Date:                     January 15, 2020

Sudan (MNN) — Sudan is taking some steps in the right direction towards religious freedom. But how far down the path will they go?

One positive sign was Sudanese believers were allowed to march in a Christmas celebration – the first time since authoritarian president Omar al-Bashir was ousted from power in April.

For now, the United States State Department is encouraged enough to take Sudan off the blacklist for religious freedom violations. This means fewer sanctions and more diplomatic cooperation between the two countries.

Former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. (Photo courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs)

Ever since Sudan bid goodbye to al-Bashir’s regime, the transitional government — a joint military-civilian body — is rewriting the script for Sudanese politics.

Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs says, “Hopefully religious freedom will be a part of that — religious freedom allowing Sudanese people to be Muslim or Christian or something else and to freely choose what their religion is.

“The government seems to be heading in the right direction [and] making the right noises, but the hard part is actually putting that into practice and then keeping it in practice in the years to come.”

As an autocrat, al-Bashir rose to power in 1989 buoyed by an Islamist-backed military coup. Under his leadership, Sudan became plagued with ethnic and religious persecution.

Now, with the chance to take their country in a different direction, Nettleton hopes the current leadership in Sudan does not have a short memory or deaf ears to its citizens.

“The people of Sudan have seen a dictator who has used Islam and radical Islam as a tool to control the people and to stay in power, and I think there is a distrust of that. So I think there is an opening for protected religious freedom within the laws of the country going forward,” Nettleton says.

(Photo courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs)

“The key will be for those who are in power and trying to maintain power to see that this is an issue that the people really care about and genuinely want to see in their country. I think that will motivate them to take it more seriously than they might otherwise.”

During this time of transition, please take the time to pray for Sudan.

“I think we can pray for leaders who respect religious freedom to be elevated in the new government, to gain authority and gain credibility and be able to really firm up the guidelines that allow for religious freedom and pass laws that will protect religious freedom.”

Nettleton asks, “The other thing I think we want to pray for is the Church there. This is a key time for the Church and we can pray for their protection and their encouragement and their boldness to have a voice right now as these new laws are being passed, and really speak up on behalf of the Gospel and hopefully on behalf of religious freedom in their country.”

Click here to learn more about how VOM supports persecuted Christians in Sudan and around the world.

Header photo courtesy of VOM.