(Photo: Tina Ramirez)
WASHINGTON – A Sudanese human rights activist has called upon Christians in the United States to help the churches of the Republic of Sudan.
Nahmia Shaloka, a lawyer who had to flee his native Sudan due to persecution, told The Christian Post on Monday that Christians in the East African nation need help from American churches. "We also need to send a message for the Church in U.S. here," said Shaloka, who along with another Sudanese lawyer named Safwan Hegaze recently arrived in the United States.
Shaloka said that Sudanese Christians need the U.S. "to stand with them" and "help with many things" regarding the advancement of "religious freedom and other justice for all Sudanese."
He spoke about his work through an organization known as Hardwired, a recently created nonprofit that focuses on advocating for international religious freedom.
"We keep touch with Sudanese community here," said Shaloka regarding efforts to connect populations in both countries so as "to make an effort for the real change."
Ruled by dictator President Omar al-Bashir, the Republic of Sudan has been the subject of sanctions and international denunciations over its human rights record.
Bashir's state-sponsored violence against Christian and Animist communities in regions like Darfur prompted a global outcry against his government.
Eventually, the longstanding violence and a decades-old civil war led to the creation of the Republic of South Sudan in 2011.
The Republic of Sudan is dominated by a "radical Islamic" leadership that continues to perform sporadic violence against its Christian minority, according to Open Doors USA.
"Incidents against Christians include faith-related killings, damaging Christian properties and forced marriage as well as arrests, deportations and raids on church offices," reads an entry on their site.
"Sudanese Muslim-background believers suffer particularly: one believer's family burned his house down when they discovered he had turned to Christ."
While many of Sudan's Christian population ended up in the nascent South Sudan, the Republic of Sudan's capital Khartoum has multiple Bible colleges and thousands of Christian residents.
For Hegaze and Shaloka, two lawyers from Sudan, their experience of this repression came via the "Christian Affairs" branch of their nation's National Security forces.
After weathering the charge of espionage, the two fled to Ethiopia and hid there for several months before coming to the United States.
Even as the Republic looks to possible constitutional reforms, people like Hegaze and Shaloka found themselves threatened with torture for expressing their beliefs.
Shaloka told CP that Bashir wanted Sudan to "be purely Islamic" and "governed by Sharia law" rather than a republican form of government.
Late last month, Hardwired was able to get the two reformers to the United States so that they could continue to work for religious freedom.
In a press release provided by Hardwired, Hegaze talked about what he had hoped for his nation and how it involved leaving family.
"We wanted to make our country better so everyone could live together in peace and freedom but the government doesn't want anyone to know their rights and for this we were threatened with torture and forced to flee for our lives," said Hegaze.
"I have to forget what has happened and find a new way start to fight again to help our country rebuild through a new constitution that protects the rights of everyone because our country is diverse and cannot be governed by one idea or vision or religion."
Tina Ramirez, founder and executive director of Hardwired, told The Christian Post about some the goals her organization regarding the push for constitutional reform in the Republic of Sudan.
"Both of them are helping me train more leaders in Sudan to defend religious freedom for everyone and to mobilize support for the constitution," said Ramirez.
"The U.S. government [should] relax sanctions on Sudan related to education exchanges so there's actually an opportunity for American universities and pastors here to work with schools over there."