U.S. Episcopalians protest treatment of Episcopal Church in Sudan

More than 100 Episcopalians marched on the Sudanese Embassy in protest last week after the Muslim government seized the headquarters of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan.

The Sudanese church said that armed government police in the African country entered the Episcopal offices in Khartoum last month and evicted church workers. The staff took refuge in the Khartoum cathedral, according to Episcopal News Service.

"I believe we were heard and that our presence will make a difference to our Sudanese sisters and brothers," said Virginia Assistant Bishop Francis Campbell Gray, who led the march.

Embassy officials denied the seizure was motivated by religion or politics, saying the action arose from an ownership dispute and police had a court order to conduct the eviction.

The property seizure is the latest in a series of conflicts between the Sudanese government and the Episcopal Church there. Sudan has confiscated the old Khartoum Cathedral and has tried to demolish church-run schools and seize other offices, American church officials said.

The Washington demonstrators also protested human rights violations in Sudan's vast Darfur region, where a 15-month insurgency has left 1 million people homeless.

Human rights groups say Sudan's Muslim government armed an Arab militia that carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing of black Africans in the region. The Darfur region is not covered under agreements signed last week that will pave the way for an end to southern Sudan's 21-year civil war.