Sudan's government has scrapped the death penalty for leaving Islam. An answer to prayer for Christians, but some hardliners look likely to resist.
After more than 30 years of Islamist rule, Sudan has outlined wide-reaching reforms which include banning flogging as a punishment, and scrapping of the apostasy law, under which anyone renouncing Islam would be sentenced to death.
“Open Doors is deeply grateful for the news that Sudan has made these crucial changes,” said an Open Doors expert on sub-Saharan Africa. “It is an answer to years of fervent prayer by Christians around the world, and we applaud the government for showing firm intent in ensuring respect for the human rights of all Sudan’s citizens no matter faith, gender or ethnicity.”
Sudan is number 7 on the Open Doors World Watch List and has a long history of persecuting Christians, imprisoning church leaders and closing down churches.
Perhaps the most notorious case was that of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Christian who was sentenced to death after she refused to renounce her faith in 2014. Meriam was also sentenced to 100 lashes for marrying a Christian man. In the end the worldwide outcry led to her being allowed to flee the country. But the punishment for converting to Christianity from Islam remained in force until now.
The reforms come after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted last year following massive street protests. But the new government faces opposition from hardline clerics, who have already taken to social media to voice their opposition.
Our Open Doors source has urged supporters to keep praying, as “radical Islamic elements will surely work to annul these important changes.”
One Islamist cleric, Abdel-Hay Youssef, who is believed to be in exile in Turkey, declared that the changes were ‘a war against virtues, and an aggression against the nation’s religion and identity’.
Although this is a positive development, there is still a long way to go.
“While these amendments mean more freedom for Sudan’s Christians legally, they will continue to experience pressure from society to give up their faith,” said our source.
“The church has told us over and over that while these developments are really great, the laws don’t change the society’s general stance towards Christians.
“In this, we call on the International Community to invest in programs to empowering minority faith adherents, especially minority faith leaders, and train them on what their rights are and how they can contribute to the building of the new Sudan.”
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