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SUDAN

Judicial CP - October 2005



Corpun file 16786

San Diego Union Tribune, California, USA, 9 October 2005

Sudan's new deal for Christians eases the pressure, but troubles persist

By Tanalee Smith
Associated Press

(extract)

JOBORONA, Sudan – "Forty-five lashes for being drunk," the man said bitterly, raising his shirt to show crisscrossed wounds on his stomach, some still red and tender.

Marko Mayoren, 50, had been released a day earlier after a night in jail and a brief trial that convicted him of breaking Islamic law by drinking alcohol.

Having just ended a 21-year civil war that divided Muslims and Christians, Sudan has a new government, new interim constitution guaranteeing religious freedom. But for Mayoren, the new deal so far exists largely on paper.

At the same time, others report fewer acts of harassment since the new constitution took effect in July, such as less stringent application of the rules on alcohol and women's dress.

But it's still not easy for the tiny Christian minority in this capital of 3 million people.

Mayoren said he was taken to a verandah of the Muslim Court of Conduct and lashed front and back with a leather whip, then ordered to pay a 5,000 dinar fine (about $20) – "Plus 50 dinars (20 cents) for the ink they used to write the report," he said angrily.

Mayoren's comrades swapped nearly identical stories as they sat on low stools and dipped a wooden bowl into a bucket of a fermented orange drink called, for reasons unknown, "Internet."

These refugees are from the war-ravaged south, where Christianity and traditional African faiths are the main religions. Now 400 to 800 miles from home, they sat at an improvised outdoor bar in Joborona, one of several camps for some 2 million southerners that have sprung up around Khartoum over the past two decades.

The men know the law forbids alcohol; they just don't think it should apply to Christians.

They're right, says Ghazi Suleiman, a Muslim lawyer and parliament member. He notes that the constitution says "Sudan is a diversified nation" and guarantees respect for all practices, traditions and religions.

But the capital is still an Islamic city, where most women wrap head and body in flowing robes, all shops and the one Western-style mall close for Friday prayers, and a huge sign in English on the airport highway offers this verse from the Quran, the Muslim holy book: "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him."

At a five-star hotel, foreign men and women can mingle by the pool, but not Sudanese women; they have to use a small women-only pool indoors.

The new constitution has given Christians a slight sense of reprieve. Arrests such as Mayoren's seem to have decreased, and some say police have stopped boarding buses to sniff southerners for alcohol.

[...]




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