In a major move toward religious liberty in Africa, the government in Sudan has declared an end to official enforcement of Islamic Sharia Law. This means that people will no longer face the death penalty for leaving Islam in this Muslim majority nation.

Sudan still has a way to go toward true religious freedom, according to Open Doors USA, “a community of Christians who come together to support persecuted believers in more than 60 countries.”

Nonetheless, Christians in Sudan are “cautiously optimistic,” according to Jo Newhouse, spokesperson for Open Doors in Sub-Saharan Africa, where Muslims have been persecuting Christians in many countries. 

“Open Doors welcomes these new accords,” the group’s website said. 

Ms. Newhouse “stressed that issues still need to be addressed for churches and believers—including the repeal of the blasphemy and public decency laws, as well as problems around church registration and building, and of confiscated church properties.”

Open Doors was founded in 1955 by a Christian from the Netherlands named Brother Andrew, who smuggled Bibles into hostile countries.  The group serves more than 70 countries today.

“Team members still take on risks to resource these Christians living in hostile regions and to continually work against persecution wherever it exists,” the website says.

Dictator’s Overthrow Began the Thaw

Relaxation of the strict, theocratic regime in Sudan is an outgrowth of a peace process that began in April 2019 after the military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir, a dictator who strictly enforced Sharia Law and persecuted Christians and those of other minority religions.  A transitional government was installed at that time. 

On August 31, Sudan’s transitional authorities signed a peace deal with a rebel alliance, a move that both sides hope will end the country’s decades-long civil wars.

Bashir, now in jail in Khartoum, will be facing trial for the 1989 coup in which he seized power. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for committing genocide in the Darfur region, where 300,000 people died and another 2.5 million were displaced, according to the UN.

The ceremony was attended by President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, whose country has a Christian majority population and gained independence from Sudan in 2011 following years of civil war. 

The Sudan development is a rare piece of good news during a time of increasing persecution of Christians around the world, mostly in Muslim majority nations.

However, what man intends for evil, God can use for good. 

Persecution’s Silver Lining 

“As in the first century of the church we’re seeing that persecution of believers, rather than dousing the flame, in fact fortifies their faith and serves as a megaphone for their message,” said Steve Richardson, president or Orlando-based Pioneers US.  Founded in 1979 by former businessman Ted Fletcher and his wife Peggy, Pioneers operates missions in 103 countries with 510 people groups and 287 languages. 

“Sometimes, when Christianity is repressed in a country, it creates curiosity on the part of the adherents of the majority religion,” said Matt Green, vice president for marketing at Pioneers. “People observe the joy that believers express in the face of persecution and the close-knit community and care for one another, and it causes them to question their own religious traditions and explore the claims of Christ.”

Similar sentiments are expressed by missionaries featured in the magazine of The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a ministry to Christians in “restricted” or “hostile” nations that outlaw or harass evangelism.  

Founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned for 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ, and his wife Sabina, who was imprisoned for three years, VOM serves Christians throughout the world from offices in 16 countries.

The Wurmbrands based their mission on Hebrews 13:3, which instructs us to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.”

Commenting on the heightened spirituality common among the persecuted, Pastor Wurmbrand said,   

“The supernatural things have become natural to Christians in the underground church.” 

Filtering for Freedom

Timothy Plan has long advocated religious freedom and filtered out businesses complicit in the denial of basic liberties.  In fact, Timothy Plan’s Liberty filter puts it this way:

RIGHTS: We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are removed from many people across the world. This screen identifies companies that are involved in human oppression, human trafficking, slave labor, terrorism, and Christian persecution.

“I have no doubt that worldwide pressure, including economic sanctions, has a lot to do with Sudan’s turn toward human rights and away from religious tyranny,” said Art Ally, founder and president of Timothy Plan. 

“We will keep a close eye on developments with the hope that Sudan can become part of the family of nations that respects religious, economic and social human rights.”

Please follow and like us: