YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – A proposal for an independent religious freedom commission in Sudan is receiving support from international religious rights groups.
The majority Muslim nation is currently under an interim government after long-time leader Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a coup last year. The al-Bashir regime was responsible for decades of human rights violations of religious and ethnic minorities, and the leader was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Since his ouster, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says that Sudan has made some improvements in terms of the degree of freedom enjoyed by religious groups.
After visiting the country in February, the commission’s chair Tony Perkins noted “a spirit of cautious optimism” on religious freedom.
“We are grateful to Prime Minister Hamdok and other members of the country’s bold transitional leadership who met with USCIRF to convey their explicit desire to bring a new era of openness and inclusivity to their country that suffered for 30 years under brutal and autocratic religious repression. At the same time, we understand that the country’s challenges are deeply-rooted, and we urge the leadership to move quickly to turn that optimism into tangible and meaningful reforms for all people across Sudan—such as acting to formally repeal Article 126 of the 1991 penal code, which outlaws apostasy,” he said.
The SPLM-N, an armed group based in Sudan’s predominantly Christian South Kordofan and Blue Nile states which fought against the government of al-Bashir, has now called for the creation of a commission on religious freedoms as part of the ongoing peace process in the country.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has welcomed the development, with CSW’s Kiri Kankhwende telling Crux that “the commission is important to address the historic and ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Sudan that affected some of the most marginalized communities in the nation.” (Crux).