Open Doors welcomes the news that Sudan’s transitional government has agreed to end 30 years of Islamic law, under which Christians and churches were severely persecuted.
In July, Open Doors covered the story that Sudan had scrapped the death penalty for people who leave Islam, as well as other reforms that repealed laws that violated human rights. At the time, there were concerns from many that reforms did not go far enough: Open Doors now welcomes the news that 30 years of Islamic law in Sudan are now going to be ended.
Sudanese Christian (photo taken before Covid-19)
Sudan’s transitional government has agreed to a separation of religion and state, as Islam is removed as its state religion. This is part of a peace deal that the government signed with rebel groups in late August.
The move comes after 30 years of Islamic law which was implemented under former president Omar al-Bashir, who enforced a strict interpretation. Churches were confiscated or demolished, and leaders were harassed and arrested. He was ousted in April 2019, after months of street protests, and the transitional government was installed.
The declaration signed by the government and rebel groups (and quoted by Bloomberg) includes: “For Sudan to become a democratic country where the rights of all citizens are enshrined, the constitution should be based on the principle of 'separation of religion and state', in the absence of which the right to self-determination must be respected.”
“Open Doors welcomes this significant development in Sudan,” said Jo Newhouse, spokesperson for Open Doors in sub-Saharan Africa. “We share the church's careful optimism over the transitional government's efforts to rid Sudan of laws discriminating against non-Muslims.”
We know that many Open Doors supporters are among those around the world who have been standing with Sudanese Christians and praying for a long time for Sudan, which is number 7 on the World Watch List. This is a wonderful answer to prayer!
“Open Doors welcomes this significant development in Sudan.” Jo Newhouse, Open Doors
The peace declaration is intended to end years of war in Darfur and Sudan's southern South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, which have left at least 300,000 people dead and displaced a further 2.7 million people in Darfur alone, according to the UN.
However, Newhouse said, there are issues that still need to be addressed, including the repeal of the blasphemy and public decency laws, as well as problems around church registration and building, and of confiscated church properties. “A move to allow representation of religious minority groups in the Ministry of Religious Endowments with delegates they have chosen themselves, is also necessary," she said.
Islamist groups loyal to al-Bashir have challenged recent government decisions, insisting Sharia (Islamic law) should remain in force and calling on the army to step in and ‘defend the law of God’.
There are nearly two million Christians in Sudan, which is less than five per cent of the population. While the news of these reforms is very positive, many believers who have converted from the majority religion, Islam, face intense opposition from their families and this is unlikely to change soon.
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