Advocate for Christians attacked in Sudan

By Agnes Aineah for CNA

Sudanese Church of Christ after apparent razing and looting in Um Bartumbu, South Kordofan, Sudan, June 16, 2012. / Eyes and Ears Nuba.

Khartoum, Sudan, Jul 7, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

Boutros Badawi, a Christian activist and advisor to Sudan’s Minister of Religious Affairs, was attacked recently in the Sudanese capital.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a UK based charity, reported that Badawi was attacked the evening of July 2 in Khartoum by armed men who beat and threatened him.

“One assailant pointed a gun at Mr Badawi’s head and threatened to kill him if he continued to say anything about confiscated properties belonging to churches, or the issues surrounding the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church committees,” CSW said.

Khataza Gondwe, head of advocacy for CSW, said July 5 that “we are deeply concerned by this appalling attack on a civil servant, simply for raising legitimate concerns about ongoing injustices and  systematic discrimination experienced by the Christian community. Even more concerning is the lack of any official expression of concern at the targeting of one of the only Christians working in a senior position within the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments, in a manner disturbingly reminiscent of the former regime.”

“We urge the Sudanese authorities to ensure Mr Badawi is adequately protected and to afford him medical attention commensurate with his official position. This attack must be investigated, and its perpetrators prosecuted, without delay. Additionally, we call for the urgent overhaul of the system governing the authorisation of administrative committees during the al Bashir era, the immediate recognition of legitimate church committees, and the return of properties taken from Christian communities to their rightful owners,” Gondwe added.

Badawi has been vocal on social media regarding unfavorable treatment of Christians by the government.

Sudan was listed by the US Department of State as a Country of Particular Concern for its religious freedom record from 1999 to 2019.

In December 2019, it was moved to the Special Watch List “due to significant steps taken by the civilian-led transitional government to address the previous regime’s ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.’”

Sudan had been under the military dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir since 1989, but pro-democracy protests led to his overthrow in April 2019. The country is now led by a transitional government.

According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, under Bashir the government “actively promoted and enforced a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and imposed religious-based constraints on Muslims and non-Muslims.”

At least 90 percent of Sudan’s population is Muslim, though Islam was disestablished in 2020.

According to a local rights group, three churches in a Sudanese town were burnt down in December 2019 and quickly rebuilt, only to be burnt down again the following month.

Human Rights and Development Organization said that a Catholic church, an Orthodox church, and a Sudan Internal Church in Bout were burnt down on both Dec. 28 and Jan. 16; the church buildings had been rebuilt in the interim. Bout is the capital of Tadamoun district in Blue Nile state, more than 300 miles southeast of Khartoum.

According to HUDO, the alleged arsons were reported to Bout police each time, “but police did not investigate further or put preventive measures.”

The human rights organization has decried the attack and criticized the government for negligence of religious freedom.

But the Sundanese religious affairs minister, Nasr al-Din Mufreh, has claimed that only one church had been attacked twice.

The Sudan Tribune reported that Mufreh stated “Sudan’s full commitment to protecting religious freedoms.”

“If it is proven that it occurred as a result of a criminal offence, the perpetrators will be identified, pursued and brought to justice,” he said. He added that a suspect had been interrogated, but was released for lack of evidence.

Mufreh added that “The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Blue Nile state government have committed themselves to build a church with modern materials (…) and taking appropriate measure for its future protection.”

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