Will $335 Million Peace with Israel Secure Sudan’s Religious Freedom?

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Sudanese religious leaders and American human rights experts examine the latest and symbolically powerful Arab normalization agreement with the Jewish state.

Sudan’s Christians are relieved—and concerned.

Their nation’s historic agreement, announced Friday, to normalize relations with Israel does not directly impact their minority community, nor the trajectory of their burgeoning religious freedom.

But the symbolism is powerful, particularly to the North African nation’s majority Muslims.

Sudan was once the champion of Palestine.

In 1967, the Arab League convened in the capital city of Khartoum to adopt three No stances concerning Israel.

No peace. No recognition. No negotiation.

Reversing course is the type of decision that can make or break a nation. And Sudan is in the middle of a post-revolutionary transition, mired in economic malaise. Inflation has exceeded 200 percent.

The agreement to normalize relations followed the United States’s announcement to lift Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Assigned in 1993 during the 30-year Islamist dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, the accompanying sanctions starved Sudan of foreign investment and business development.

Massive popular demonstrations removed Bashir from power in April 2019. A series of reforms followed, including steps to improve religious freedom.

But the designation was removed only after Sudan agreed to pay $335 million to the US, earmarked for American victims of terrorism launched from Sudanese soil.

Sudan is now eligible for relief on its $60 billion debt, with access to global finance. Negotiations are already underway with the International Monetary Fund.

Initially, American policy linked removal of the terrorism designation to follow after a normalization agreement with Israel. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok strenuously objected, saying Sudan’s transitional government …

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