HL Deb 07 June 2004 vol 662 cc4-5WA
Lord Hylton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are discussing with the Government of the Sudan discrimination and persecution affecting Christians and Animists in and near Khartoum, including (a) discrimination in public service employment; (b) gender discrimination; (c) imprisonment for production or possession of alcohol; (d) refusal of visas for incoming Christians; (e) refusal of permission for new church buildings; (f) demolitions of existing churches and halls; (g) expulsions of missionaries; (h) corporal punishment for Christians failing to observe Islamic dress conventions; and (i) pressure on Christians to convert to Islam. [HL2911]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

We are concerned about the human rights of all in Sudan regardless of their ethnic or religious background. We do make regular representations to the Sudanese Government, both bilaterally and through the EU-Sudan dialogue, about the treatment of minority groups.

Discrimination against Christians in Sudan tends to present itself in bureaucratic obstruction. Cases of harassment of Christian religious leaders have been reported, though these often appear to focus on political rather than religious activities. The case for "persecution" against a particular religious group is however less clear: southerners of all religions have suffered from mistreatment, while many thousands of Christians worship freely.

Religious freedom is, however, an important issue, and the applicability of Sharia to the national capital is currently being discussed at the peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya.