Jan 8, 1995. ROME - Two leaders of a Sudanese clan that converted to Catholicism in the 1970s were crucified for refusing to renounce their faith and return to Islam, said the head of a Sudanese diocese.
Msgr Cesare Mazolari, a Comboni missionary and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Rumbek, said the mid-August crucifixions were reported in a letter from the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Khartoum. "Death is implied (in the letter), but not stated," Msgr Mazzolari told Catholic News Service in a Dec 7 interview from Brescia, Italy.
Crucifixion victims are tied to a cross and left without food or drink under the hot sun, he said. Even if they are taken down before they die, "it is torture and a violation of human rights." "I tell my people of instances of crucifixion and they say this goes on all the time," Msgr Mazolari said, although religious and human rights experts have not been able to verify the extent of the practice. The missionary was preparing to return to Nairobi, Kenya, where he is based, when fighting between the Sudanese government and members of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army made it impossible for him to stay in southem Sudan.
He said despite the risks he would be crossing into Sudan to celebrate Christmas with Catholics in the diocese. Msgr Mazolari said the two men who were crucified, 65-year- old Abdalla Yusif and 43-year-old Mahanna Muhammad, were arrested in mid-July and charged with apostasy for renouncing their Muslim faith.
Prior to news about the crucifixion, the last information about the men and the clan they led was a July 19 document saying four members of the extended family were arrested and the two leaders were sentenced to 100 lashes. Yusif s flogging was reportedly stopped when he collapsed after the fourth stroke, but Muhammad was reportedly given the full 100 lashes. Two other members of the clan, an extended family including about 100 people, were arrested, but released after another trial was scheduled. Msgr Mazolari said he did not know what their fate was. Yusif, the head of the clan, told a parish priest in the early 1970s that he had had a vision, and he and his extended family wanted to become Catholic.
They were received into the church by the former archbishop of Khartoum after government authorities assured church leaders that Sudanese were free to choose their religion.
Sudan, an officially Muslim nation, has been embroiled in a civil war since the government adopted Shariah, the Islamic law, as the basis for its national law. • CNS
The CatholicNews, January 8, 1995, page 4