June 4, 2014
On 15 May, a Khartoum court sentenced 27-year old Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag to death for apostasy for the supposed crime of converting to Christianity. The sentence was handed down after Ms. Ishag — who was pregnant at the time and has since given birth in prison – refused to recant her faith.
Sadly, her case represents a pattern of violations of fundamental religious freedoms in Sudan, which instituted the death penalty for apostasy in 1991. This is the case in only three other African countries: Nigeria (in some northern states), Mauritania and Somalia.
Such religious intolerance in Sudan is an oxymoron, as the country, even with the loss of South Sudan, still remains one of the most diverse countries in Africa.
Sudan is home to sizable minorities with distinct cultural heritages and languages; as well as religious minorities, including Christians of various denominations, and followers of traditional African religions.
But since 1989, following the Islamist–sponsored military coup led by President Omar al-Bashir, the Government has treated Islam as the official state religion, instilling in the country’s laws, institutions and policies.
Since, thousands of non-Muslims have experienced discrimination at the hands of the state. Human rights groups have documented numerous cases of state-sponsored discrimination, including the destruction or confiscation of churches. Thousands of non-Muslims have also been forced to convert to Islam, priests and church leaders have been persecuted, and thousands of Christians punished according to Sharia law.
Yet, Christianity boasts a long and rich history in northern Africa, including northern Sudan, dating back to the first century.
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