As we gather this week to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends here in the United States, we should be especially grateful for something we far too often take for granted – the ability to worship freely with fellow believers without fear of persecution or imprisonment.
As we’ve reported previously, Christians in Sudan face government demolitions of their churches and possible imprisonment whenever they speak up. Our contacts on the ground continue to report to us about systematic destruction of churches by government officials.
Earlier this year the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2015 report, in which it detailed instances of religious persecution around the world, notably issues of religious freedom in Sudan.
The Commission reported that religious freedom in Sudan is significantly compromised, writing:
The government of Sudan, led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief. These violations are the result of President Bashir’s policies of Islamization and Arabization. The government of Sudan prosecutes persons accused of apostasy, imposes a restrictive interpretation of Shari’ah (Islamic law) and applies corresponding hudood punishments on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and harasses the country’s Christian community. President al-Bashir and other National Congress Party (NCP) leaders continue to state that the country will be governed by Shari’ah law. In 2015, USCIRF again recommends that Sudan be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The State Department has designated Sudan as a CPC since 1999, most recently in July 2014.
The report goes on to call for the ending of prosecutions for apostasy, compliance with international human rights laws, the lifting of government prohibitions on church construction, protecting true freedom of religion, and the imposition of the true rule of law for any people or groups within the government or outside of the government who attack churches or Christians on the basis of their faith.
Despite the findings of this report and the recommendations of numerous international bodies that the government of Sudan cease the targeting and demolition of Christian churches, our sources on the ground in Sudan report that religious freedom continues to deteriorate throughout Sudan.
In the last month alone, three churches have been destroyed in Sudan, two explicitly by government officials.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the more recent destruction of church buildings or religious facilities. There have been no prosecutions. Justice for these Christians is fading away:
This is why our international advocacy is so important for the people of Sudan, whether for Christian mother Mariam Ibraheem who was forced to give birth while shackled in chains on death row or Pastors Michael and Peter threatened with death sentences for speaking out against these church destructions. International pressure and advocacy works – all three of them are now free.
As we gather around our tables this week and give thanks to our Lord, we must not forget our brothers and sisters in Sudan who no longer have a place to worship. We must continue to raise the plight of persecuted Christians in Sudan throughout the international community. We must not rest until the government of Sudan lives up to their international obligations to protect the fundamental freedoms of all people of faith in Sudan.
At the ACLJ, we will continue working with Mariam Ibraheem and our contacts on the ground in Sudan, and in conjunction with our offices in Africa, to aggressively advocate for persecuted Christians there.
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