Religious Discrimination and Violation of Rights of Christian Sudanese
Sudan is a country of plural ethnic, linguistic and religious plurality. Christianity is one of its main religions, second to Islam in terms of the number of followers and it is an ancient religion in Sudan that entered Sudan since times of ancient Nubian kingdoms and is present until today. Earlier historical epochs had entire kingdoms embracing Christianity as the official faith of the states, which were named Christian kingdoms in the history of Sudan. State in Sudan went through many variations until reaching the current setup. These fluctuations invariably influenced situation of Christian Sudanese and their rights, especially after their separation from their fellow southern Sudanese, who constituted the majority of Christian believers in post-independence Sudan1956.
Christian believers in Sudan suffered a major negative discrimination, especially under the Ingaz regime (1989-2019) that seized power in 1989 through a military coup holding a religiously fanatical and extremist Muslim Brotherhood ideology that upholds its own vision of social and religious life and refuses to effectively recognize religious rights of other believers, discriminating and violating against them. Despite Sudan’s constitutional provisions, existence of domestic and international laws prohibiting practice of religious discrimination, however, until the regime’s fall in April 2019 these rights had been practically circumvented by various procedural, administrative and security measures, a subject to be analyzed and examined by this report.
Historical background on Christianity in Sudan
Christianity reached Egypt around mid-first century at the hands of Saint Mark, the Evangelist later on moving southward to northern Sudan, which had ancient kingdoms of earlier civilizations, namely the Nubian civilization. Commercial relations formed an interface for interaction between the Pharaonic civilizations and the Nubian civilization, and the outer oasis region was an important commercial site between Egypt and Sudan that played a vital role in the coming of Christianity to the land of the Nubian kingdoms in the Sudan. By end of the third century, Christianity strongly made its way to the Nubian kingdoms. The most influential timing was at the era of Emperor Justinian (527-565), who sought to attract Nubians to Christianity in order to gain control of the middle Nile Valley. Christianity spread extensively during that era. Christianity of the Coptic sect became an official religion in the sixth century for kingdoms of Nubia that include Makara- capital being Dongola and Alwa- capital being Soba.
Christianity, as a religion, was able to withstand different political and social fluctuations in the land of Sudan to this day, even after entry of Islam into the Sudan in the sixth century, i.e. on the thirty-first year of Hijra, as the entry of Islam did not make Christianity vanish from Sudan, even though its influence declined. This historical fact negates the intentional linking “Christianity and modern colonialism” and the accompanying missionaries. In other words, Christianity forms an integral part of the historical identity of ancient Sudan even before the West knew of Christianity. Nevertheless, Christians and Christians are portrayed as being alien to Sudan’s identity and must be uprooted.