Sudan has seen dramatic changes since a military coup in April 2019 ousted Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist government and established a Transitional Military Council (TMC) instead. Under al-Bashir, the Christian minority (estimated at 3%) had suffered fierce persecution.
On 3 September 2020, Sudan agreed to separate religion and state and become a secular state, ending 30 years of Islamic rule and Islam as the state religion. It also declared, “Freedom of belief and worship and religious practice shall be guaranteed in full to all citizens … No citizen shall be discriminated against based on their religion.”
A few days earlier, the government had signed a peace accord with an alliance of rebel groups, ending decades of conflict in Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, including Sudan’s oldest Christian region in the Nuba Mountains, which left hundreds of thousands dead and millions more displaced.
On 9 July 2020, Sudan’s apostasy law, which under the 1991 Criminal Code carried a death penalty, was abolished. Sudan had been one of the few countries in the world with a formal death penalty for apostasy from Islam, which had been imposed and sometimes even carried out within living memory.
On the same day further reforms removed a swath of other discriminatory and repressive sharia provisions. Another positive step has been the founding of an independent national commission for religious freedom.
Islamists have repeatedly called for the TMC to be overthrown in an angry backlash against the reforms which move Sudan away from its previous very strict form of Islam. One Islamist cleric described the TMC as waging “a war against virtues” and said that “uprooting this obscene government is a mandatory duty”.
Give thanks to God for the government’s brave and decisive action in reforming the law. Pray for the protection of government ministers responsible for this and that calls for a return to a stricter Islam will not be heeded.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet