Elder David A. Bednar became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to visit the Republic of Sudan during a four-day trip to the African nation in early February.
“We are delighted to be here in Sudan,” Elder Bednar said in a video interview with Newsroom. “We are here during a tremendous time of transition. There is a new government in place, there are new reforms that are taking place in the country. It is early, and so it is continuing to progress.”
The Church leader’s visit was made possible through his relationship with Omer Dahab, Sudan’s former acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Elder Bednar’s connection to Dahab led to a series of productive meetings with several government leaders in the country during the Feb. 8-12 visit.
“There was a genuine spirit of friendship and welcome among these leaders,” Elder Bednar said, following a meeting with the Minister of Religious Affairs Nasr-Eddin Mofarah Ahmen Mohamed, as well as a dinner with members of the Sudan Church Council.
In his meetings with faith leaders, Elder Bednar — who was accompanied by his wife, Sister Susan Bednar — emphasized the Church’s support of freedom of religions and discussed the importance of religious tolerance and Sudan’s long history of coexistence among Christians, Jews and Muslims.
The Republic of Sudan is situated between Egypt, the Red Sea and Ethiopia, among other countries, in the northeast of the African continent. It has a long history of political unrest — including a recent revolution, which led to the creation of the Sovereignty Council in late 2019.
During his visit, Elder Bednar met with the Deputy Chairperson of the Sovereignty Council, which serves as the interim head of state for Sudan following the revolution. Both leaders expressed a common hope for the bright future of the Sudanese people and their country.
Additionally, Elder Bednar met with the Sufi Religious Council, and according to the Newsroom report, their meetings led to “expressions of support for all people and a general denouncing of religious extremism.”
Elder Bednar said: “We wondered as we came what would be the reception of us as Christians, and everywhere we have gone, it has been quite remarkable to see how much Islam and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have in common.”
Of meeting with the Sufi leaders, Elder Bednar added: “It was a most enjoyable discussion, they were very animated and highlighted the fact that we have so much in common between our two faith communities.”
In a meeting with Lina Al-Sheikh Omer Mahjoub, the minister of Labor and Social Development, and Osman Shaiba, the secretary general of Sudan’s National Council for the Welfare of Children, Elder Bednar shared his concerns about the challenges families in Sudan are facing.
Abas Fadelallah Ali, general commissioner of the Humanitarian Aid Commission, explained that government leaders are working to overcome the ongoing challenges Sudan’s families and citizens face and are striving to better care for underserved communities like orphans and refugees.
In meeting with Commissioner Ali, Elder Bednar said, “Latter-day Saint Charities has supported humanitarian efforts in Sudan for many years. We will continue to look for opportunities to partner with local organizations to help those in need in Sudan.”
Following his meetings with leaders in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, Elder Bednar expressed a sense of hope for the future of the nation of 43 million, which is experiencing a historic period of economic and political transition.
“There is a great optimism as we met with people in a wide variety of settings. They are very eager for freedom, more freedom than they’ve had in the past, and the government seems very determined to be able to fulfill that promise,” he said.
One of the highlights of the visit for Elder Bednar was visiting with Imam Sadig al-Mahdi, a former prime minister whose great-grandfather was a highly revered leader in the area in the 19th century. In visiting with Imam al-Mahdi in his home, Elder Bednar said he learned from the Imam’s remarkable perspective on the history of Sudan.
Learning from their past is crucial for Sudanese people as they work to move the country forward with unity and reforms, Imam al-Mahdi said.
Following his four-day visit, Elder Bednar shared his gratitude for the visit and the meetings that took place. Although the African nation has many challenges, there are dedicated leaders working hard to build up the country, he said. “The Republic of Sudan has a bright future. We felt a close kinship with the people of Sudan and were impressed with everyone we met.”