The freedom of the 27 Christian Sudanese woman over the weekend from a pending death sentence is welcome news. Many in the international community were sent into a state of shock to learn that apostasy was a crime punishable by death. Apostasy is the abandonment of one’s religion. Apostasy can also be defined as the total rejection of Christianity by a baptized person who, having at one time professed the Christian faith publicly rejects it. It is distinguished from heresy, which is limited to the rejection of one or more Christian doctrines by one who maintains an overall adherence to Jesus Christ.

Sudan introduced Islamic Shariah law in the early 1980s under the rule of autocrat Jaafar Nimeiri, contributing to the resumption of an insurgency in the mostly animist and Christian south of Sudan. The south seceded in 2011 to become the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

The condemnation from the international community was swift and forceful and probably led to the freeing of this Sudanese woman who was pregnant at the time the death sentence was handed out. Among all religious groups, Christians are the most likely to be persecuted worldwide, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center. At the end of the day all countries should and must respect the religious choice and freedoms of their citizens.

Wayne Campbell