Thursday, May 30, 2013

Religious Intolerance in Sudan

The Secretary of State first designated Sudan as a CPC in 1999, and most recently redesignated it in August 2011. Consequently, the country was ineligible for aid under Section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Sudan’s Interim National Constitution (INC) and other laws and policies restrict religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally enforced legal and policy restrictions on this right. The trend in the government’s respect for religious freedom did not change significantly during the year. The government at times enforced laws against blasphemy and defaming Islam. Authorities harassed religious practitioners of unregistered groups and limited the freedom of the four registered religious groups. There were instances of abuse and mistreatment. The security services detained foreign English teachers on suspicion of proselytizing, and ultimately deported them, along with several family members, without court proceedings. State governments and local authorities razed two churches.

In Sudan, most non-Muslim groups refrained from public proselytizing due to a vaguely worded law that allowed the government to charge them with supporting apostasy. The government stepped up its efforts to prosecute suspected proselytizers. In October the security services detained several foreign English teachers, who were Christians, on suspicion of proselytizing, which the teachers denied. Authorities held two teachers for several weeks before ultimately deporting them, along with several family members, without court proceedings.

In Sudan, there were credible reports that state governments and local authorities razed two churches. In June, authorities in Khartoum State overrode a longstanding informal agreement and destroyed a building used as an Episcopal church, and two days later, a Catholic church. In Eritrea, the government continued to harass members of unregistered religious groups, and detained many without due process, occasionally for long periods of time, sometimes by informally charging them with threatening national security. At year’s end, NGOs estimated the total of those imprisoned because of their religious beliefs at 1,500, including several dozen members of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In April, in Sudan, rioters in Khartoum brushed aside inadequate local police forces and burned an evangelical church compound used by a mix of Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Sudanese worshippers. The authorities did not charge any of the attackers by year’s end.

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