Sanctions, Sudan, and religious freedom

Sudan (MNN) – Obama’s decision to temporarily suspend sanctions on Sudan right before he left office was a controversial one. Over the last six months, there hasn’t seemed to be much improved when it comes to human rights. Now it’s up to the Trump administration to decide whether or not sanctions should be reinstated or permanently dropped. That decision was originally scheduled to take place this month, but has been postponed until October. Sudan has retaliated by refusing to negotiate with the U.S. until then.

Whether or not sanctions are right or wrong, there is a very real issue that needs to be addressed within the rogue nation. Emily Fuentes of Open Doors USA says, “It’s a very difficult government to work with for obvious reasons. The human rights violations in Sudan across the board are horrendous. And as we always say, persecution or intolerance of religious freedom in a country is usually an indication of other human rights violations as well, and that’s very much the case in Sudan.”

Meriam Ibrahim. (Photo courtesy of World Watch Monitor)

Among the issues raised on the religious freedom front are church demolitions and seizures, anti-conversion laws, violence against Christians, and the government’s selective monitoring of organizations tied to religion. The nation has also produced a number of high-profile court cases with the arrests of both native Christians and those visiting the nation. You might remember Meriam Ibrahim’s story, or more recently the trio of pastors and their comrade charged with anti-state activity.

Fuentes says people in Sudan also have to deal with violence, divisiveness, and a government’s oppression. Currently, there is a big push to establish one language, one religion, and one culture, despite the nation’s diversity.

Because this sort of religious persecution is so prevalent, many groups believe sanctions should be reinstated. In fact, this group of thinkers points out that sanctions may be the only influence we have over the nation, and it would be wrong to not use them.

But another group of people argues that sanctions have done very little to thwart the government’s attitude towards its people and instead has harmed the common man. In fact, the sanctions that were lifted earlier this year were 20 years old.

Still another group doesn’t seem to realize the gravity of the situation.

Fuentes says, “I think the average American is not, quite honestly, entirely aware of all that’s happening in Sudan. It is one of the worst places on earth to be a Christian – it’s number five on our World Watch List—but just a horrific place for human beings in general.”

The question is, how do we influence change in Sudan? And can we? Fuentes says it is essential that we use what tools we have. Despite the lack of regard Sudan seems to have for other nations, now is the time for the United States government to weigh the options and consider long-term impact.

“It’s an important time for them to understand and really acknowledge all the human rights violations that are happening in this country, and what sanctions could mean for helping individuals in this country,” Fuentes says.

She says our leaders have the ability and creativity to come up with other solutions outside of sanctions.

(Sudan capture courtesy of Prayercast)

“There can be things like appointing an ambassador for religious freedom as we have in the past for certain areas, to monitor it. Sometimes we even have special positions appointed for particular countries of concern.”

But none of this effort will take place without the urging of individuals. Fuentes says we can contact our elected officials to let them know this is a big deal to us.

More importantly, however, we can be praying. Ask God to strengthen and protect the believers in Sudan who continue to risk their lives in order to share their faith. Pray for wisdom for them and the leaders of Sudan. Pray for hearts to be changed and for religious freedom to grow. Finally, pray for those who have converted from Islam and are on death row because of it. Ask God to overturn their sentences and pray that their lives will impact their nation with the truth of the Gospel.

And finally, Fuentes says to remember that “the Gospel thrives even and especially under persecution. So, as we encourage government policies to of course act on behalf of people, we also remember that God can do amazing things in spite of man and in spite of what evil governments are doing and in spite of generations of oppression.”

If you’d like to stay updated on what’s happening in Sudan, click here.