Sudan (MNN) — The fate of the two Sudanese pastors facing espionage and apostasy charges in Sudan remains unknown, despite some movement in the case.
Open Doors, the charity that serves persecuted Christians around the world, reports that after many delays this year, lawyers have finally been able to begin their defense of the four men — two Sudanese pastors, a Czech aid worker, and a third Sudanese man. Middle East Concern sources note multiple postponements, with no updates coming from the November 21rst hearing. The four are accused of seven charges, including waging war against the state and spying, and face the death penalty if convicted.
It seems like an unusually harsh penalty, and yet Sudan is one of 12 countries in the world where there are both apostasy and blasphemy laws in force.
It’s a diverse nation, especially where Arabic culture meets African culture. Islam became more prevalent when Sudan and South Sudan separated, with the North becoming 90 percent Muslim. According to the Joshua Project, five percent of the population in Sudan is considered Christian, with just .39 percent claiming to be evangelical. The rest are animists, adds ‘K’*, a man who advocates for religious freedom in the Muslim world.
‘K’ says it would be unfair to consider Sudan an Islamic country. “If you say it is an Islamic state, there is no place for non-Muslims. Faith is nothing you can force on anybody. Faith actually has to come from the heart. If it doesn’t come from the heart, God will not accept it.”
However, many others like ‘K’ who follow Christ in Sudan have been tortured, lost their dignity, or their liberty. Because although they may share the same faith as many in our own country, they do not share the freedom experienced by those in the West.
‘K’ explains, “It is in the laws of the countries that it’s a death sentence for apostates. An apostate is anybody who leaves Islam, and also for blasphemers. If you say, for example, you don’t believe in Muhammad (the prophet of God), you are also sentenced to death.”
What does this mean for those who live in relative religious freedom?
Irish philosopher Edmund Burke said it best: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” Together, we can work to give Muslim people the freedom to change their faith, to live out and practice their new faith, and to experience freedom, justice, and equality in their homeland as non-Muslims. The first thing ‘K’ notes is true empowerment does not come from human means, but through Christ alone.
Acknowledging that, what more can we do? We can create awareness of the situations of former Muslims in Islamic countries around the world. Many are unaware of what happens to the person who leaves Islam. These people face loss of job and family, discrimination, sometimes torture and imprisonment and even death. In countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria, they have no legal rights. In others, like North Sudan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, conversion from Islam is illegal and punishable by death.
Share the stories you come across from advocacy groups like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, Middle East Concern and other similar ministries. They are part of an international network of individuals, churches, and organizations working for the freedom of converts from Islam to live and practice their new faith, to experience equality and justice in their home countries.
“Christians, through the centuries, have played an important part,” says ‘K’. “For example, to take away slavery, we have Wilberforce and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So we need, as a Church, to stand for justice and for equality and for freedom. We have a responsibility to do that.”
The Bible calls us to be a voice for the voiceless. Blasphemy and apostasy laws affect 1.3 billion people. ‘K’ urges us to pray, “…that these laws would be abolished, that people would have the freedom to follow their own belief, and have the freedom to leave Islam and to practice their new beliefs and exist, and have true civil rights.”
Pray for the release of prisoners accused of apostasy and blasphemy. Ask God to make His presence and peace known to both prisoners and their families. Pray for the oppressors to experience God’s love and forgiveness and for a change of attitude towards former Muslims in Islamic countries.
*For security purposes, we’ve elected to identify this advocacy worker by his first initial only. The name of the ministry he is connected to was also not revealed so their work can continue.