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10/10/04 - RELIGION IN SUDAN  - 2004-09-30

The Sudanese government continues to place many restrictions on religious practice by non-Muslims, non-Arab Muslims, and Muslims from tribes or sects not affiliated with the ruling National Congress party. In the latest U.S. State Department report on religious freedom, Sudan is one of eight countries cited for engaging in or tolerating gross infringements of religious liberty. John Hanford is U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom:

“In Sudan, the government continues to attempt to impose Sharia law on non-Muslims in some parts of the country, and non-Muslims face discrimination and restrictions on the practice of their faith.”

The current government in Sudan came to power through a military coup in 1989 with a goal of total Islamization of the country. Islam is treated as a state religion that serves as the basis for Sudanese laws, institutions, and policies.

According to the International Religious Freedom report, the Sudanese government’s Guidance and Endowment Minister “has denied building permits to most non-Muslim religious groups. The last such permit was issued in the nineteen seventies.” Many non-Muslims in Sudan say they are treated as second-class citizens and discriminated against in government jobs and contracts. According to the State Department, “There were also reports that some conversions took place in order to secure jobs and access to social support services, which were largely available only through Arab charities.”

Religious freedom is a universal value. President George W. Bush says that religious liberty is the first freedom of the human soul. The U.S. will speak out for that freedom in Sudan and the rest of the world.