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USA tells Sudan to lift ban on construction of new churches

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. (CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS)

USA has through its Deputy Secretary of State, John Joseph Sullivan, called on Sudan to lift the ban on construction of new churches and  “immediately suspend” the demolition of those in existence.

John Joseph Sullivan was speaking at the Al-Neelain Mosque in Omdurman, the second largest city in Sudan last Friday when he urged relevant State officials in this nation to hold a roundtable discussion with Christian leaders to resolve disputes.

He used the recent International Religious Freedom report by the US State Department on Sudan, and “noted instances of the arrest, detention, and intimidation of religious leaders, and the denial of permits for the construction of new churches; restrictions on non-Muslim religious groups from entering the country; and the censorship of religious material”.

“When governments favor a specific religious, ethnic, or sectarian group over others, violent radicalism thrives. We also know that governments that sponsor or condone violence against their own people are far more likely to see violent extremism growing in their country. But by protecting every person’s human rights, society is more just, more free, and more stable for everyone,” John Joseph Sullivan said.

“For these reasons, we urge the Government of Sudan to protect basic freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion, and movement,” he added.

Sullivan said President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Tillerson have made clear that the protection and promotion of religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Administration.

In 2014, the Sudan Council of Churches criticized their authorities for banning the construction of new churches. Responding to the allegations, Sudanese government minister said there were already enough churches to provide for Christians.

“We are growing, we need more churches,” Rev Kori El Ramli, the secretary-general of the Sudan Council of Churches told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

“We want the government to give us new plots so we can build a new church,” the cleric said.

“We are citizens and the constitution says there is freedom of religion and worship so we are using this to get our rights.”

John Joseph Sullivan comments also come months since five Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) leaders were detained in Khartoum for refusing to hand over ownership of their church to government officials, by transferring authority from an elected committee to a state-sanctioned rival committee.

Read John J. Sullivan’s full speech here.

By Paul W. Dennis

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