Human Rights Groups Urge U.S. Secretary Tillerson To Consider Persecution of Religious Minorities in Sudan

Fredrick Ngugi June 30, 2017
Faith and human rights organizations have asked U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to consider persecution of religious minorities in Sudan. Photo credit: Christians in Pakistan

Seven international faith-based and human rights organizations have written a joint letter to the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking him to consider issues relating to religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities in Sudan.

The groups include the Enough Project, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Sudanese Human Rights Initiative, Samaritan’s Purse, Sudan Relief Fund, National Association of Evangelicals, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In the letter, which was sent to the State Department Thursday, the organizations warn that religious and ethnic minority groups and faith-based charitable organizations in Sudan face constant discrimination, detention, violence, and destruction of churches by the regime in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital:

As the State Department is currently focused on analyzing the actions of the Government of Sudan and the future of U.S. policy, 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.

According to the letter, several religious minority groups in Sudan, such as Christians, Shia Muslims, Qu’rans Muslims, and followers of traditional religions in the Nuba Mountain districts of Kordofan and the southernmost parts of the Blue Nile face the risk of persecution since they do not subscribe to the state-endorsed school of Islam.

Bending the Law

While the country’s constitution guarantees freedom of worship, members of minority ethnic and religious groups are reportedly subjected to discrimination and harassment.

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, the letter continues.

Since 1999, Sudan, a predominantly Arab country, has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department, with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Department recommending that the country remain on the list in its 2016 review.

The seven organizations now want Secretary Tillerson to address the issue of religious freedom in the North African country by creating a new track engagement with the government of Sudan that will focus on issues of peace and human rights.

They argue that defendants in cases related to freedom of religion are usually tried by public order courts where due process is not followed, including the right to a lawyer and a fair trial.

Quick Intervention

Moving forward, these organizations want the international community to exert pressure on the Sudanese government, hoping it will influence an end to religious and ethnic discrimination and harassment in the country.

They also want a review of several laws, including the Public Order Law, Personal Status Law, and Criminal Law, to ensure they are in line with Article 27 a, b, and c of the Constitution and with Sudan’s international human rights obligations.

Under the authoritarian rule of President Omar al-Bashir, who is currently facing charges of war crimes at the International Criminal Court, Sudan has been on the World Watch List for more than two decades, with systematic arrests, attacks, and murders of Christian communities, particularly those living in the Nuba mountain region, happening almost on a daily basis.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: June 19, 2018


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