Sudan: Christmas ban ended

Sudan’s new Minister of Religious Affairs attended the Christmas Day service of a long-persecuted church.

The Sudanese government had announced Christmas as a public holiday for the first time in eight years. Minister of Religious Affairs Nasr al-Din Mufreh accompanied senior government officials at the service of Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church – a congregation that the previous Islamist government had harassed for years.

Sudan has also repealed the strict sharia law that controlled how women acted and dressed in public. Under the previous regime of former President Omar al-Bashir, women could be thrown in prison for letting a little hair show or for travelling on a bus without a man to accompany them.

In a tweet in November, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok paid tribute to women who had ‘endured the atrocities that resulted from the implementation of this law’.

Barnabas Fund is helping fund a prison ministry in Sudan to aid Christian women who were jailed, often with their children, for infringing the laws on public conduct.

At a press conference after visiting several churches in Khartoum on Christmas Day, Nasr al-Din Mufreh sent a strong signal of religious coexistence to Christians in a country where they suffered for their faith under al-Bashir.

‘I tender my apology for the oppression and the harm enforced on you physically by [the prior government’s] bulldozing your church buildings, arresting and falsely imprisoning your church leaders and raiding your property,’ Mufreh said, according to Radio Dabanga.

The government-run Sudan TV on Christmas Day broadcast the services of various churches in Khartoum, including the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, whose members had been subject to arrests on false charges. The church is part of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, which has been embroiled in property disputes, with the government appointing a government-run committee to assume control of the denomination.

In light of the advances in religious freedom since al-Bashir was ousted in April, the US State Department announced in December that Sudan had been removed from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). It had been added to this list of countries which engage in or tolerate ‘systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom’ in 1999.

Morning Star News/Barnabas Fund