A Christian leader in Sudan has distanced himself from a call by some Muslims for young people to boycott Valentine's Day, because the celebration could lead people astray - writes Fredrick Nzwili.
"I don't think this will have any impact," the Rev Tut Mai of the Presbyterian Church in Sudan told Ecumenical News International on 12 February. Still, he warned, "They may want to isolate those who go on to celebrate the day."
The Sudan Ulema Authority, a group of Muslim leaders group in Khartoum issued a statement on 10 February urging the country's lovers to boycott the day that celebrates romantic love on 14 February - once a Western occasion but that has spread to many parts of the world.
"Valentine's Day comes from Western countries. I call on Muslims not to imitate Christians," a Muslim preacher, Sheikh Hassan Hamid said in a statement quoted by the Reuters news agency.
The Ulema authority is viewed as responsible for the imposition of Islamic Sharia law in Sudan's Muslim north since the 1980s, and the group said the expense spent on Valentine's Day could be used for weddings.
About 40 percent of Sudan's 40 million people are Muslims, found mainly in the north of the country. Christians are found mostly in the south and a significant number in Khartoum, and together with Sudanese holding animist beliefs, they make up about 30 percent of the population.
On Valentine's Day people with romantic thoughts for others express their affections by sending each other cards, presenting flowers, or offering confectionery. The holiday is named after early Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic love in the Middle Ages.
"Valentine is a day of big love, joy, harmony, peace all over the world. It doesn't belong to any domination, Muslim or Christian," commented Robert Amoko in the Sudan Tribune on 12 February 2009 following the Muslims leaders' statement.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]