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Sudan Council of Churches organizes workshop on religious freedom

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Pastors help South Sudanese worshippers after attending Sunday prayers in Baraka Parish church at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, February 10, 2013. 'Photo Reuters)
February 26, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) on Wednesday will organize a two-day workshop on religious freedom under the auspices of the Higher Council for Guidance and Endowments (HCGE).

The secretary general of the HCGE, Farouk al-Bushra said the workshop would discuss six papers pertaining to religious freedom.

He pointed out the workshop would be organized by the SCC in collaboration with the Sudan Religious Coexistence Council with the participation of Muslim and Christian leaders.

According to al-Bushra, the deputy chairman of the HCGE Al-Fatih Mukhtar will address the opening session of the workshop.

He added the workshop would produce recommendations aiming at strengthening social coherence and promoting rights of minority groups and beliefs.

Sudanese Christians say they are suffering from a number of issues including restrictions on freedom of worship, arrestment of pastors, and confiscation of church properties.

Also, church leaders accuse authorities of continued demolishing of churches, saying the government refuses to give them building permits when they submit an application for the construction of a church.

The Situation of Sudanese Christians in the country has been aggravated since the separation of South Sudan in July 2011.

At the time, President Omer al-Bashir said he wants to adopt a “100 per cent Islamic constitution’’ after the secession.

It is noteworthy that religious freedom is a major theme in the second phase of dialogue between Sudan and the United States.

In October 2017, the U.S. Administration permanently lifted 20-year-old economic sanctions against Sudan citing positive actions on humanitarian access and counter-terrorism.

The decision was in line with the “Five Track Engagement Plan”, in which Khartoum agreed to a cessation of hostilities with the armed groups, opened unfettered humanitarian access in the conflict-affected areas, agreed to support efforts for peace in South Sudan and developed cooperation with the U.S. to counter terrorism in the region.

However, Washington didn’t remove Sudan’s name from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. In addition, it keeps in place targeted sanctions against individuals with arrest warrants related to atrocities committed during the conflict in Darfur.

In November 2018, the two sides agreed to develop a new plan labelled the “five-track engagement +1” to say it would include important parts of the previous five-track engagement that led to the lift of the economic sanctions.

The focus in the new plan will be on the human rights and freedoms particularly religious freedom.

(ST)

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