, 16 September, 2020 / 11:28 PM
The decision by Sudan’s transitional government to separate religion from state after three decades of Islamic rule in Sudan marks a new era of faith in the country, a Church official told ACI Africa in an interview.
In the Tuesday, September 15 interview, Secretary General of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), Fr. Peter Suleiman said that it is now time for Sudanese people to worship and practice their various religious beliefs without fear.
“The time has now come in Sudan to make faith a free will with this agreement of separating religion from state,” Fr. Peter told ACI Africa, and added, “It is a new beginning and now practicing faith will be without preconditions from any person or institution in Sudan.”
Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok and Abdel al-Hilu, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation-North rebel group, on September 3 signed a declaration in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa that put an end to decades of Islamic rule in Sudan.
The agreement ending Islam as the official state religion stipulates that the state shall not establish an official religion.
It reads in part, “No citizen shall be discriminated against based on their religion. 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.”
The decision to separate religion from state in Sudan came days after the Sudanese government agreed to a peace deal with a coalition of rebel groups in the Sudan Revolutionary Front in South Sudan’s Juba city.
According to Fr. Peter who is a member of the Clergy of Sudan’s El Obeid Diocese, “The religion is to be purely based on faith and not to be abandoned but considered an individual thing.”
“The current politicians in Sudan are focusing on the issues affecting the country and it gives a positive sign, not like the former governments when many conditions were imposed on the people to join Islam,” the Juba-based Cleric added.
“Muslims are now converting to Christianity in Sudan, although it is not public, and some of our brothers and sisters who were Christians are now back to the Islamic faith,” Fr. Peter revealed and added, “It is simple to believe that truly the faith embraced previously (in Sudan) was by condition.”
Religion plays an important role in Sudan with Islam being the predominant religion at slightly above 90 percent of the population and Christianity forming a paltry 5 percent, according to Pew Research Centre.
There are approximately 1.1 million Catholics in Sudan, about 3.2 percent of the total population.
Government statistics indicate less than one percent of the population, according to International Religious Freedom Report 2019, primarily in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, adheres to traditional African religions.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa