Tuesday, March 10, 2020

RLPB 540. Sudan: 'Path of change' is dangerous and fragile

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 540 | 11 Mar 2020
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by Elizabeth Kendal

#SudanPMHamdok survives
assassination attempt, 9 March 2020
On Monday 9 March Sudanese Prime Minister (PM) Abdalla Hamdok (64) was en route to his office when his motorcade was attacked, first with a car bomb, then with gunfire. While the government's armored SUVs were damaged, the PM survived the attempted assassination, essentially unscathed. Whilst nobody has claimed responsibility, arrests have been made. A veteran economist, Hamdok was appointed Prime Minister in August 2019 after an agreement was signed between Sudan's ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), which had ousted former president Omar al-Bashir, and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), which continued to press for civilian-led democracy [see RLPB 516 (21 Aug 2019)]. After the attack, PM Hamdok took to twitter to assure the nation that he was 'safe and in good shape'. He even posted an image of himself, working at his desk as the television in background screened news of the incident. 'What happened will not stop the path of change,' he assured the nation.

source: Middle East Media Research Institute 
Since August 2019 Sudan's new government has undertaken numerous bold steps aimed at initiating Sudan's transformation from Arab-Islamist military tyranny to pluralist-secular civilian democracy. On 21 August Raja Nicola Eissa Abdel-Masih, a Coptic Christian woman and judge in Sudan's Ministry of Justice, was appointed to serve on Sudan's 11-member Sovereign Council. On 7 September, in a televised interview on the Al-Arabiya Network, Sudan's new Minister of Religious Affairs, Nasr al-Din Mufreh, explained that Sudan is a pluralistic nation ruled by secular law and invited Sudanese Jews to return and reclaim their Sudanese citizenship. In a remarkable interview published on 3 November in the international Arabic newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, Mufreh said Sudan would fight extremism in mosques and empower women in society. He reiterated his invitation to Sudanese Jews and lamented past persecution of Christians, saying property stolen from Sudanese Christians would be returned through court proceedings. 'Christians and all people of other faiths and religions are free to practise their rituals,' he said.

Sudanese Christians celebrate Christmas
outside a church in Khartoum, 25 Dec 2019.
(MEE/Mohammed Amin)
So it was that in December 2019 Sudan's transitional government initiated a phenomenal reversal when it declared Christmas Day a national public holiday. On 25 December, Mufreh and other senior government officials visited Christmas Day services in several churches across Khartoum, including the long-persecuted Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church. Nyaball Ezikel, a South Sudanese woman living in Khartoum, described it as the best Christmas in the 30 years since al-Bashir took power, adding, 'This is also a good step towards the unity of the Sudanese people.'  Khartoum University student Amna Azhari (18) told Middle East Eye that it was her first time visiting a church. 'I'm very optimistic and I feel not just the political change but I also feel that we as Sudanese, we are all changing positively,' she said. 'We are becoming more tolerant and loving towards each other. This is the legacy of our great revolution.' On 5 March Sudan's new Minister of Education, Mohamed Al-Amin Al-Toam, told church leaders in Khartoum that the government will consider no longer holding student exams on Christian holidays and Sundays. Furthermore, it will even consider appointing Christian teachers to teach Christianity nationwide. (The announcement actually triggered such a backlash that Christians are unsure what to make of it!) The government has also expressed its intent to abolish the punishment (death) for apostasy on the grounds that it 'puts freedom of opinion and belief at risk and undermines social peace and stability'. A draft of the Miscellaneous Amendments for 2020, which repeals the apostasy punishment, was tabled on 9 March.

Al Jazeera English 9 March 2020
PM Abdalla Hamdok has vowed to press ahead on 'the path of change', a transition supported by millions of amazing and courageous Sudanese civilians. But resistance is growing: resistance from Islamists; resistance from military men determined to retain their power and wealth; resistance from a deeply imbedded Islamist-militarist Deep State 30 years in the making; and resistance from purged, marginalised and disaffected pro-Bashir loyalists (local and foreign), infuriated by the treatment of their hero, patron or partner. Prominent activist Khalid Omar, secretary-general of the Sudanese Congress Party, was doubtless correct in his assessment that the attempt on Hamdok's life is but the opening of a 'new chapter in the conspiracy against the Sudanese revolution'.


* go before all those seeking to bring justice, peace and liberty to Sudan; may Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of hosts / the commander of heaven's angelic armies) clear and defend Sudan's 'path of change', that the 'door for the word' (Colossians 4:3) might remain open in Sudan.

'The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein ... Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in' '(from Psalm 24).

* bless those who bless his people; above all, may they be blessed with insight and revelation, so that Sudan's transformation might be not just political, but profoundly and wonderfully spiritual.

* grant divine wisdom, insight, grace and courage to Sudan's long-persecuted Church as she navigates a new and unfamiliar path - a dangerous and very fragile 'path of change'.


On 9 March Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (64) survived an assassination attempt. PM Hamdok leads Sudan's transitional government tasked with leading the country to democracy. In August 2019 a Coptic Christian woman (a judge) was appointed to the Sovereign Council. In September, and again in November, the new Minister for Religious Affairs publicly advocated for religious freedom, lamented past persecution of Christians, promised justice and invited Sudanese Jews to return and reclaim their citizenship. Christmas Day was declared a national public holiday and on 25 December senior government officials attended services across Khartoum. On 9 March a draft bill was tabled that will repeal the death penalty for apostasy (leaving Islam). However, resistance is growing: from al-Bashir loyalists, Islamic fundamentalists, a divided military and security sector and Sudan's Deep State. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com