Sudan government ends thirty years of Islamic Law

Sudan’s transitional government has agreed to remove Islam as its state religion as part of a peace deal it signed with rebel groups last week, per Bloomberg.

Thirty years ago, former president Omar al-Bashir enforced a strict Islamic law. Churches were confiscated or demolished, and leaders were harassed and arrested. Removing this law is the latest in a string of decisions taken by the new government to repeal laws that violated human rights. Last month it announced it would cancel the apostacy law and a law on public flogging. It also criminalised female genital mutilation. The changes are a response to demands made during months of street protests, which led to the ousting of al-Bashir in April 2019 and the installation of the transitional government.

“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,” says the declaration that was signed by the government and rebel groups, as quoted by Bloomberg.

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“Open Doors welcomes this significant development in Sudan,” said Jo Newhouse, spokesperson for the organisation 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.”

However, Newhouse says there are issues that still need to be addressed. This includes the repeal of the blasphemy and public decency laws, as well as addressing difficulties with church building and registration, 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.

Last week’s signing of a peace declaration is meant to end years of war in the regions of Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. According to the UN, the conflict has killed at least 300,000 and displaced 2.7 million people in Darfur alone.

However, the agreement is fragile and not all rebel groups support it. Islamist groups loyal to al-Bashir have challenged recent government decisions, insisting Sharia should remain in force and calling on the army to step in and “defend the law of God.” Analysts, however, expect the groups to come around. “It is a Sudanese deal, negotiated by the Sudanese without external deadlines or arm-twisting. Both sides know that it must work or the democratic experiment will fail,” Edward Thomas, fellow of the Rift Valley Institute in Kenya, and Alex de Waal, is the executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University in the US, wrote for the BBC.

Please Pray

 

1. Pray for the ongoing efforts to improve human rights in Sudan. Pray that the government takes further necessary steps for full freedom of religion.

2. Pray for believers in Sudan to be given holy courage to share their faith amidst the updated laws.

3. Pray that the Gospel will reach willing hearts among the Sudanese peoples.

 

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