Sudan has suffered a lot of human rights abuses over the years, but with a government that is keen on reform, Morning Star News reports there is great hope for the future.
Quick background on Sudan
Sudanese Christians live mainly in Khartoum and in the Nuba mountains near the South Sudan border. Some Sudanese also follow traditional African beliefs.
A little background to the situation in Sudan at the moment: former president Jaafar Nimeiri introduced Islamic law in 1983. This was the catalyst for a 22-year-long war between Sudan's Muslim north and the mainly Christian south that led in 2011 to South Sudan's secession.
When Al-Bashir took power in 1989, he extended Islamic law. Currently, the transition government led by Abdalla Hamdok runs the country in an uneasy coalition with the military, which helped remove Al-Bashir after months of mass protests.
On July 9, Minister of Justice Nasredeen Abdulbari declared on Twitter that four new laws were approved by the president of the sovereign council. These reforms restore fundamental rights and freedoms long repressed by the former regime under dictator Al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years.
The commission established under the law passed will lead a comprehensive and profound process of reforming the human rights and justice system. The package of laws aim at ending discrimination and human rights abuses. Numerous discriminatory and repressive Sharia provisions have been removed.
Some of these reforms include:
· A guarantee of freedom of travel for women with their children (previously women needed a male relative’s permission to go anywhere)
· Banning of female genital mutilation, with a sentence of 3 years for perpetrators
· Abolishment of public flogging
· Permission for non-Muslims to consume alcohol (although not in public)
· Lifting of the punishment for apostasy (anyone who denounced Islam had a period of three days to retract their decision or face death)
· The repeal of criminal law provisions that prevented cooperation with the International Criminal Court
The changes in the law have ensured religious freedom and the equality in citizenship and before the law in Sudan. They show the government’s willingness to build a new Sudan where freedom, peace and justice thrive.
The Justice Minister said that 'We have dropped all the articles that had led to any kind of discrimination. We assure our people that the legal reformation will continue until we drop all the laws violating the human rights in Sudan.'
These are welcome first steps towards freedom and equality, but they are only the beginning of change. Much more needs to be done.
As expected, there is a serious backlash against the reforms, led by Abdulhai Yousef, a hard-line cleric, the Islamic Popular Congress Party and the former ruling National Congress Party of ousted president Al-Bashir. These groups reject the law changes and are calling for demonstrations and in fact jihad to defend Islam.
While Sudan has been removed from the US State Department list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and was upgraded to a watch list, the situation is volatile with the radical Muslim protests.
The Islamic Popular Congress Party (PCP) called for protests after Friday prayers. Likewise, the former ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of ousted president Omar al-Bashir urged Muslims to take to the streets after prayers to bring down the transitional government, warning that the 'battle now is between the secularists and Islam'.
How should we pray?
In the first place, we should worship our Almighty God and praise Him for the reforms that have been passed. Worship is a weapon that is powerful in breaking down strongholds and we should apply it to this situation in Sudan.
Other prayer points come from the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin:
We need to pray for the Prime Minister, Abdallah Hamdok and the Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari, to not lose heart about the reforms they have instituted and the resistance they are experiencing. They need God’s sovereign protection and courage to stand.
We should pray this verse from Psalm chapter 32, verse 8 'I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you' over all Sudan's Christian leaders - both civic and religious. They need an abundance of divine wisdom, patience and grace. May the Holy Spirit guide them as they lead God's people and engage with the government in these pivotal days.
Remembering that we are in a spiritual battle, we should stand upon our authority as believers and pray that God would frustrate every evil plot aimed at destabilising the government and derailing reform, that Satan's powerful grip be broken and that the will of the sovereign Lord prevail.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html