A court in Sudan on Sept. 8 dismissed apostasy charges against four Christians who were threatened with the death penalty unless they recanted, sources said.
Judge Ibrahim Hamza dismissed the apostasy charges against the Christians in Central Darfur state, stating that apostasy is no longer a crime in Sudan, their attorney said.
The Christians, who are converts from Islam, were first arrested on June 24. They were treated terribly while in custody, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a human rights organization. The four were released the same day, but all were later re-arrested under the same charge on June 28.
Since the military coup of Oct. 25, 2021, officials have threatened church leaders living in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), telling them they would be charged with apostasy if they continued to meet for prayer, CSW reported.
“When the leaders protested, citing the legal changes made under the transitional administration, they were informed that the coup had changed the legal situation,” CSW stated.
The Christian population of Sudan is estimated at 2 million, or 4.5 percent of the total population of more than 43 million.
Persecution of Christians by non-state actors continued before and after the coup. In Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Sudan remained at No. 13, where it ranked the previous year, as attacks by non-state actors continued and religious freedom reforms at the national level were not enacted locally.
Sudan had dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in six years when it first ranked No. 13 in the 2021 World Watch List. The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report states that conditions have improved somewhat with the decriminalization of apostasy and a halt to demolition of churches, but that conservative Islam still dominates society; Christians face discrimination, including problems in obtaining licenses for constructing church buildings.
The U.S. State Department in 2019 removed Sudan from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and upgraded it to a watch list. The State Department removed Sudan from the Special Watch List in December 2020. Sudan had previously been designated as a CPC from 1999 to 2018.