, 29 January, 2020 / 11:55 AM
According to a local rights group in Sudan, three churches in a town were burnt down in December 2019 and quickly rebuilt, only to be burnt down again earlier this month.
Human Rights and Development Organization said that a Catholic church, an Orthodox church, and a Sudan Internal Church in Bout were burnt down on both Dec. 28 and Jan. 16; the church buildings had been rebuilt in the interim. Bout is the capital of Tadamoun district in Blue Nile state, more than 300 miles southeast of Khartoum.
According to HUDO, the alleged arsons were reported to Bout police each time, “but police did not investigate further or put preventive measures.”
The human rights organization has decried the attack and criticized the government for negligence of religious freedom.
But the Sundanese religious affairs minister, Nasr al-Din Mufreh, has claimed that only one church had been attacked twice.
The Sudan Tribune reported that Mufreh stated “Sudan’s full commitment to protecting religious freedoms.”
“If it is proven that it occurred as a result of a criminal offence, the perpetrators will be identified, pursued and brought to justice,” he said. He added that a suspect had been interrogated, but was released for lack of evidence.
Mufreh added that “The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Blue Nile state government have committed themselves to build a church with modern materials (...) and taking appropriate measure for its future protection.”
Sudan was listed as a Country of Particular Concern for its religious freedom record by the US Department of State from 1999 to 2019.
In December 2019, it was moved to the Special Watch List “due to significant steps taken by the civilian-led transitional government to address the previous regime’s 'systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.'”
Sudan had been under the military dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir since 1989, but pro-democracy protests led to his overthrow in April 2019. The country is now led by a transitional government.
According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, under Bashir the government “actively promoted and enforced a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and imposed religious-based constraints on Muslims and non-Muslims.”
At least 90 percent of Sudan's population is Muslim, and sharia is the source of the nation's legislation. Apostasy from Islam is punishable by the death penalty.
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