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A New Day for Religious Freedom in Sudan? US Commission Says Harsh Islamic Rules Being Revoked

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A new day could be dawning for the African nation of Sudan as members of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom recently met with the nation's new prime minister and other officials.

Johnnie Moore, one of the members of the delegation, tells CBN News that the new government has finalized a constitutional declaration which no longer references Islam as the primary source of law.

The government has repealed laws that gave security forces the authority to enforce religious moral teachings. Leaders also plan to change the apostasy and blasphemy laws in the criminal code.

That's a dramatic change from the rule of 30-year dictator Omar al-Bashir who enforced strict Islamic laws and persecuted Christians and other religious minorities.

Sudan's dictator was deposed in a coup earlier this year by the Sudanese Armed Forces. He is currently being held in Khartoum's Kobar prison. Last month, the new government said it would transfer al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands to be tried for "inciting and participating in" the killing of protestors. 

Moore says these are just initial steps and emphasized there's still much work to be done. He also told CBN News Sudan has the potential to become "the nation most astonishingly transformed in the shortest period of time."

The new government has established a ministry office for church affairs and plans to ensure churches are self-administered without government interference. They will ensure government employees can freely observe their religion such as by leaving work to attend worship services.

In addition, the government now includes Christian holidays on their national calendar, including Christmas holidays on December 25 and January 7. They will work with schools to prevent exams being held on Christmas and plan to push out a new module about civic education which will include teaching about religious freedom.

Moore told CBN News government officials also plan to ensure accountability for victims of human rights abuses under the previous regime “to the utmost satisfaction of the victims” and work with the Sudanese people on reconciliation and healing wounds from the various conflicts around the country. They will work to ensure the new permanent constitution respects religious freedom and will review and repeal any laws that discriminate on a religious or other basis. 

In response to the commission's meeting with Sudan's government officials, Moore tweeted: "What has happened in the Sudan is a new dawn ... we will never be the same. @SudanPMHamdok while @USCIRF," he wrote. "I appreciated the Prime Minister's candor & optimism as well as his matter-of-fact & action-orientated approach to establishing religious freedom in the country."

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