The State Department issued its latest designations of the world’s most serious violators of religious freedom, moving Sudan down to its next-tier watchlist.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decisions on Friday (Dec. 20), including the shift of Sudan’s status, which he attributed to “significant steps taken by the civilian-led transitional government to address the previous regime’s ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.’”
Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, told reporters in a conference call Thursday there has been a halt in the raids on house churches and related movements in the predominantly Muslim country.
“They’ve stopped bulldozing churches; they’ve redesignated Christmas — both the normal Christmas and Orthodox Christmas — as national holidays,” the ambassador said. “They have brought, now, people of other faiths into the new cabinet.”
Brownback said he hopes the change in the department’s designation of Sudan will give the new government “breathing room” as its leaders seek to continue to put reforms in place following the ouster of Omar al-Bashir after his 30-year rule.
The department on Wednesday retained its designation for the nine other countries that had been categorized as “countries of particular concern”: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Brownback said Nigeria had been added to the department’s “special watch list” for the first time because of conditions in the West African country, where there have been conflicts between the Muslim majority and Christian minority populations.
“It is a dangerous situation in too many parts of Nigeria, and the government has either not been willing to or been ineffective in their response, and the violence continues to grow,” he said.
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Source: Religion News Service