Khartoum cites drastic drop in Christian population since South Sudan's secession.
The Sudanese government, through the Minister of Religious Affairs, Shalil Abdullah, announced the freezing of permits for the construction of new churches.
The decision stems from the fact that the Christian community in Sudan has decreased substantially following the secession of South Sudan, explained the Minister. After the independence of South Sudan in July 2011, citizens from the south were forced to leave Sudan.
The Catholic Church in Sudan has recently complained about the discrimination faced by Christians living in the Country. "The legal situation of Christians in Sudan is really worrying," said Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of the Diocese of South Sudan in Tambura-Yambio, during a recent visit to the headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need.
A note sent to Fides Agency said that "although the constitution guarantees equal rights for all Sudanese, without distinction of religion, Christians are considered and treated as second-class citizens."
"Members of the clergy cannot obtain a passport and when they leave the country they never know if they will ever come back. Many priests have been expelled and the bishops are forced into silence because they cannot freely express their opinions," Bishop Kussala said.
The most vulnerable are the laity, as is the case of Meriam Yahia Ibrayim Ishaq, the young mother sentenced to death for apostasy.
"Meriam’s faith was well known to all," said the Bishop, "but one day, suddenly, she was threatened and then condemned."
Ibrahim was later released as a result of heavy international pressure, but was forced to leave Sudan. According to Christianity Today, Ibrahim and her family are living in the U.S. embassy in Khartoum until they are allowed entry into the U.S. "The family of four is living in the embassy library, awaiting legal clearance by the Sudanese government," CP said. "Ibrahim was accused of trying to leave the country using false documents, and it is unclear whether she faces criminal charges for that case. Also, her brother, Al Samani Al Hadi, has filed new charges against her. He is one of the family members that caused Ibrahim to be arrested after she married Wani.
"Last week, Sudanese First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh and Foreign Minister Ali Karti told the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lapo Pistelli, that ‘they were willing to cooperate to reach a positive and speedy solution to the case,’" the website said, quoting the Daily Mail.