Sudan (MNN) — It’s going to be an intense weekend of waiting for three Christians imprisoned in Sudan. We’ve kept you updated on the two Sudanese pastors and one Czech Christian aid worker sitting in a Sudanese jail. They have been charged with espionage and “inciting strife between communities”. In addition, the Czech Christian, Petr Jasek has been accused of “waging war against the state”, “spreading rumors to defame the state”, and “violating restrictions in military areas”.
The Voice of the Martyrs, USA’s Todd Nettleton says a verdict will hopefully be given for the others by Monday, though Middle East Concern and World Watch Monitor say the verdict could be announced as early as Sunday. There’s no telling if it’ll be freedom or life imprisonment or even the death penalty.
Another Sudanese pastor who was jailed with the other three was recently released – and Nettleton says it could be a good sign for this upcoming verdict.
“There was a fourth man who was on trial, another Sudanese pastor, he was released and in fact the judge said of these charges, ‘There’s no evidence against you. You can go home.’ That’s obviously our hope for the other three as well.”
While a verdict is expected, there’s also the possibility that it could be delayed again since that’s happened several times before.
“There have been numerous times where a hearing has been postponed — a lawyer couldn’t make it, a judge couldn’t make it on some occasions, there hasn’t been electricity at the courthouse so they’ve delayed…. You can imagine how frustrating that must be for these three men who are in prison waiting for this process to come to an end, as well as for their families who are certainly worried about them and concerned for their safety. So hopefully there will be a verdict soon and hopefully it will be positive, hopefully it will be the release of the three men just as we saw the release of the other pastor earlier.”
You may remember all of this started in December 2015 when Petr Jasek traveled to Sudan to visit a national Christian who was injured in an attack. When Jasek was headed back out of the country, he was stopped at the airport, several of his personal effects were confiscated, and he was arrested along with other pastors he had been in contact with.
So how did it escalate so quickly from a Christian aid worker visiting an injured believer… to he and three other pastors being arrested, and most of them still facing possible life imprisonment or the death penalty?
Nettleton says, “I think this is what, in America, we might call prosecutorial overreach. They simply went with the most serious possible charges they could come up with. But the evidence in the case has been very spotty, they haven’t shown any kind of a conspiracy to harm the Sudanese government or to overthrow the Sudanese government. So charging someone with espionage or trying to overthrow the government, there just is no evidence that that actually took place. Hopefully when we hear these verdicts, that’s what the judge will say too.”
When it comes to implications for the Sudanese Church, Nettleton shares, “I think what it says is the government is very anxious to control the Church. They are watching what the Church does, they are watching particularly those who would be in contact with outsiders, and they want to bring that to a close. I think that’s one of the significant messages of these charges in this trial process.”
In the next few days leading up to a possible verdict, please commit to urgent prayer for these three men.
“We need to pray that God will sustain them and encourage them, and pray that they’ll have opportunities to witness. Sometimes God has used Christians in prison before — even if you go back to Paul and Silas in the New Testament — to lead people who otherwise would not hear of Jesus Christ. So I think we can pray for these who are in prison awaiting their verdict that they’ll have opportunities to witness — maybe it’s to other prisoners, maybe it’s to prison guards, maybe it’s to the judge or to lawyers or to government officials — but we believe God has a purpose for this and so we can pray that His purpose will be fulfilled.”
Nettleton adds, “We also want to pray for the broader Church in Sudan. You know, we have seen this trial go on. A year or so ago there were two other pastors ethnically from South Sudan who were on trial in Sudan. Before that, there was the case against Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan. So this is very much a pattern of persecution that our Christian brothers and sisters in Sudan are facing.”