After a two-day meeting, Christian and Muslim leaders in Sudan signed an agreement promoting peace and religious freedom. It’s the first of its kind and a significant step forward.
“If we look casually at this agreement, we say, ‘Well, that’s nice, these leaders have agreed on religious freedom.’ But, when you look at it in the context of what has happened in Sudan over the last several months, it is yet another step in the right direction,” Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton explains.
Islamic dictator Omar al-Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years. Coup leaders overthrew Bashir last April, and the Sudanese people have taken impressive strides toward civil rights and religious freedom ever since. For decades, police used Sudan’s apostasy law to severely persecute Christians. Transitional authorities threw out that law this summer.
“There is an openness now because of that apostasy law being overturned. It is not such a dangerous conversation for a Muslim to be curious about Christianity, to be curious about the person of Jesus Christ,” Nettleton says.
While much of Sudan’s progress is positive, not everyone trusts the transitional government. Some Sudanese church leaders express doubt and skepticism.
“There are people on that sovereign council that were the ‘right-hand men’ for Omar al Bashir. So there is certainly reason for caution, but think about some of the very concrete changes that have been made this year,” Nettleton says.
The underground church is alive and growing in Iran. Marzieh and her husband, started a house church with some of their friends.
Mike Ansari, President of Heart4Iran and Director of Operations for Mohabat TV, says, “This couple started an underground church, knowing the risks, because they love Jesus so much that they couldn’t be silent. They witnessed to their friends and neighbors, and a friendship group got started in their home. With the help of the Mohabat TV Response Team, it developed into a church.”
Many churches in Iran use Mohabat TV and other media ministries for training, discipleship, and virtual church. This allows Iranian believers to grow in their faith from safe places.
And they often need a safe place, as Iran cracks down hard on Christian populations. Ansari says, “Iran remains a dangerous country for any person who follows Jesus.
And the Iranian government has taken it upon themselves to continue to harass, persecute, and marginalise the Christian population in the country. The Islamic government of Iran feels threatened as many families become Christians, so the persecution and imprisonment are continuing at full force.”
So many Iranians have left Islam for Christianity, putting aside wealth, status, security, and even family to follow Jesus. November 18th, marks a global day of prayer for Christians of Muslim backgrounds.