The Reverend Rob Schenck … returned over the Easter weekend from a seven-day diplomatic mission to Khartoum, Sudan and its Darfur state … The purpose of the mission was to engage Khartoum’s government in dialogue on religion and human rights and to gain first-hand information on the state of religious liberty in the officially Islamic country.
“I was surprised by what we found in Sudan,” said Schenck. “The new unity government and various peace plans seem to be working. There is new power sharing with Christians, but much remains to be done. It’s an extremely complex situation, one we need look at afresh.”
Schenck added, “Evangelical believers in Khartoum gave us a strong message against U.S. sanctions, one I intend to deliver to President Bush.”
Schenck just returned from visiting with the Sudanese leadership in Khartoum, a regime which is accused of orchestrating a genocidal counter-insurgency campaign against the people of Darfur with the assistance of government-backed Janjaweed militias who routinely rape women, torture men and burn victims alive, killing nearly a half-million people and displacing millions more.
And he returns pledging to press the Bush Administration not to implement sanctions simply because there appears to be some “power sharing with Christians” – even as the regime continues to kill African Muslims throughout the region.
Schenck’s visit was hosted by Sudan’s Foreign Ministry at the same time as Rep. James McGovern was being denied entry into Sudan because he refused to “[meet] with government officials, saying he wanted to visit the refugee sites alone.” Presumably, Khartoum realized that McGovern and Schenck would have different messages to share with the US public once they returned, which is why one was welcomed and the other barred.
Schenck is not alone in thinking that the regime in Khartoum ought to be rewarded simply because, while it continues to kill the mostly Muslim people of Darfur, it has stopped war against the mostly Christian south. In February, Franklin Graham also returned from a meeting in Khartoum with similar views:
Graham said he came away thinking that Bashir, who now stands accused of presiding over the killing of at least 200,000 people in the Darfur region in the country’s west, deserves credit for signing the peace agreement with rebels in the south in 2005.
Although human rights activists and some U.S. officials are counseling tougher measures against Bashir’s government to end the violence in Darfur — and to more fully implement a faltering peace agreement with the south — Graham said that a softer approach is needed.
“I’m not a politician, but I think our government does need to recognize some steps he’s taken and reward this government in some way to show them we appreciate what they have done” regarding southern Sudan, said Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and head of the international Christian relief group Samaritan’s Purse. “I think we can do more when we’re engaged.”
Graham said Bashir pledged to allow groups to build their churches and to look into Graham’s other requests, including one for $15 million to help rebuild at least 600 churches in the south destroyed during the war.
Of course, there are other faith organizations that have been vocal in their concern about the victims of Darfur, such as Evangelicals for Darfur and the dozens of organization affiliated with Save Darfur. Graham and Schenck don’t appear to be members of either.