put an order for another shipment, because the need is still great here for the Bibles,” Kenani told Morning Star News.
Port authorities have long given no official explanation for detaining the shipments, though one official told the Bible Society they were held up because they exceeded the limit of one container at a time. Intentional bureaucratic barriers also seem to have been erected.
“We came to learn that proper documents for the shipments were intentionally misplaced by one of the officers of the port authority,” Kenani said.
The church leader told Morning Star News that Sudan released the shipments two months ago, on Aug. 7.
“All things are in the hands of God,” Kenani said.
Detainment of Bibles in Sudan also took place before 2011, with one shipment held up for nearly four years, a Bible Society source said.
Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities have demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.
The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.
Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999.
Sudan ranked fourth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.