Christians in Sudan and Algeria Celebrate Regime Changes

Image: OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images
Sudanese protesters in Khartoum

One of the early iconic martyrs of Sudan’s recent protests was inspired by Christian oppression.

Shot dead by police while aiding protestors against the regime of 30-year dictator Omar al-Bashir, Babiker Salama—a 27-year-old doctor from an exclusive Khartoum suburb—was motivated in part by what he witnessed in the mountain region populated by one of Sudan’s few Christian communities.

“We were not like the people in need,” his sister toldThe New York Times in January. “We had nothing to do with politics.”

Salama was sent by the military for a three-month stay. After performing emergency C-sections by the light of his cell phone, he volunteered to stay three months longer until a replacement could come.

The same military has now replaced Bashir, whose crimes include indiscriminate bombing in the Nuba Mountains.

And among the thousands who protested outside military headquarters demanding his overthrow were Sudanese Christians, from the mountainous community.

Open Doors ranks Sudan No. 6 on its list of nations where it is hardest to be a Christian, and in the top 10 since 2015.

Sudanese Coptic Orthodox Christians were also witnessed in revolt.

“It has a human and emotional impact and it draws a patriotic image Sudanese people long missed,” political analyst Faisal Salih toldTheGuardian.

“Most importantly it shows a transformation in the position of the Coptics … who avoided getting involved in politics, except for a few of them.”

The Sudanese Copts set up shelters for Muslim prayer, recalling images of cooperation from the 2011 Arab Spring in Egypt.

It is difficult from media analysis to judge whether or not Sudanese Christians—4.6 percent of the population, according to the World Christian Database (Sudan’s government puts them at less than 3 percent)—welcomed the revolution or feared it.

Early reporting in Cairo focused on ecumenical euphoria, and in Sudan when Christians are mentioned it is in anecdotal reports of hymn singing welcomed within Muslim masses.

But the spirit of Tahrir Square eventually gave way to tension as Islamist politicians ascended to power in Egypt. It reversed back when the military deposed Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi. Widespread protests against his rule united Muslims and Christians again, but with thousands of Brotherhood sympathizers—some violent—jailed or in self-imposed exile.

Yet Sudan’s revolution began by driving out an Islamist. (Following the cessation of South Sudan in July 2011, Bashir implemented Shari‘ah law throughout his remaining territory, and pushed South Sudanese Christians in the north to leave.)

Early signs are promising. On April 10, one day before Bashir’s arrest, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) leading protests put out a call for Christian participation, acknowledging “you have suffered sectarian and psychological restrictions for years … [which have left you] without the right to worship freely.”

Shortly thereafter the SPA declared “Christ is the heart of the revolution,” and cited “blessed are the peacemakers.”

On April 14, Sudanese Christians responded.

Leaders from the Evangelical Presbyterian, Baptist, and Church of Christ denominations in Sudan appeared at a sit-in at military headquarters, offering hymns sung by both Christians and Muslims.

“This is a time to move away from the trenches of religious and ethnic discrimination and head towards an inclusive and unifying Sudanese national identity for all of us,” said Rafaat Masaad, head of the Evangelical Synods in Sudan.

“We must make a covenant that we will not withdraw or accept anything less than a new Sudan ruled by humanity and citizenship.”

Sudan, however, is not the only version of Arab Spring, Part Two. The military in Algeria removed their aged president on April 2 following widespread protests that began in February. The wheel-chair bound 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was attempting to secure his fifth term in office.

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Source: Christianity Today