KHARTOUM, Sudan – Franklin Graham, president of the International Relief Organization the Samaritan Purse, and son of the noted evangelist Jack Graham, met with the Sudanese President Umar Al-Bashir at the presidential palace in Khartoum to discuss the implementation of peace and the provision of religious freedom within the nation’s borders, Dec. 8.
"When peace and freedom come to Sudan, I will be your friend and will urge my country and churches in my country to do all they can to help your country," Graham told Al-Bashir, acknowledging his past criticism of the Khartoum government and lack of religious freedom in Sudan. "Many Americans are hoping that under your leadership, Sudanese Christians will be able to build and rebuild churches, and that Christians will be able to worship and travel freely."
For nearly 20 years, Sudan has been entangled in a brutal war that left 2 million dead; in 1983, the ruling Islamic regime has waged what has been widely described as a “genocidal campaign” against Christians, animists and moderate Muslims in the Southern and Central parts of the country.
Graham’s December visit marks the third trip he made to Sudan this year, but marks his first to Khartoum at the invitation of Al-Bashir. In addition, Graham met with the Sudanese vice president and a minister of foreign affairs as well as with the Sudan Council of Churches and the Sudan Inter-Religious Council.
He also met with a Southern People's Liberation Movement delegation. In each setting, Graham promoted the peace process and commended the participants for current progress. He also asked how churches in America could help sustain peace once it is achieved in the country.
The president also gave Graham permission to distribute 60,000 Christmas gift boxes to the children of Sudan and to speak for 30 minutes on national television on the subject of peace. Graham helped unload the shoeboxes from a cargo plane Dec. 9 after they were assembled and shipped from volunteers in America as part of Operation Christmas Child. The project sponsored by Samaritan's Purse has collected about 7 million shoeboxes and will distribute them in 95 countries this holiday season.
Samaritan's Purse, the international Christian relief organization led by Franklin Graham, has been working in Sudan since 1997, providing medical, food, educational and housing assistance.