JUBA, South Sudan, September 9, 2020 (Morning Star News) – The head of the body responsible for curricula in Sudan announced that a previous directive omitting Christian education as a subject for primary schools was in error, according to a new letter to educational directors.
Omer Ahmed al-Garay, director general of the National Centre for Curriculum and Educational Research (NCCER), wrote in the new letter that the body had not intended to omit Christianity from school subjects in the previous directive.
“In reference to our previous letter dated Aug. 23, 2020, regarding the school subjects, we wish to consider the new timetable attached,” Al-Garay wrote. “The old timetable had unintended error.”
The official document sent to directors of education in various states of Sudan directed them to reconsider omitted Religion Education subjects for primary schools in the newly introduced curriculum.
Al-Garay said he had received many calls from Christians asking 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-Garary wrote.
Church leaders in Sudan, however, met the new directive with skepticism. The Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) told Morning Star News that Christianity will continue to be omitted.
“The apology of the director will not change the reality of the matter,” Pastor Nalu said. “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.”
Since Sudan’s independence from the British in 1956, there have been no Christian teachers appointed by the government to teach Christianity in public schools. Islam has long been taught in schools.
Pastor Nalu has said that Christian students obliged to study Islamic Religion as a school subject are often forced to convert to Islam, especially in remote areas.
Following the deposing of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, there have been hopes that the new transitional government that took office would allow Christianity to be taught as it does away with the Islamist agenda of Bashir’s regime.
Effectively prohibiting the teaching of Christianity at government schools by barring the government from hiring Christian teachers, Bashir had left instruction on Christianity to churches and Christian schools.
School operation on Sundays in Sudan also has been contested. In July 2017, the Bashir government ordered all Christian schools in the capital to regard Sunday as a work day, but a Transitional Military Council on April 22, 2019 issued an order to restore Sunday as an official weekend recess day for Christian schools throughout the country.
After Bashir was deposed, military leaders initially formed a military council to rule the country, but further demonstrations led them to accept a transitional government of civilians and military figures, with a predominantly civilian government to be democratically elected in three years. Christians were expected to have greater voice under the new administration.
The new government that was sworn in on Sept. 8, 2019 led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, an economist, is tasked with governing during a transition period of 39 months. It faces the challenges of rooting out longstanding corruption and an Islamist “deep state” rooted in Bashir’s 30 years of power.
In light of advances in religious freedom since Bashir was ousted in April, the U.S. State Department announced on Dec. 20, 2019 that Sudan had been removed from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and was upgraded to a watch list. Sudan had been designated a CPC by the U.S. State Department since 1999.
Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Bashir had vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognized only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.
In April 2013 the then-Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population. Sudan since 2012 had expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who did not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.
Sudan ranked 7th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
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Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Sezer Ozger