SUDAN: Four Baptists in hiding after being charged with apostasy

Map of SudanFour young Baptist converts have gone into hiding after being charged with apostasy for leaving Islam. They were arrested and charged under a law against apostasy that was abolished two years ago.

On 22 June 2022, police raided a Sudanese Baptist Church building in Zalingei, capital of Central Darfur state in southwest Sudan. Four converts from Islam (Bader el Dean Haroon Abdel Jabaar, his brother Mohammad Haroon Abdel Jabaar, Tariq Adam Abdalla and Morthada Ismail) were detained and Bibles and a sound system were confiscated. The four Christians were beaten and mistreated during questioning, but were released the same day.

On 28 June, the four men were called in to collect their belongings at the police station, where they were detained and questioned further about their faith. They were then charged with apostasy under Article 126 of Sudan’s 1991 criminal code – an article that was abolished in 2020. They were transferred to the Zalingei prison, where they were held until their release on bail on 5 July. Following their release, the church building and some of their relatives’ homes were attacked and looted.

Police officers reportedly ordered the four arrested Christians to leave the area, but they refused. They have gone into hiding while they wait for a court hearing due to fear of community and police harassment. One of the men said that local Muslim extremists have called for their death.

Apostasy law abolished

Following the ousting of Islamist dictator President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, advances in religious freedom made by the transitional government (including the repeal of several Sharia-based laws) led to increasing hope for Christians, who had suffered greatly during President Bashir’s regime. In July 2020, the transitional government decriminalised apostasy, which had been previously been punishable by death. Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List reports, however, that religious freedom reforms at national level were not enacted locally.

After two years of advances, a military coup in October 2021 plunged the country into chaos and led Christians to fear renewed persecution as the allies of the ousted president began to be released from prison and re-appointed to positions of power.

(Middle East Concern, Morning Star News)

Read more about the situation facing Sudanese Christians in Church in Chains’ Sudan Country Profile.