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Freedom of Religion Restrictions in Sudan Cause for Concern for Christian Rights Entity

Credit: CSW

The leadership of the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has expressed concern about the undermining of freedom of worship and belief in Sudan. 

In a January 14 report, CSW Founder President, Mervyn Thomas, says the freedom of religion restrictions in Sudan have increased in the aftermath of the 25 October 2021 coup in the Northeastern African nation.  

“CSW is concerned by news of further action that undermines freedom of religion or belief and increases the harassment of minority religious or belief communities in Sudan,” says Mr. Mervyn.

Officials of the UK-based Christian human rights entity highlight the case of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) in Kosti, White Nile State, and Kadugli, South Kordofan State, whose property have been taken over by members of a committee convened. 

In Sudan, church committees recognized by the Ministry of Guidance and Endowments oversee religious affairs and are legally empowered to control the affairs of the church. 

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According to CSW officials, members of the illegally-constituted committee accessed the SPEC Kosti church building on 27 December 2021 and changed the locks, preventing access to the properly-constituted committee. 

When the SPEC Kosti church attempted to file a criminal complaint, CSW officials say, local law enforcement officers failed to investigate the matter, indicating that members of the illegally-constituted committee were authorized to act on behalf of the church.   

Apart from gaining illegal access to a church premise, CSW officials say a SPEC church leader in Kadugli is facing criminal charges initiated by another illegally constituted committee.

Officials of CSW attribute the government’s interference in the affairs of SPEC to a November 2021 Court decision, which dismissed an agreement that had been reached by the leadership of the church and the Ministry of Guidance and Endowments for administrative control over the affairs of the church. 

CSW officials liken the abuse of the powers of the church committees to the Omar al Bashir era where the government abused this provision in order to retain significant control over the internal processes of churches and to further restrict the rights of Christians.

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"Interference in church affairs was commonplace and was primarily undertaken by National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) officers, who pitted Christians against each other. The government would subsequently claim that disputes such as those concerning different committees were an internal church matter that did not involve the state," CSW officials say. 

In the January 14 report, CSW Founder President says, “It is deeply worrying to note cases involving illegally-convened committees have spread beyond the capital and into White Nile and South Kordofan States."

Mr. Mervyn adds that “the situation of human rights generally, and of freedom of religion or belief particularly, continues to deteriorate amidst the political crisis and the military’s machinations." 

He calls on countries that are in bilateral dialogues with the Sudanese military “to press for an end to human rights violations and interference in the affairs of religious institutions in the country.”