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Sudan and South Sudan
Saturday, 23 July 2011 02:23
Religious Freedom Ranking:
1 out of 5 stars: Serious Violations


In July 2011 Sudan split into two independent nations after the southern part of the country voted for independence. It is now split into Sudan and South Sudan. The civil war had cost the lives of 1.5 million people in the country. The conflict in Darfur continues. It is hoped that the division of the nation will result in an improvement in terms of the brutal religious repression of Christian and native religious groups that characterized Sudan’s history over the past two decades.

Combined, the two Sudans have a population of 41 million people. An estimated four-fifths of the population lives in the north. Sixty percent of the population is Muslim, almost all of them Sunni. However, there are many variations in traditions between Sunni groups, particularly those of the Sufi brotherhood. The minority Islamic sects are Shi’as and the Republican Brothers. Christians account for five percent of the population. Twenty five percent of the population practices either Christianity or Islam in conjunction with indigenous beliefs, and the remaining 10 percent solely practice traditional African religious beliefs.

Although the government has stated that all religions should be respected and that freedom of worship is ensured, in practice it treats Islam as the state religion and has declared that Islam must inspire the country's laws, institutions and policies. The Constitution of South Sudan provides for freedom of religion as well, but does not officially declare Islam as the state religion.

There have been reports of widespread government-sponsored abductions of children as part of a campaign of cultural cleansing targeted at African Christians and animists. Children are subjected to military training and Islamic indoctrination as a way of enlisting them in Sudan’s civil war. The predominantly Arab and Islamic north is pitted against the predominantly Christian and animist south. There are reports that government troops have forced Christian and animist tribesmen to convert to Islam and have sold others into slavery.

The government continues to deny Christian communities permission to build churches. Some makeshift structures have been permitted. While non-Muslims may convert to Islam, the 1991 Criminal Act makes apostasy (which includes conversion to another religion) by Muslims punishable by death.

There are reports of harassment and arrest for religious beliefs and activities. Muslims may proselytize freely, but non-Muslims are forbidden to proselytize. Foreign missionaries and religiously oriented organizations continue to be harassed by authorities, and their requests for work permits and residence visas are delayed.

Children, regardless of presumed religious origin, who have been abandoned or whose parentage is unknown, are considered Muslims and can only be adopted by Muslims. Non-Muslims may adopt other non-Muslim children. No equivalent restriction is placed on adoption by Muslims.

According to US State Department reports, Popular Defense Force (PDF) trainees, including non-Muslims, are indoctrinated in the Islamic faith. In prisons, government-supported Islamic organizations offer inducements to, and pressure on, non-Muslim inmates to convert. Islamic non-governmental organizations in war zones are reported to be withholding food and other services from the needy unless they convert to Islam. Children, including non-Muslim children, in camps for vagrant minors are required to study the Koran. In the south, Christians, Muslims and followers of traditional African beliefs generally worship freely.

Anti-Semitic rhetoric is common in official media and statements by government officials in the north. This generally does not occur in the south.

Since 1999 the U.S. secretary of state has designated Sudan a Country of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act for sever violations of religious freedom. They were most recently re-designated in 2009.


2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Sudan

Sudan Country Profile- BBC News

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 19:11