Jan Figel, Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union, who visited Sudan from 14-17 March, says that the exchanges he had during his visit “demonstrated readiness of Sudanese partners to engage in continuous and constructive dialogue on religious diversity in Sudan, Horn of Africa and globally”.
In a statement issued on 18 March, the EU Delegation to Sudan said that the European Envoy met with members of the National Assembly and the Government including the ministers for Foreign Affairs and Endowments and Guidance. Figel also met representatives of religious, political and civil society organisations. He gave a lecture at the Ahfad University for Women. He visited the National Human Rights Commission and Council of Islamic Fiqh, Nour Mosque, a Coptic Church and the Sufi ceremony in Omdurman.
The visit was to support cooperation in intercultural and interreligious dialogue, and to promote freedom of religion or belief and peaceful coexistence of different communities.
The Envoy discussed the constitutional amendments and their compliance with international human rights law, highlighting the importance that the legislative framework also reflects these standards. “A fair state must be organised around equal citizenship for all. Diversity enriches while uniformity weakens societies,” said Jan Figel.
The Envoy called for the pardoning of the two Sudanese pastors, sentenced along with the released Czech Missionary Peter Jasek. Also, Jan Figel was allowed to visit and meet with Dr Mudawi Ibrahim, who is in detention.
The chairman of Sudan’s Legislation and Justice Committee at the National Assembly, Ahmed El Tijani, reported in a press statement that Figel asked about the demolition of several churches. El Tijani told him that the freedom of belief is sanctioned by the Sudanese constitution, and the state does not impose any religious belief or practice on its citizens. He said the churches were demolished for land-ownership reasons, and reaffirmed that some mosques have been demolished for the same reason..
Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, seven former Sudanese dioceses moved to South Sudan leaving only two dioceses for the small Christian minority, mainly in South Kordofan and Khartoum states.
According to the Chairman of the Legislation and Justice Committee at the National Assembly, Ahmed al-Tijani, the European envoy during his meeting posed a number of questions about the demolition of some churches. Last February, there were reports that Khartoum state authorities decided to demolish 25 churches. However, the decision has been suspended.
He pointed out that churches have been established across the Sudan, adding that during religious events and holidays Muslims and Christians exchange congratulations and reach each other, creating an environment of coexistence and tolerance.
Tijani said that the meeting had been requested by the EU visiting envoy who besides religious freedom discussed also a number of human rights issues.
Figel, according to the Sudanese legislator, during the meeting touched on the role of women in politics and their representation in the executive and legislative organs in the country.