Despite the removal of their former dictator, Christian leaders in Sudan are still not feeling the freedom they ought to have, a report says
According to the International Christian Concern (ICC), Christian leaders in Sudan say that religious freedom has not improved for them even when the dictator Omar al-Bashir had been ousted. On the other hand, other form of freedoms in the country seems to be improving.
In a statement, Hani Faiz Butros from the Coptic Church told BBC Arabic Radio that despite his frequent request to construct a new building for his church, the government has still not approved any.
"For 11 months now, we have been seeking permission to construct one church, but it has not been approved," Butros said.
Persecution of Christians in Sudan has been going on for decades. Aside from the fact that governments are not agreeing to building new churches, dozen church properties are also not returned to Christians despite the so-called better "religious freedom" that they should be experiencing in the country.
With the government's decision, Christian minorities in Sudan are demanding to be allowed their basic humans rights to be able to practice their faith in the open. However, the government says that they are already working to ensure that everyone is guaranteed freedom of religion.
In a separate report from The Christian Headlines, Christian leaders divulged that while Sudan officials have shown "signs of increasing religious freedom," there are still roadblocks to be had to regain confiscated church properties and build new churches.
Officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments in Sudan have said that they are already processing licenses to allow Christians to build new churches. However, Christian leaders consider it a political propaganda seeing that churches are "trying without success" to obtain licenses to construct new church buildings.
One of the church leaders in Sudan, Rafaat Sameer Masaad, head of the Evangelical Synod and Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) said that up to this point, "nothing has happened" even as they sought request to restore their confiscated assets.
In September 2019, Sudan decriminalized apostasy following the ousting of their dictator in July. Under the new reform, public floggings as a criminal punishment are prohibited. Other laws were made to improve religious rights, but most of the statutes that were given focus are based on Islamic law.
Nasreddine Mufreh, Minister of Religious Affairs, also told the media that the government will do its job to return confiscated properties to Christian churches.
The sovereign council of Sudan also recognized the celebration of Christmas as public holidays on Dec. 25 and Jan. 7, which is the Orthodox Christmas. With the recognition, academic institutions are banned from holding examinations on the said dates. Christians are also allowed to leave work as early as 10 a.m. on a Sunday to be able to attend Church.
In February 2020, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) visited Sudan officials and determined that "the transitional government has ended the former regime's most egregious forms of religious repression and reaffirmed its commitment to substantive change."