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Spain-based Catholic Entity in Support for Sudan’s Move to Separate Religion and State

Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok (left) and Abdel al-Hilu (right), 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

Officials of CitizenGo, a Spain-based Catholic organization spearheading family issues, have expressed support for the move to separate religion and State in Sudan after three decades of Islamic rule in the Northeast African country.

In their “international petition” addressed to the Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, officials of CitizenGo say, "We, the signers of this international petition, want to express our solidarity with the actions of the Sudanese government in the area of human rights, freedom of religion and freedom of thought."

"We strongly believe that freedom of expression in all its forms and respect for human rights are essential values on which to found a modern great democracy," CitizenGo officials add in their solidarity message shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, March 3.

Making reference to the leadership of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, the officials of the 2013-founded entity further say, "We are sure that the path you are guiding your country down, will lead to a better future for all of the citizens in Sudan."

In a process that started in July 2019 after mass protests forced the military to remove Omar al-Bashir from power, Sudan is transitioning to democracy. A Sovereign Council is currently governing the country through its Chairman, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

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On 3 December 2020, the formation of the Council of Transitional Period Partners took place. This was to implement the peace deal, which the Sudanese government and armed groups signed in South Sudan’s capital, Juba 3 October 2020.

In a March 3 meeting that brought together the head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, al-Burhan, and SPLM-N leader, Aziz al-Hilu to discuss the resumption of peace talks in view of resolving the conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan States, al-Hilu was quoted pushing for the inclusion of religion and State relationship in the peace talks agenda.

“The SPLM-N al-Hilu says the relationship between religion and the state should be included in the agenda of the peace talks brokered by South Sudan,” Sudan Tribune reported in reference to the March 3 meeting in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

The Sudanese online publication further reported that Sudan government has insisted “that the purpose of the Juba process is to end the war and then the issue of religion should be discussed in the constitutional process.”

The Sovereign Council of Sudan is expected to convene a constitutional convention before the end of the transition period to draft a permanent constitution for the country.

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In their online statement shared with ACI Africa, the officials of CitizenGo also seek signatures to show support to the declaration signed by Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation-North rebel group, Abdel al-Hilu, to end Islam as the official state religion in September last year.

They recognize the "epochal changes" in Sudan, which have been met with resistance and addressing themselves to the current leadership say, "even from a distance, many people have appreciated your reforming work and are looking at your country with enormous interest."

Efforts to separate religion and State in Sudan have been resisted by some in the country including Abdul Hai Youssef, an Imam who accused the government of apostasy and called for "jihad" against it.

"Bringing down this government, which has legalized apostasy and other wrongdoings, is a duty for any Muslim," the Imam has been quoted as saying.

In the statement shared with ACI Africa March 3, the CitizenGo officials urge the country's leadership to "continue on the path of modernisation that will undoubtedly elevate Sudan's status in the world, making her the country of reference for the entire geographical area, even more than it is already."

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"Sudan is frequently cited in conferences and publications as an example of the new era dawning for the autonomous development of Africa in the area of freedom and respect for fundamental human rights," CitizenGo officials say.

Islam is the predominant religion in Sudan with slightly above 90 percent of the population and Christianity forming five percent, according to Pew Research Centre. There are approximately 1.1 million Catholics, representing about 3.2 percent of the country’s total population.