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U.S. religious freedom body urges Sudan to abolish laws against apostasy

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USCIRF delegation meets with representatives of the Christian community in Khartoum on 1 March 2020 (USCRIF photo)
March 3, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called on the Sudanese transitional government to repeal legal dispositions punishing blasphemy and people who leave a faith

USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins and Commissioner Anurima Bhargava were in Sudan from February 26 to March 1 where they held a series of meeting with the Sudanese officials including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, Minister of Religious Affairs Nasr al-din Mufreh, religious leaders, civil society groups, and women’s rights activists.

In a statement issued from Washington after their return from Khartoum, Perkins recognized the "desire to bring a new era of openness" in Khartoum following the regime change in Sudan that ended a 30-year regime of religious repression in Sudan.

"It is heartening to see a spirit of cautious optimism infuse so many of our conversations with government, religious, and civil society representatives in Sudan," he said.

"At the same time, we understand that the country’s challenges are deeply-rooted, and we urge the leadership to move quickly to turn that optimism into tangible and meaningful reforms for all people across Sudan—such as acting to formally repeal Article 126 of the 1991 penal code, which outlaws apostasy," further said the USCIRF chair.

Article 126 of the Sudanese Penal Code, on apostasy, provides that any Muslim who declares publicly that he/she has adopted any religion other than Islam commits the crime of apostasy and is punishable with the death penalty.

The provision waives the death penalty if the convicted person reconverts to Islam.

In 2014, Sudanese authorities sentenced to death Meriam Yahia Ibrahim for committing apostasy. Her case triggered an international campaign for her freedom and calls to abolish Article 126 of the criminal code.

For her part, Bhargava voiced their support to the efforts of the Sudanese transitional government to ensure religious freedom in the country.

"We stand with the transitional government as it journeys on the long road ahead to extend full religious freedom to Sudan’s richly diverse and treasured peoples of various faiths and traditions,"

USCIRF will issue its detailed findings from the visit and recommendations for U.S. policy when it releases its 2020 Annual Report on April 28.

In December 2019, the US State Department removed Sudan from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) on Religious Freedom, 20 years after its designation.

Since Sudan has been added to a Special Watch List (SWL) for countries where the religious freedom remains fragile but the violation does not rise to the statutory level requiring CPC designation.

(ST)

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 3 March 09:51, by Mayendit

    The new government in Sudan is still follow foot step of Omar al Bashir regime by having saying that, Sidiq al Mahdi is telling new government not open the secularism. In addition, the new government in Sudan is very confusing indeed, 70% of Omar al Bashir loyalists are still commanding the Army and you just wondering what kind of changes they have done?. Separation between church and State are ab

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    • 3 March 13:39, by Fathi

      Mayendit,

      The reason we can’t reform the military and remove loyalists is due to the forced agreement the US mediated between the people and the military.
      Secularism is a decision that should be made by the people of Sudan without foreign influence.

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      • 3 March 13:48, by Fathi

        Also, Sadiq al-Mahdi has no role or power in the transitional government. Sadiq al-Mahdi can say whatever he wants. If he wants to voice an opinion, he can do that. Sadiq al-Mahdi doesn’t represent Sudan and I would argue that he doesn’t represent the majority of Sudanese.

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        • 3 March 13:50, by Fathi

          If you want to talk about following in the foot-steps of Omar al-Bashir, you should look at your own in government in South Sudan. Salva Kiir and his cronies are looting south sudan just like Bashir. You have military running the country just like Bashir had Sudan.

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          • 3 March 13:52, by Fathi

            Our PM already stated that the decision to secularize or not secularize Sudan will be decided by a representative parliament. We wont have parliament until the peace agreement is signed.

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  • 3 March 12:49, by deng

    Sudan has started a little step for change, little by little they will accept religion freedom

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  • 3 March 13:20, by Fathi

    On November 28, 2018, the Secretary of State designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as CPCs. The Secretary also designated Comoros and Uzbekistan as Special Watch List countries.

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    • 3 March 13:25, by Fathi

      My question is why isn’t Afghanistan, Somalia, Mauritania, Qatar, UAE, and Yemen on the list?

      Why is the US paying particular attention to Sudan when we are 97% muslim. Why not focus on US allies Qatar and UAE? Why not focus on religious freedom when making a peace deal with the Taliban? Why not deal with religion in Somalia/Yemen/Afghanistan who are being attacked by the US & allies?

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      • 3 March 13:31, by Fathi

        I have no problem with secularizing Sudan but US influence should play no role. US should quit with the double standards. What’s next? They want us to promote gay rights in Sudan? US is not a "secular" nation and religion influences their laws & politicians. Anything from abortion to foreign policy is influenced by religion.

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        • 3 March 13:34, by Fathi

          Their position toward Israel and concessions to evangelical racists in the US are significant.
          Don’t even get me started on the "Muslim ban". US policy makers are hypocritical colonizers.

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          • 3 March 13:44, by Fathi

            The US appears to have all the time in the world to assess religious freedom and rights of Sudanese but then completely doesn’t give a damn about assessing status of SST listing, even after we remove Bashir.
            Sudanese people have a right to access international markets and banks in order to prosper just like every other nation, especially since we haven’t sponsored terror since 2000’s per US

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