On Monday, May 24, Ted Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, and several selected delegates from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC) met with Naserldeen Mofarih, Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments for the Republic of Sudan. Mofarih was joined by Amira Agarib, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy for the Republic of Sudan and Putrus Komi, Advisor for Christian Affairs to the Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments. In addition to Elder Wilson, GC representatives present included individuals from the church’s Health Ministries Department, GC Women’s Ministries, Advent Health Care System, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.
“It all began with a telephone call,” says Sheikh Muhammed Yousif, Sudan local liaison. “The minister expressed his desire to visit the headquarters of the Adventist Church during his visit to the United States.”
Mofarih’s visit stems from the country’s desire to reintegrate into the international cooperation of nations. A key component of this process is a deliberate effort of the new Sudanese government to engage the world with proof of openness to multiculturalism and multireligious peaceful coexistence.
“On a geo-socio political scheme of international affairs and relations, the Republic of Sudan is at a junction in its long, rich, and complicated history,” comments Ganoune Diop, director of GC Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department. “The country’s leaders have a renewed desire to see their national economy flourish, and they are taking serious steps in committing to justice by reinstituting worship places and allowing religious freedom in their country.”
A nation rich in mineral resources, Sudan is also in real need of development in areas such as food security, healthcare, infrastructure, and overall economic stability. To this end they are amidst conversations with international political and humanitarian organizations. This includes visiting religious leaders around the world, and it was within this context that Mofarih requested an audience with Elder Wilson.
“This was a highly unusual request coming from the Sudanese government,” Wilson points out. “How could we not oblige? It was our hope that there would be increased rapport and understanding from the government regarding our church activities in Sudan.”
After Diop offered the ambassador a brief tour of the building and gave him an introduction to the Adventist church, they met Elder Wilson in his office, who greeted them in the modest Arabic he knew from his childhood in Egypt, and welcomed them to the Adventist Church headquarters.
“He was inspired to utter the right words to our guests, and they were visibly touched,” Diop notes. “The same occurred during the luncheon when Elder Wilson shared insights from the book of Micah.”
Wilson quoted Micah 6:8, which offers instruction to all humans as to how they should live their lives: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
In his speech at the beginning of the luncheon, Diop expressed to Mofarih and his associates that some of the key values of the foundation of the Adventist Church are a passion to save lives, and a commitment to health and healing.
“Of course,” Diop stated, “for us as a community of faith, saving people is for prolonged life in the here and now, but we also have hope of eternal life.”
Diop continued by explaining the ways in which the Adventist Church has served and continues to serve in solidarity with the world: Health care, education, humanitarian assistance, human rights, women’s ministries, youth and children’s ministries, Possibilities Ministries, service to survivors of violence of all kinds, and more. It was acknowledged that ADRA has been operating in Sudan for 40 years.
“We have done our best to establish good relations with these leaders,” Diop says. “We recommend the local regional leaders to explore how we may help them to more efficiently fulfill their own national goals while also sharing our Christian witness and mission.
Diop says church leaders are praying for substantive follow-up and continued positive engagements with the Republic of Sudan, as it would greatly benefit many.
“The gift of the Holy Spirit is so evident in how God’s church works all over the world, especially in very challenging places,” Wilson comments. “We expect this to continue to be the case in Sudan and that it will only grow through God’s great blessing.”
GC representatives feel the meeting was a success, noting that the ambassador and his entourage were very interested and engaged throughout the day’s activities, and expressed appreciation for anything the church could do to help their country, especially in the areas of health and wellbeing.
“We praise God for his blessing of the meeting, and for his presence there,” Wilson says. “Our team did an exceptional job preparing, and we were able to share instruction from the Bible as well as pray for the group twice. We praise God for the newly established religious liberty and freedom of conscience promoted by the Sudanese government and guided by the Holy Spirit.”
Wilson adds that church leaders have every intention of building on this initial foundation of a productive and mutually beneficial relationship, and will work closely with local church leaders as they move forward.
“We at the GC are wholly supportive of our MENA (Middle East and North Africa Union) leaders,” Diop concludes. “They are the ones on the ground with grassroots involvements of global dimensions, consonant with and at the intersections of current needs of both the country of Sudan and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”