Religious intolerance is increasingly common around the world, and Sudan is one country where Christians are especially vulnerable. As a minority in a nation that is 97 percent Muslim, Christians there are worried that their right to practice their faith freely is more and more at risk. According to , a two-decade long civil war continues to fester.
The two regions had fought a two-decade long civil war that ended in 2005, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The pact granted the South Sudanese a referendum after a six-year interim period and independence six months later. In the referendum, the people of South Sudan chose separation.
But while the separation is praised as good for political reasons, several churches in Khartoum, the northern capital, have been destroyed and others closed down along with affiliated schools and orphanages.
Christians in Sudan are facing increased arrests, detention and deportation with church-associated centers being raided and foreign missionaries kicked out, according to the leaders.
Christian religious leaders say the situation is becoming more difficult, as Muslim leaders, both in and outside the government, continue to make statements that are construed as anti-Christian. Additionally, the government has declared that no new churches can be built, and one leading Muslim scholar scolded the government for allowing Christians to “boldly” practice their faith.
Many fear the government is trying to eliminate Christianity as it adopts Islamic law, said the Rev. James Par Tap, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan.
“Many people are being forced out and their property taken away,” Par Tap said. “Even the churches are being taken away. We have been trying to talk to the government, but it’s not easy.”
He said Sudanese churches had been denied many rights in the history of the country. The groups could only get building space on the periphery of cities such as Khartoum. Many Christians are not seen as citizens and often face forced conversion to Islam.
“Church freedom is so constrained (and) holding meetings in the open is a crime,” said the Rev. Barnaba Mathias of the Sudanese Church of Christ. “We have to seek permission from the authorities for such meetings, which is often denied. Our children are not taught Christian education in schools, so we have to gather them somewhere on Fridays to teach them,” he adds.