Prominent evangelical groups penned a passionate letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, imploring him to stand up for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Sudan.
The letter, which was signed by the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is headed by Russell Moore, and Samaritan’s Purse, led by Franklin Graham, among a number of other organizations, makes it clear that the situation facing minority religious faiths in Sudan is quite dire.
“We urge you to consider issues relating to religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities in Sudan as part of any strategic review relating to U.S. policy,” the letter opens. “A substantial minority of Sudanese do not follow the state-endorsed school of Islam.”
In addition to Christian adherents, Shia Muslims, among others, are counted among the country’s minority religious cohorts, with the letter warning of “discriminatory laws” that impact individuals subscribing to these faiths.
Read a portion of the text below:
Sudan’s constitution guarantees the freedom to worship and establish and maintain places of worship. However, the reality is that members of religious and ethnic minority groups face discrimination and harassment. In particular, those living in conflict areas mainly in South Kordofan and Blue Nile are particularly vulnerable to religious based discrimination as a mechanism to create fragmentation between groups and thus exert state control.
Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommending that Sudan remain on the list in its 2016 review. This critical issue of religious freedom must be addressed in U.S. policy, and we urge the State Department both to be cognizant of this issue in relation to its current reporting as well as create a new track engagement with the Sudanese Government that is centered on issues of peace and human rights that fully addresses the conduct of the Sudanese Government in relation to religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities. […]
In February 2017, the Sudanese government issued an administrative decree for the demolition or seizure of 27 churches in the State of Khartoum. The decree was justified on the ground of ‘construction irregularities.’ However, it follows a trend of state-endorsed destruction of Christian places of worship and the harassment of church leaders. A joint case was brought by those churches scheduled for demolition, yet the demolition of churches began even before the verdict had been formally delivered and an appeal could be lodged.
In addition to these issues, the letter notes that Sudanese criminal law dictates that a person’s decision to leave (apostasy) the Muslim faith could lead to a death sentence.
Meanwhile, people of minority faiths have also reportedly been detained and harassed, specifically those who have spoken out against the Sudanese government’s destruction of churches, while rights of due process for those accused in religious freedom cases are generally not granted or respected.
The letter argues that “international pressure” can help address the dire religious liberty situation in Sudan, noting that the U.S. can and should be a key part of that dynamic.
“A new policy track between the U.S. and Sudan should be created related to peace and human rights that could help ensure that fundamental rights are being addressed,” the letter read. “Targeted network sanctions, focused on those officials most responsible for religious discrimination plus their businesses and collaborators, should be deployed in support of this track.”
Read the letter in its entirety here.
Faithwire has repeatedly detailed the dire state of affairs that Christians and other minority religious groups face in Sudan.