US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan has cited his experiences in Sudan as inspiration for promoting religious tolerance.
Speaking yesterday at the opening of the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, billed as the first-ever Ministerial to advance religious freedom around the world, Sullivan spoke of his experiences during a visit to Sudan in November 2017.
“Our first plenary session today is an opportunity to expose that persecution and discrimination that so many across the world face, and it gives us an opportunity to define the challenges that surround us. Survivors of genocide and religious persecution are sharing their experiences throughout this ministerial to point us in the direction of solutions. The problem is very real. To defeat it, we must speak openly, plainly, and honestly. That’s the only way we can stop it, the only way to preclude it from happening again. But I know we can, because I have faith,” Deputy Secretary Sullivan said.
“In November of last year, I met with the leaders of the Al Neelain Mosque in Khartoum, Sudan. I joined them with people from many different faiths, backgrounds, and cultures to talk about their important work to embrace tolerance and further the goal of mutual respect among all citizens. The work that this community of religious leaders and NGOs are tackling is impressive. They, like many of you, are looking to bridge deep divides to find areas of understanding and to ultimately make life safer and more just for those around them.
“This is no easy task, but we’re honoured to support their work. We’re also encouraging the Sudanese government to make much-needed reforms to make sure that everyone in Sudan can enjoy religious freedom. We recently cosponsored with Canada an unprecedented meeting of churches and religious groups with Sudanese government officials to try to foster progress,” Deputy Secretary Sullivan said.
“There is much more work to be done, but I left Sudan encouraged. The religious leaders and civil society groups I met with are nothing short of inspiring. They gave me reason for hope and optimism about the future. Together we hope and pray that government will follow through on its commitments to take new steps on religious freedom.”
In an article published in US News & World Report in October 2017, John Prendergast and Ian Schwab of the Enough Project highlight a pattern of persecution of religious minorities throughout the country that includes the demolition of churches and the arrest and detention of church leaders.
According to a report by the World Watch Monitor (WWM), the Sudanese authorities are trying to intervene in the affairs of several denominations in the country. Eight church leaders were detained and questioned in a six-week period last year.
Five leading members of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCC) were detained in October 2017 after saying prayers at a church building in Omdurman.
The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom will focus on concrete outcomes that reaffirm international commitments to promote religious freedom and produce real, positive change. The Ministerial will convene a broad range of stakeholders, including foreign ministers, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society representatives, to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.