Catholic Bishop Pushes for Freedom of Worship as Sudanese Protesters Demand Democracy

Sudanese demonstrators rally to demand that a civilian body lead the transition to democracy, outside the army headquarters in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, on April 13, 2019. (AP Photo)

A Roman Catholic bishop in Sudan has charged that the largely Arab and Islamic country’s ongoing popular revolution will be hollow if it does not also deliver freedom of worship for non-Muslim faiths.

“A civil society movement has for the first time brought all Sudanese people together, and the church is part of it,” said Bishop Yunan Tombe Trille Kuku of the Diocese of El-Obeid in south-central Sudan.

“However, the latest developments may mean nothing for the church … unless the system of treating them as NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) is removed.”

Members of Sudan’s Christian minority, particularly young people, have taken a prominent role in the massive demonstrations that began in December as protests against cuts in government subsidies for bread and fuel, which eventually led the military to depose President Omar al-Bashir, on April 10. Now the crowds have erected barricades on the streets outside army headquarters, pressing the military’s governing council to step aside in favor of civilians.

At least 38 people have died since the start of the protests, although human right groups say the number is higher.

Christian groups have held prayers and services during the protests, with Muslims often joining in the singing of the hymns.

Sudan’s Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, but Islam has remained the de facto state religion and Shariah, or Islamic law, governs many civic institutions. Preaching by non-Muslims is officially banned. Religious groups are required to register with the government as nonprofit NGOs, and their activities and personnel are closely watched. Church leaders have also been frequently arrested and harassed by the national intelligence service.

In Christian villages in the Nuba Mountains, in the south of the country, hospitals and schools have encountered frequent aerial bombardment, in what church leaders see as government attempts to eradicate Christianity from the region.

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Source: Religion News Service