The Bishop of Bradford and his wife narrowly missed getting caught up in political turmoil during a recent visit to Sudan, he has revealed.
The Right Reverend Nick Baines and his wife Linda travelled to the African country to meet Anglicans to strengthen a 30-year relationship between the Diocese of Bradford and the Episcopal Church of Sudan.
But an hour after they left the capital Khartoum to start their journey home, the Christian-run guesthouse they had been staying in was raided, guests taken in for questioning and the place taken over by the security services.
The Bishop said: “We left at one in the morning. We only found out afterwards the place had been raided and confiscated by the security service and the people staying there had been taken in for questioning.”
He said he did not yet know how many people had been detained and whether or not they had been released.
He said: “The Bishop of Khartoum thinks they were watching us. When we had gone, they went into the guest house.
“Clearly the situation there is bad, but we never felt a threat.
“My wife and I just go and enjoy it, and if anyone had arrested us or given us any grief we would have just dealt with it.”
The majority-Muslim North African state has suffered continuing political and military struggles which haven’t abated since the division of the state, and the creation of independent South Sudan in 2011.
Instead, many residents of Sudan have been forced to relocate to its southern neighbour, while ex-pats and foreigners have come under suspicion for gathering evidence about the current regime.
The Diocese of Bradford last year raised almost £100,000 for a displaced community, the Nuba people of Kadugli, who sided with southern factions throughout the country’s 50-year civil war, and the Bishop and his wife had travelled to Sudan to see how the money was being spent.
Mr Baines said: “People can’t get in to see what’s going on but stories come out. Thousands of people have been displaced. We met some of them in Khartoum when we were over there.
“There were stories of Christian communities trying to keep their culture alive and their language alive, under enormous pressure.”
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