U.S. Christians monitoring Bashir's fate

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Audio Transcript:

TIM MORGAN: Sudan is as close as the nearest can of Coke or Pepsi.

LISA MULLINS: Tim Morgan is the deputy managing editor of Christianity Today magazine.

MORGAN: There's an ingredient and additive to many of these soft drinks called gum arabic. And one of the largest exporters of gum arabic is the nation of Sudan itself. So you may think that Africa is far away from you, but it actually is close. We should be concerned about what's happening in southern Sudan because it has consequences not only for our daily lives but also for the cause of peace and justice.

MULLINS: Tim Morgan, what are the religious consequences of what's happening in Sudan?

MORGAN: If we don't see substantial movement towards peace right now, I think in the next 18 months you'll see Sudan get significantly worse. And it will require more resources in the long run unless we deal with them now.

MULLINS: Can you tell me what it is right now that the Christian community here in the United States feels is so much at stake in Sudan?

MORGAN: In 2005, there was a historic peace agreement between the north and the south. And the south is where the Christians are concentrated. The deep concern immediately is that that peace process will unravel.

MULLINS: So particularly right now, you're watching how Christian leaders are reacting to the arrest warrant put out by the International Criminal Court for the President of Sudan. And there's something very interesting that you've noted. What is it?

MORGAN: Well, many of the Christian groups are looking very cautiously at support for the arrest warrant. They're concerned that either their own aid groups might get kicked out of the country as some have been or are about to be kicked out. They're also concerned about religious freedom in the south and they're concerned about Christians in Khartoum. So the entire Christian community is much at risk if, for example, Bashir is taken out of office or if there are other efforts to suppress religious freedom.

MULLINS: Is that kind of tolerance for Bashir -- despite the atrocities that he is accused of committing or overseeing, is that kind of tolerance a surprise to Christians here in the US?

MORGAN: It's a very difficult balancing act. There is no question that the Bashir regime in Sudan has committed some astonishingly harsh atrocities against the people in the Darfur region and has been involved in bombing, for example, the hospital of Franklin Graham from Samaritan's Purse. He's �

MULLINS: This is the son of Reverend Billy Graham?

MORGAN: That's right. And so there's the sense that the Bashir regime has been very suppressive of religion. At the same time, they have to work with him in terms of trying to implement the peace agreement that they established in 2005. And there has been some progress.

MULLINS: Tim, you mentioned Franklin Graham. We had him on our program yesterday, and there's a little bit of that I would like you to hear right now and get your reaction to it. Graham has met several times with President Bashir. He feels that the President is a man who he can find cooperative. Let's hear from Franklin Graham.

FRANKLIN GRAHAM: It's difficult to sit there and talk to a man that you know that has bombed your hospital. But I could sit there and call him names, make him angry, and he could continue to bomb it. And I pleaded that he would quit targeting any civilian targets. And as a result of my pleading with him, he did stop.

MULLINS: Although, you weren't telling him anything new, that the hospital was a civilian target.

GRAHAM: Well, but I think sometimes when you talk face to face with a person, and they put a face to what you're asking, there is a difference. And it's important that we have a dialogue.

MULLINS: I guess, Tim Morgan, the much of the Christian community, at least your audience of Christianity Today feels there should be a dialogue as well. But what's the other side of that, and how much of a dichotomy is there among the Christian community as you see it here?

MORGAN: Well, there's always been a historic divide between people who are out there marching in front of the embassy or who are taking a more aggressive advocacy stance, and those who are working behind the scenes. So what we see Franklin Graham doing and a number of other Christian leaders is they're following what I call an �engagement strategy�. On the other hand, if you're in Washington, you have a different strategy and a different approach. And so what we see Christians doing today is trying to collaborate and strategize mutually on how to continue to bring pressure against the government of Sudan so that it will adhere to international norms and stop the killing.

MULLINS: Tim Morgan, the deputy managing editor of Christianity Today magazine, speaking to us from outside Chicago. Thanks very much.

MORGAN: Thank you.