Sixty Christian and Muslim parents protested outside the Council of Ministers in Khartoum on 10 September.
Sixty Christian and Muslim parents gathered
outside the Council of Ministers in Khartoum on 10 September, to protest
against an order requiring Christian schools to open on Sundays.
The parents, whose children attend Christian
schools in Khartoum, were protesting what they
consider to be an unjustified restriction of the right to freedom of religion
or belief that is part of a wider
pattern of repression targeting the Christian minority in Sudan.
A parent who spoke to Christian Solidarity
Worldwide (CSW) on condition of anonymity said:
“These schools are not running for profit. They provide a good education for
all children without discrimination; 95% of the students are Muslim”.
The parent went on to explain that the
government requires Christian schools to teach girls and boys separately,
and restricts the activities the school organises: “At my children’s school,
morning hymns were cancelled even though the school chose non-religious songs
that speak of tolerance and peace.”
The day before the demonstration, one parent was detained while distributing
posters, and several were questioned by National Intelligence and Security
Service (NISS) agents during the protest.
Christian schools, which are among the oldest
in Sudan, have customarily closed on Sundays to allow
staff and Christian students to observe a day of worship. In July, the Khartoum
State Ministry of Education ordered Christian schools in the state to open on
Sundays and observe their weekend break on Friday and Saturday. The order was
rejected by the Khartoum State Parliament on 1
August. Deputy Speaker Mohammed Hashim stated there was no evidence that
closing schools on Sundays had a negative effect on academic performance.
However, the Minister of Education, Farah Mustafa, said that he was aligning all schools to the calendar adopted by the
Council of Ministers.
In August, a group of lawyers submitted a
request to the Ministry of Education for a written copy of the order. They
received a response in September stating that Christian schools were not required to open on Sundays, but must observe the
official weekend, which is Friday and Saturday, and remain open for 169 days of
CSW’s Advocacy Director
Joel Edwards said: “The order requiring Christian schools to
observe the official weekend and remain open for 169
days each year effectively blocks the possibility
of observing Sunday as a day of worship and constitutes an unacceptable
infringement on the right of Sudan’s Christian community to freedom of religion
or belief. We condemn the detention and questioning of parents who were merely
exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and urge the
Sudanese government to ensure that the right of peaceful assembly and
association is protected. We urge the Sudanese government
to take seriously its commitment to uphold, respect and protect freedom of
religion or belief, to work towards resolving this issue, and to prevent all
further violations of this right in the educational setting.”