Recent Declaration on Religious Freedom in Sudan Opportunity for Freedoms: Archbishop

The signing of the International Religious Freedom Round Table Declaration aimed at promoting peace and freedom of worship among all Sudanese communities provides an opportunity “for more religious freedom,” the Archbishop of Sudan’s Khartoum Archdiocese said.

In the Wednesday, October 28 report, Archbishop Michael Didi further appeals for patience in the implementation of the Round Table Declaration signed Tuesday, October 27 between Christian and Muslim leaders after a two-day meeting in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

“The Declaration will help create space for more religious freedom in Sudan as the country embarks on a new era following the revolution that led to military leaders removing Bashir from power,” Archbishop Didi says the Declaration that happened under the auspices of the Sudanese Ministry of Religious Affairs.

He notes that “three decades of religious oppression created social stigma among different communities across the country and change will not happen overnight.”

The Archbishop therefore appeals for patience in the implementation of the changes in the Sudanese society saying, “I think we are moving well but it will take some time because many things were planted for a long time and to uproot them and make things new, and the understanding and the change of heart, the change of thinking and the change of how to deal with one, maybe it will need some time.”

At the end of the October 26-27 Conference, religious leaders from Islamic groups and several Christian denominations under the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) took a commitment to promote peace and freedom of worship in the North Eastern African nation and to encourage community dialogue among people of different faiths.

Speaking to ACI Africa Thursday, October 29, the Secretary-General of the SCC, Fr. William Deng highlighted the importance of the October 27 Round Table Declaration.

“The people signed the document and it says that we make an evaluation of ourselves to see that religious freedom is good for this country and that lasting peace comes between us and have the freedom of choice and freedom of religion,” Fr. William said.

He added, “We had Priests and Bishops in the conference, a few Imams and we signed that document and we will meet again in November to see exactly what religious freedom and religious dialogue would look like.”

According to the Cleric, “The declaration is not fundamental unless it is backed up with interreligious dialogues for a longer time or else it is not going to be as important.” 

The SCC Secretary General added, “The document by itself is nothing without community involvement.”

“I hope in the next religious roundtable conference, religious groups will (also) attend so that we forge a better way for Christians and Muslims to live together with freedom of worship,” the Priest said in reference to the next conference that has been scheduled for November.

Fr. William also said that the SCC is currently working on the program of cohesion between Christians and Muslims bringing all leaders together to dialogue.

Religion plays an important role in Sudan with Islam being the predominant religion at slightly above 90 percent of the population and Christianity forming five percent, according to Pew Research Centre.

There are approximately 1.1 million Catholics in Sudan, about 3.2 percent of the total population.

Last month, Bishop Tombe Trille of Sudan’s Diocese of El Obeid told ACI Africa in an interview that separating state and religion in Sudan after three decades of Islamic rule is a matter still under discussion.

Bishop Tombe who doubles as the President of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) further said, “Those who may be saying that there is good news of the repeal of the Sharia in Sudan ran fast on something that has not taken place.”

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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
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