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Sudan is investigating church arson in Blue Nile state, says minister

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January 21, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s Minister of Religious Affairs Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment to ensure religious freedom and protect churches adding that authorities are investigating a recent church arson in the Blue Nile State.

On Monday 20 January, a local group, Human Rights and Development Organization (HUDO) said three churches had been burnt by unknown arsonists in Bout town of Tadamoun locality in Blue Nile State near the border with South Sudan.

HUDO further blamed the police for negligence saying the local authorities did not take any measure to protect the churches or to investigate the attacks.

In return, the Minister Of Religious Affairs Nasr al-Din Mufreh issued a statement reaffirming "Sudan’s full commitment to protecting religious freedoms and "houses of worship from any threats".

Mufreh further disputed the accuracy of the claims made by HUDO saying only one church, not three churches, had been attacked twice on 18 December 2019 and 16 January 2020.

Regarding the complaint lodged after the incident, the liberal minister who was in Washington to defend religious freedoms said the police arrested and interrogated a suspect but he was released due to insufficient evidence.

Investigations will continue by the police to identify the causes of the fire, said the statement.

"If it is proven that it occurred as a result of a criminal offence, the perpetrators will be identified, pursued and brought to justice," it further underscored.

Last December, The U.S. State Department removed Sudan from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) on Religious Freedom, 20 years after its designation.

The decision was taken in consideration of the efforts of transitional government led by Abdallah Hamdok to ensure religious freedom in the country after the collapse of the Islamist regime of deposed President Omer al-Bashir.

Mufreh said he had been informed about the incident by South Sudanese priests in the Blue Nile State when he was in Ed Damazin on 19 January.

"The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Blue Nile state government have committed themselves to build a church with modern materials (...) and taking appropriate measure for its future protection," he added.

The burnt church was built with local materials.

(ST)

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