Sudan forces destroy church, residents say - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Sudan forces destroy church, residents say

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Residents look over rubble that remains after government forces destroyed a church, witnesses said.  (Source: CNN) Residents look over rubble that remains after government forces destroyed a church, witnesses said. (Source: CNN)

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (CNN) - A Sudanese government force destroyed a church on Monday, ignoring the wails of nearby residents, witnesses said.

The attack came a day after authorities sent a letter saying they would demolish the church, priest Kuoa Shimal said.

Government sources did not immediately return calls about the alleged incident.

Complaints about the predominantly Muslim country's lack of religious freedom came under the international spotlight recently after Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, a Christian mother of two, refused to renounce her faith and was sentenced to death. After an international outcry, she was freed and reunited with her American husband.

The 70-strong force on Monday arrived at the Alizba slums near the capital, Khartoum, around 10 a.m., witnesses said. Some were dressed in plain clothes.

After when witnesses said the force arrived the religious site was seen to be reduced to rubble.

In April of 2013, the Sudanese minister of religious affairs announced that no licenses would be granted to allow for the building of new churches, less than two years after the predominantly Christian South Sudan seceded to form an independent country.

During a brief territorial war between Sudan and South Sudan in April of 2012, a mob of Islamist extremists attacked and destroyed a church west of Khartoum despite a police cordon around it.

The threat of violence has caused Sudan's churches to empty. At a recent Sunday service, worshipers asked not to be identified by name.

"The church is now contaminated with terror. You don't feel safe in prayer," one Christian activist said.

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