Sudan On the Brink

Sudan is currently poised on a knife’s edge. After decades of strife, genocide, and brutal civil wars, two years ago in April 2019 the population rose up against their autocratic dictator and indicted war criminal, Omar al-Bashir. When his own military forces refused to fire on the demonstrating civilian population, he was deposed the very next day. (Autocrats depend on a loyal military to enforce their will; once al-Bashir lost that trust with his military, it was game over for him.)

Since 2019, Sudan has been governed by a very uneasy partnership between various and sundry civilian groups, led by the Freedom and Change party (“الحرية والتغيير”), and the military and security apparatus. This is essentially a power-sharing agreement, with the executive and legislative functions being controlled by six civilians and five military leaders. It is very much a transitional, temporary arrangement that ostensibly is obligated to lead to democratic elections next year in 2022. The current civilian leader is Abdalla Hamdok, who spent decades in Sudanese public administration. The military leader is Abdel Fattah al-Birhan. The clock is ticking and 2022 is right around the corner. Will Sudan achieve its goal of complete transition to a democratic state?

Right now, there is a festering power struggle between the civilian Hamdok and the military al-Birhan. How this power struggle resolves itself will determine the fate of millions of Sudanese. It seems apparent from recent decisions and actions by al-Birhan that he is seeking to marginalize Hamdok and the civilian groups led by Freedom and Change. If these indications are true, then this is a troubling development in a country that seemed to be trending toward a brighter and more just future over the last two years.

Why do I bring all this up? In early 2020, Elder David A. Bednar and his wife visited Sudan. You can see a summary of his visit here and here. In May of this year, Sudanese government officials visited Salt Lake City to meet with Church leaders, including Elder Bednar. Reading between the lines, it appears that the Church is trying to establish deep and firm ties with the new transitional government. Naturally, we’re giving aid and humanitarian support to a country that needs it. But I also think that Elder Bednar is laying the foundation for the Church to be officially recognized in Sudan. This is a golden opportunity for the Church to be able to work openly in a country that has been closed to our missionary efforts for many decades.

If Sudan veers back to military dictatorship, then that window will close once again, quite possibly for many more years. Thus, it’s imperative that the civilian side prevail in this ongoing power struggle and that democratic, pluralistic norms take root and flourish in a country that so desperately needs it.

I also bring the issue of Sudan up because I have some personal reasons to care about it. Many years ago, when I learned Arabic as part of my job with the military, many of my Arabic teachers at the Defense Language Institute were Sudanese expats. To this day, I’ve not met a nicer group of human beings. Easy going, apt to laughter, with light in their eyes and a genuine concern and caring for others — those are the characteristics that I found in every Sudanese teacher I came across.

I believe that Heavenly Father wants the Sudanese people to have the opportunity to welcome and receive the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why Elder Bednar and his wife have been working so hard on forging relationships with the transitional government of Sudan. That is why they were able to break off the shackles of dictatorship and give a taste of freedom to so many good people.

Will you join me in praying that Sudan can survive the current threats to its peace?

How the Amish achieved herd immunity without lockdowns, masks or vaccines

In March 2021, a Pennsylvania newspaper reported that the Amish had achieved herd immunity against Sars-CoV-2 without taking any of the extreme measures common around the world. There were no lockdowns, no church closings, no school closing, and no mask wearing. And almost no vaccinations.

In short, the Amish achieved herd immunity the old-fashioned way, by everybody being exposed to the virus and then developing natural immunity. It turns out that the Amish take the Sacrament with everybody drinking from the same cup, so almost all of the Amish got COVID when the pandemic began.

Exact numbers are difficult to come by in the Amish world, but there is no evidence of a massive number of deaths of Amish in Lancaster County in the last 18 months. Of course the number of cases was very high, but measuring by cases has always been problematic because what really matters is how many people get hospitalized or die from a disease. And there is simply no evidence of that among the Amish.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 1258 reported deaths from COVID in Lancaster County, PA, out of a total population of 550,000. This is about the same as the U.S. death rate of about 734,000 deaths out of a population of 331 million. So, I want to repeat this point: The county that the Amish live in had about the same death rate while relying on natural immunity than the rest of the U.S. did relying on masks, lockdowns, school closures and vaccines.

Now, let’s imagine that the Amish policy had resulted in a massacre of the Amish, which is what the COVID hysterics believe would have happened without all of the lockdowns and mandates. Don’t you think we would be seeing daily news stories from Amish country telling us: this is what happens when you don’t “follow the science?” Instead, we have gotten almost no news reports from Amish country, because the truth is that the Amish approach appears to work.

What about the variants, you say? It turns out that natural immunity actually works better than the vaccines at preventing people from getting the variants, which is why highly vaccinated locations went through a massive spike caused by the delta variant. The numbers from Lancaster county show an increase in cases, but deaths are relatively low.

If you want to know why so many of us have opposed the lockdowns, the masks and the mandates, it is because we have long known that these measures *do not make a difference.* It is not that we are callous about the lives lost to COVID — we are concerned about the number of lives lost and disrupted by measures that will not work. And the experience of the Amish shows we were correct.

There is an excellent five-minute video discussing COVID and the Amish. Click here for the video version.

Here is the transcript of that video.

Here is a story indicating that more than 29 recent studies show that natural immunity is at least as good and in some cases superior to the COVID vaccines.

Are airline pilots sparking the “American spring?”

Small acts of courage can often be the sparks that begin movements against tyranny. You may remember the “Arab Spring” of 2011, which was initiated by a street vendor setting himself on fire to protest tyranny in Tunisia.

That self-immolation led to nationwide protests in Tunisia that resulted in the dictatorial president stepping down. Those protests inspired movements in other North African and Middle Eastern countries, which unfortunately were not as successful. But the street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi became an international hero who posthumously won the Sakharov prize and was honored in his home country with a stamp with his image.

Today hundreds of airline pilots are risking their jobs to protest vaccine mandates. Southwest Airlines has canceled nearly 2,000 flights because of an unofficial work stoppage by pilots. Here is one pilot explaining his opposition to the mandates:

And please don’t forget that some of the most articulate people in sports today are the brave basketball players speaking up against the vaccine mandate in the NBA.

I should not need to make this point, but I guess I must: there is a difference between suggesting that people voluntarily get vaccinated, which is the Church position, and the federal government mandating vaccination as a stipulation for employment, which is the Biden administration’s position. The former allows for free will; the latter is a Satanic use of force.

Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Proclaim Peace’

Review by Meg Stout

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aren’t famous for avoiding conflict. Anyone reading up through page 10 of the Book of Mormon reads about how Nephi decapitates Laban. I myself work for the Department of Defense (formerly referred to as the Department of War). My Bishop in my teens was a four-star general.

But Bishop Amos Jordan wished a life of diplomacy for me. He yearned for my talents to go toward creating peace in this world.

So I was intrigued to read Proclaim Peace: The Restoration’s Answer to an Age of Conflict. Authors Patrick Q. Mason and J. David Pulsipher demonstrate “that pursuing peace is godly, foundational, muscular, and not for the faint of heart.”

This book arose out of the authors’ participation in a March 2011 conference on Latter-day Saint perspectives on war and peace, held at Claremont Graduate University. In the ten years since that conference at Claremont, the authors have assembled a delightful demonstration that the gospel of the Restoration and scriptural canon revered by Latter-day Saints provide rich bases for living a just peace that goes well beyond the mere absence of conflict.

Continue reading