By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Christian converts in Sudan are rejoicing after the transitional government scrapped legislation that made leaving Islam punishable by death, Worthy News learned.
“The abolition of Sudan’s apostasy law...has finally been enacted,” confirmed advocacy group Barnabas Fund which long campaigned against the legislation. “This has caused great rejoicing amongst Sudanese Christians, especially those who are converts from Islam.”
It also came as good news for Christians, such as Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, who still recalls her time on death row. In May 2014, while being pregnant, she was sentenced to death for “apostasy” after refusing to renounce her Christian faith.
Ibrahim had her sentence overturned in June 2014 by Sudan’s appeal court. Though her father was Muslim, she had been brought up a Christian from the age of six. Prosecutors claimed Ibrahim was an apostate from Islam by being a Christian while her father was Muslim.
Sudan’s new government made clear it wants to avoid similar trials. Other reforms announced over the weekend include allowing non-Muslims to drink alcohol and ending public flogging. “We [will] drop all the laws violating the human rights in Sudan," Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari stressed.
And, after more than 30 years of Islamist rule, Sudan also banned female genital mutilation (FGM). A United Nations-backed survey in 2014 estimated 87 percent of Sudanese women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to the painful procedure.
The Miscellaneous Amendments Act—approved in April but only now publicized—also freed Sudanese women from the necessity of male approval before traveling with their children.
The reforms come after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted last year following massive street protests. Transitional Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, a civilian, also replaced several cabinet ministers and fired the police chief amid far-reaching reforms in the heavily Islamic African nation.
However, Christians have expressed disappointment that reforms did not include making Christianity a school subject alongside Islam.
Raja Nicola Eissa Abdel-Masih, the only Christian woman appointed to the council that oversees the transition to civilian rule in Sudan, reportedly said they were trying “to resolve the issue.”
Vatican sources said Christians and other minorities “who suffered under the previous regime” hope the new government can bring changes “to a long-entrenched Islamist mindset.”
After the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.
Church leaders reportedly said that Sudanese authorities demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature as most Christians left the country following South Sudan’s independence.
Christians represent only three percent of Sudan's 40 million inhabitants, according to official estimates.
Christian leaders claim the real figure is much higher.