Advocate Says There Is ‘Hope’ for Sudan’s Christians After President al-Bashir’s Ouster

Demonstrators rally near the military headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, Monday, April 15, 2019. The military ousted long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir last week after months of protests against his regime. (Credit: Salih Basheer/AP.)

After 30 years of facing discrimination and persecution, most Catholics in Sudan are glad to see the back of President Omar al-Bashir.

Last week, Sudan’s military ousted al-Bashir following four months of street protests against his rule, then appointed a military council it says will rule for no more than two years while elections are organized.

“In general, whenever a brutal dictator is deposed, there is hope for improvement,” Edward F. Clancy of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) told Crux.

“It will be good news if the Christians are protected in the new government and if the people have religious freedom. It will be good news if the Christian minority is afforded the opportunity to live and work freely,” he said.

The deposed leader had come to power in a coup in the summer of 1989. He allied himself with the National Islamic Front and began implementing Sharia law in most of the country.

During his rule, al-Bashir faced numerous ethnic rebellions including in the Darfur region and in the mostly Christian south, which successfully seceded from Sudan to become South Sudan in 2011.

Clancy said the “vestiges of Sharia law” need to be abolished, “as it will perpetuate two systems of justice where Christians will always be second class citizens.”

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded the protests that led to al-Bashir’s ouster, has called for the dismissal of all top judges and prosecutors among a package of demands. Those include the prosecution of those behind the Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, the dissolution of all pro-government unions and a freeze on the assets of top officials in al-Bashir’s government.

At one point, Christians made up nearly 10 percent of Sudan’s population, but after the partition of the country, they are fewer than 2 percent. Many of the Christians in Sudan were originally from the area that is now South Sudan.

Clancy said the Church in Sudan under al-Bashir was one of survival, with believers boldly living their faith in a deadly culture.

“The Sudanese Church was a church of survival in the face of oppression. In spite of these hardships, the Church has endured. The dioceses have continued to be the voices of peace and dialogue. In spite of great hardships, the Church has remained strong and shown the resilient strength needed to survive,” he told Crux.

Al-Bashir is the subject of two international arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which accused him of organizing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region between 2003 and 2008. The transitional military leadership has already said it will not extradite him to the ICC, a decision Clancy questioned.

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Source: Crux Now