A delegation of government leaders from the Republic of the Sudan met this week with senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Our impression of [Utah] is that it is a community that has taught us how it can overcome challenges,” said Naserldeen Mofarih, Sudan’s Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs and the head of the delegation. “Our other impression is how this church is able to work alongside its community to strengthen humanitarian principles.”
During a visit to Salt Lake City, the six-member delegation from Sudan visited Temple Square, Welfare Square, the Humanitarian Center and the Bishops’ Central Storehouse. They also met with the Church’s First Presidency, the Middle East North Africa Area Presidency and members of the Relief Society general presidency. In addition, they visited a local mosque in the Salt Lake Valley.
The Sudanese delegation’s visit to Church Headquarters follows a historic trip to the country by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Bednar, the first Apostle to visit the country, was accompanied by his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, during the four-day trip to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum in February 2020.
“The people of Sudan have values that are so fundamental and so crucial. And they’re striving very hard to teach those values …have people embrace those values throughout the entire country about the strength of the family,” said Elder Bednar.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the Father’s plan of happiness for His children. And so, there’s a connection here,” he explained.
Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham said members of the delegation mentioned that “women are the heart” of the home. “And so, when the women are strengthened, then certainly they strengthen their communities,” she said. “And so that’s a real connection that we have with those beautiful Sudanese people.”
The Northeast African country of nearly 43 million people is in a period of political and economic transition.
“Sudan is very diverse country in terms of faith and in terms of philosophies,” said Mofarih, as he discussed the importance of religious tolerance in Sudan. “Upon arrival of this new government, the constitutional document has claimed that religious freedom is a principle, and that the government shall treat all religions the same way.”
“As a Christian in Sudan, I am very happy today to go into the new government. The revolutionary government worked hard towards religious freedoms,” said Putrus Komi, Sudan Advisor for Christian Affairs.
Komi said that Christian religious observances such as Christmas and Easter are now considered official holidays in Sudan.
Humanitarian projects in Sudan
Since Elder Bednar’s visit more than a year ago, Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, has joined with its partners to support many projects in Sudan.
“We’ve identified a number of basic needs, just pure water, medical assistance, very, fundamental things,” explained Elder Bednar. “And there is an almost endless need in Sudan, so to be able to help in any way is a great blessing for us and for them.”
“We were delighted to see an opportunity to collaborate in even more significant ways, such as with pressing medical needs, like dialysis machines, and with helping individuals become more self-reliant, particularly the young people of Sudan,” said Elder Anthony D. Perkins, president of the Church’s Middle East North Africa Area.
“We’re doing flood relief; we’re doing refugee response. … They’re learning about us; we’re learning about Sudan and we’re building our trust through these projects, and that really lays the foundation for future cooperation,” said Sister Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.
“We are very impressed by seeing them helping other people and providing all kinds of assistance to all people, regardless of their race, nationality or religion. They give us a lesson on how people of faith can help others,” said Amira Agarib, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan to the United States.
“[Latter-day Saints] have built their lives practicing the words of the Bible and translating them into tangible action,” said Komi during his visit to Salt Lake City.
Elder Bednar expressed a sense of hope for Sudan’s future. “What we’re doing right now is establishing friendships and deepening those friendships and trying to find out the best ways we can be of assistance to the growth and the strengthening of Sudan.”
“There are shared values between Sudan and the Church—the principle of freedom, the principles of equality, and the principles of helping others regardless of their faith,” said Sudan’s religion minister.
“We have a lot of things in common. … We can work together to help our people,” said Ambassador Agarib.
“We are confident that much more will come from our combined efforts because of the Sudanese leaders’ sincere desire to help their people,” said Elder Perkins.
“These are wonderful people, their hearts are the same as ours, they have the same values, everything we talked about was so compatible. I’m just looking forward to getting to know them better in the future,” concluded President Bingham.