JUBA, South Sudan — A young mother in Sudan was chained in her home, subjected to electrical shocks at a psychiatric hospital and has lost her children for leaving Islam to accept Christ, says a local source.
Awatif Abdalla Kaki is a 27-year-old mother of four in Omdurman who became a Christian on Jan. 27 after a relative told her about salvation through faith in Christ, said the source, whose identity is withheld for security reasons.
A few days after accepting Christ, she had a dream in which He appeared to her, and she told her relatives about it and her new faith at her parents’ home in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, where she, her husband and children lived, the source said.
Her husband tried to force her to renounce her faith by chaining her legs and tightening the chains, the source said. Asserting that she was mad, he then forcibly took her to a psychiatric hospital, where she received an unidentified injection and electrical shocks against her will, said the source.
Abdalla’s legs were injured from the chains, and although her husband has taken their children to his parents’ house to live with him, he maintains a large influence on Abdalla’s family and remains a threat, the source said. The oldest of her four children is 8 years old.
“She continues to live in mental anguish,” the source said, adding that her parents and siblings are all Muslims who believe she is suffering mental illness for believing in Christ. “I fear for her safety and pray that she can get a refuge outside her home so that she has peace of mind and can grow in her new faith.”
Abdalla is receiving no assistance from any Christians, the source said.
In Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Sudan was ranked No. 10, up from No. 13 the previous year, as attacks by non-state actors continued and religious freedom reforms at the national level were not enacted locally.
Sudan had dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in six years when it first ranked No. 13 in the 2021 World Watch List. The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report states that conditions have improved somewhat with the decriminalization of apostasy and a halt to demolition of churches, but that conservative Islam still dominates society; Christians face discrimination, including problems in obtaining licenses for constructing church buildings.
The U.S. State Department in 2019 removed Sudan from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and upgraded it to a watch list. The State Department removed Sudan from the Special Watch List in December 2020.
Sudan had previously been designated as a CPC from 1999 to 2018.
Following two years of advances in religious freedom in Sudan after the end of the Islamist dictatorship under Omar al-Bashir in 2019, the specter of state-sponsored persecution returned with the military coup of Oct. 25, 2021.
After Bashir was ousted from 30 years of power in April 2019, the transitional civilian-military government had managed to undo some Sharia (Islamic law) provisions. It outlawed the labeling of any religious group as “infidels” and thus effectively rescinded apostasy laws that made leaving Islam punishable by death.
With the Oct. 25, 2021, coup, Christians in Sudan fear the return of the most repressive and harsh aspects of Islamic law. Abdalla Hamdok, who had led a transitional government as prime minister starting in September 2019, was detained under house arrest for nearly a month before he was released and reinstated in a tenuous power-sharing agreement in November 2021.
Hamdock had been faced with rooting out longstanding corruption and an Islamist “deep state” from Bashir’s regime – the same deep state that is suspected of rooting out the transitional government in the Oct. 25, 2021, coup.
Persecution of Christians by non-state actors continued before and after the coup.
The Christian population of Sudan is estimated at 2 million, or 4.5% of the total population of more than 43 million.