Earlier in March, Franklin Graham, head of relief organization Samaritan's Purse, visited with Sudan President Omar al-Bashir just prior to the International Criminal Court (ICC) issuing an arrest warrant against the president for war crimes associated with the government's role in the Darfur conflict, where millions of lives still hang in the balance.
After Graham returned, he agreed to a lengthy interview with Christianity Today about al-Bashir and Samaritan's Purse's ministry in Sudan.
How would you describe your relationship with President al-Bashir based on the three meetings you've had?
He's a very interesting person, and no question he's a man who's responsible for a lot of the bloodshed and misery in his country. Samaritan's Purse has been the recipient of his bombing. Our hospital was bombed on seven separate occasions.
During the war, the government of Sudan targeted civilian and nonmilitary targets, hospitals, and U.N. food distribution sites. I would complain bitterly to the administration at the time. Back then it was [to] Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke — that they do something to intervene. I was finally invited by al-Bashir to come see him, and I did that, back in 2001. He stopped bombing the hospital.
When President George W. Bush came to power, he assigned Sen. John Danforth to be special envoy to Sudan. President Bush put a tremendous amount of pressure on al-Bashir, and not only did al-Bashir stop the bombing in the South, but because of U.S. arm twisting, he also signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
What did you and al-Bashir discuss the last time you met?
I spoke with him about church-related issues, related to the church in the North. Believers ...