Victory! It is no longer illegal to become a Christian in Sudan. A Sudanese Judge has thrown out charges of Apostasy against four Christians.

Victory! It is no longer illegal to become a Christian in Sudan. A Sudanese Judge has thrown out charges of Apostasy against four Christians.
Victory! It is no longer illegal to become a Christian in Sudan. A Sudanese Judge has thrown out charges of Apostasy against four Christians.

A Sudanese Judge has thrown out Apostasy charges against four Christians, marking a significant step forward in the decriminalization of conversion to Christianity in that Country.

According to reports, four Christians in Sudan were accused of apostasy and threatened with execution unless they repented.

According to their lawyers, Judge Ibrahim Hamza ruled on September 8 that apostasy is no longer a felony in Sudan and so dropped the apostasy accusations brought against the Christians in Central Darfur state.

The four Muslim converts were first detained on June 24 in Zalingei, Central Darfur, and treated inhumanely while being interrogated, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). They were let go that day but were picked up again on June 28.

The men were brought before the prosecutor on July 3 and warned they would receive the death penalty if they did not renounce their Christian beliefs and consent to refrain from praying, sharing their faith, or engaging in any other activities that would suggest they were Christians, according to CSW. The guys were accused of apostasy after refusing.

Victory! It is no longer illegal to become a Christian in Sudan. A Sudanese Judge has thrown out charges of Apostasy against four Christians.

According to local reports, Bader el Dean Haroon Abdel Jabaar, Mohammad Haroon Abdel Jabaar, Tariq Adam Abdalla, and Morthada Ismail were detained until they were released on bond in early July after being detained outside of their Zalingei church.

They were detained on the basis of Article 126 of Sudan’s 1991 penal code, which was repealed in 2020, and which charged apostasy. The transitional administration, which came into power in September 2019, decriminalized apostasy, which had previously been punished by death, in July 2020. The Sudan’s 2020 Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act (USCIRF) says that no group can be called “infidels” (takfir). This is something that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom points out

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According to CSW, the church the four Christians had established had been given permission by Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments to operate during the transitional time. However, the church has since closed as a result of threats and assaults by local Muslim extremists. According to the organization, three other churches in Zalingei have shut down this year as a result of an uptick in threats and violence.

According to CSW, officials have intimidated church leaders residing in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) since the military coup of October 25, 2021, warning them that they would be prosecuted for heresy if they continued to gather for prayer.

CSW says that when the leaders pointed out that the transitional government had changed the law, they were told that the coup had changed the legal landscape.

Other Islamic-based provisions of the criminal code from 1991 were also removed by the 2020 Act, including the use of public flogging as a punishment and alcohol bans. Christian groups claim that even while Sudan has made some efforts to change laws that violate religious freedom, the majority of the country’s present laws are still based on Islamic law.

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After two years of improvements in religious freedom in Sudan after the overthrow of Omar al-Islamist Bashir’s government in 2019, the military coup on October 25, 2021, brought the threat of state-sponsored persecution back.

Several Sharia (Islamic law) regulations were overturned by the interim civilian-military administration after Bashir’s 30 years in power ended in April 2019. It made it illegal to call people of any religion “infidels,” and it basically got rid of the death penalty for apostasy laws that made it hard to change religions.

Christians in Sudan worry that the most oppressive and severe features of Islamic law may return after the coup on October 25. Abdalla Hamdok was held under house arrest for about a month. From September 2019 to November 2021, he was the prime minister of a transitional government. In November 2021, a shaky power-sharing deal set him free and put him back in charge.

Hamdock had to deal with the fact that Bashir’s regime was still corrupt and with an Islamist “deep state.” This “deep state” is blamed for the October 25 coup that overthrew the interim government.

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Before and after the coup, non-state actors continued to persecute Christians. Sudan stayed at No. 13 on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the nations where it is hardest to be a Christian, where it had been the year before, as assaults by non-state actors persisted and local religious freedom improvements at the national level were not implemented.

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. According to the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, the decriminalization of apostasy and the end of church demolition have improved the situation somewhat, but conservative Islam still rules society and Christians still face discrimination, including difficulties getting permits for building churches.

The Sudanese government was downgraded to a watch list by the U.S. State Department in 2019 and removed from the list of CPCs that engage in or tolerate “systematic, continuing, and severe abuses of religious freedom.” In December 2020, the State Department took Sudan off the Special Watch List. From 1999 through 2018, Sudan has been listed as a CPC.

According to estimates, Sudan has 2 million Christians, or 4.5% of its more than 43 million people.

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