Sudanese official says dropping Christian education was ‘error,’ but church leaders don’t believe it

Church in Sudan
Baraka Parish church at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan, February 10, 2013. |

The top official of Sudan’s education regulatory body claims he erroneously omitted Christian education on a list he sent to all public schools in August directing them to teach only the subjects on the list.

Christian leaders have raised concerns that Christianity won't be taught in schools, despite the admission, because educators qualified to teach the subject haven't been hired. In Sudanese schools, Christian students are required to study Islam and some educators have forced students to convert. 

Director-General Omer Ahmed al-Garay of National Centre for Curriculum and Educational Research, said in a letter that he did not intentionally omit Christianity from school subjects in NCCER's previous directive, according to the U.S.-based Morning Star News.

“In reference to our previous letter dated Aug. 23, 2020, regarding the school subjects, we wish to consider the new timetable attached. The old timetable had unintended error,” Al-Garay wrote.

The official said many Christians called him to ask why Christianity had been omitted from the list of school subjects. “I apologize to Christian brothers who called asking why Christianity was dropped out from the school subjects,” Al-Garay wrote.

Islam has long been taught in schools in Sudan and now deposed President Omar al-Bashir had vowed to adopt a stricter version of Sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language after the country’s secession from South Sudan in 2011.

While a transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, was sworn in last year, an Islamist “deep state” rooted in Bashir’s 30 years of power remains influential.

“The apology of the director will not change the reality of the matter,” the Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, was quoted as saying. “Christianity will continue to be in the timetable, but there will be no one to teach it in government schools, because there are no teachers appointed by the government to teach it,” he explained.

Christian students have to study Islam as a school subject and in some areas, they are often forced to convert, Nalu said.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cautiously acknowledged improvements in the country’s religious and political atmosphere after the commission’s chair, Tony Perkins, visited Sudan in February.

“We are grateful to Prime Minister Hamdok and other members of the country’s bold transitional leadership who met with USCIRF to convey their explicit desire to bring a new era of openness and inclusivity to their country that suffered for 30 years under brutal and autocratic religious repression,” he said at the time, according to Crux.

“At the same time, we understand that the country’s challenges are deeply-rooted, and we urge the leadership to move quickly to turn that optimism into tangible and meaningful reforms for all people across Sudan, such as acting to formally repeal Article 126 of the 1991 penal code, which outlaws apostasy,” he added.

Prime Minister Hamdok and other transitional government officials met with USCIRF in Washington, D.C., during a visit last December — the first time in three decades that Sudanese leaders had visited Washington, D.C. 

The officials also shared at the time how they planned to expand religious freedom in a country that is ranked as the seventh-worst in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

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