Accusations of apostate behavior leveled against Christians in Sudan have been dropped.
Allegedly, on September 8th, a court in Sudan dropped apostasy charges against four Christians who were facing the death sentence if they did not renounce their faith.
Apostasy is no longer a criminal in Sudan, thus Judge Ibrahim Hamza dropped the charges against the Christians in Central Darfur state, according to their lawyer.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, four Christians who had converted from Islam were detained on June 24 in Zalingei, Central Darfur, and had been treated degradingly during interrogation (CSW). On that day, they were freed, but on June 28th, they were detained again.
The men were “taken before the prosecutor on July 3 and warned that they faced the death sentence unless they renounced their Christian beliefs and agreed not to pray, communicate their faith, or engage in any activity that might identify them as Christians,” CSW said. The guys who rejected were later accused of apostasy.
In early July, local reports reported that Bader el Dean Haroon Abdel Jabaar, his brother Mohammad Haroon Abdel Jabaar, Tariq Adam Abdalla, and Morthada Ismail had been released on bond after being detained at their church in Zalingei.
They had been charged with apostasy under Article 126 of Sudan’s penal code from 1991, which will be repealed in 2020. The death penalty for apostasy was abolished in July 2020 by the transitional administration that gained power in September 2019. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the 2020 Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act in Sudan forbids the naming of any group as “infidels” (takfir) (USCIRF).
CSW reports that threats and assaults by local Muslim radicals led to the closure of the church that the four Christians had built during the transitional period in Sudan. It was stated that three additional churches in Zalingei had to shut this year owing to an upsurge in threats and violence.
Church leaders in IDP camps have been threatened with heresy charges if they continue to congregate for prayer after the military coup on October 25, 2021, according to a report by CSW.
Leaders “protested, citing legislative changes made during the transitional government,” but they were told that the situation had changed due to the coup, CSW said.
Other Islamic-based provisions of the 1991 criminal code were also removed by the 2020 Act, including the use of public flogging as a punishment and the outright ban on alcoholic beverages. Christian groups in Sudan believe that although the government has made some moves to modify laws that violate religious liberties, most existing regulations are still based on Islamic law.
The military revolution of October 25, 2021 reversed two years of progress toward religious freedom in Sudan after the overthrow of the Islamist regime of Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
The transitional civilian-military administration has reversed several sharia (Islamic law) laws after Bashir was removed from office after 30 years in April 2019. It essentially nullified apostasy laws that made abandoning Islam a capital offense by making it illegal to identify any religious group as “infidels.”
Christians in Sudan are worried that the most oppressive parts of Islamic law may be reinstated after the coup on October 25. It took almost a month of house detention for Abdalla Hamdok to be freed and reinstalled in a shaky power-sharing arrangement in November 2021, after he had headed a transitional administration as prime minister beginning in September 2019.
Hamdock had to clean up the Bashir dictatorship of decades of corruption and an Islamist “deep state,” the latter of which is believed to have overthrown the transitional government in the October 25 coup.
Pre and post coup, Christians were still persecuted by non-state forces. The number of assaults by non-state actors and the failure to implement official measures to protect religious freedom kept Sudan at number thirteen on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the nations where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
When Sudan debuted at No. 13 on the 2021 World Watch List, it had fallen out of the top 10 for the first time in six years. The International Religious Freedom Report published by the United States Department of State notes that while the situation has improved somewhat due to the decriminalization of apostasy and the cessation of church demolitions, conservative Islam still dominates society and Christians continue to face discrimination, such as difficulties in obtaining licenses for constructing church buildings.
Due to its lack of “systematic, persistent, and severe abuses of religious freedom,” the United States Department of State dropped Sudan off the CPC list to the watch list in 2019. In December of 2020, Sudan was taken off of the State Department’s Special Watch List. As recently as 2018, Sudan was removed off the CPC list after having been included on it since 1999.
Christians make up an estimated 2% of Sudan’s 43+ million strong population.