Newest nation or annihilation
Will South Sudan be a failed state or can they carve out a secure future?
Saturday (July 9) was Independence Day for the world’s newest nation: The Republic of South Sudan.
From January 9-15, 2011 the people of the southern region of Sudan went to the polls and voted with a whopping 98.83% majority to secede from the north and form this new country.
I wrote this piece on July 3, the eve of the anniversary of another Independence Day. Although my knowledge of American history is sketchy, I imagine they faced their future with a sense of excitement and apprehension, with a mixture of optimism and realism, with resolve and iron-willed determination.
The people of South Sudan will need all this and more. The challenges before this fledgling nation are massive. Questions queued up. Will they even get to the date? Where will they go from there? What does the future hold?
Tensions have been boiling throughout June over a disputed region that lies on the border between the north and south. The South Kordofan region is oil rich (the south has 80% of the oil) and the north has said the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is off unless the north can annexe this region. It is home to a large number of the sizable Christian minority who make up the south.
Christians are estimated to make up to four million on the nine million people in South Sudan. They are a very significant minority. Many are Anglican. The rest of the population follow traditional indigenous animist beliefs and there is a high incidence of syncretism, where animist beliefs are blended with elements of Christianity.
Southern Sudanese are largely subsistence farmers. The oil has brought money to a few, but 90% of the population live in extreme poverty on less than a dollar a day ($300 per year), while the average income is $1,200 per year. This disparity is increasing by the day as the oil wealth flows to benefit a minority and the large multi-nationals.
The under-five infant mortality rate is among the highest in the world while maternal mortality is the highest of any in the world. Only a few years ago there were, in some regions of the south, just one doctor for every 500,000 people.
Since 1955 Sudan has been subject to two protracted civil wars (55-72 and 83-04). More than 2.5 million people have been killed and more than 5 million have become refugees and many more internally displaced. In 2010 one intelligence agency monitoring events and conflicts closely in the south warned that over the next five years, a new mass killing or genocide is most likely to occur in southern Sudan.
And now, as Independence Day loomed large, new waves of violence are sweeping across this otherwise hopeful nation. Violence has been reported in nine of the ten South Sudan states. Over a thousand people have been killed and over 100,000 displaced.
In the midst of this desperately fragile situation, we have many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of brothers and sisters in Christ who need whatever we can offer them. Beyond them but within their reach are millions of dear souls who need to be saved.
Sydney Anglicans through CMS, Anglican Aid and ACROSS (and through many other links) have been providing vital support through the training of pastors and development projects for many years. We must redouble our efforts.
May South Sudan look forward with resolve, determination and hope.
Above all, may South Sudanese Christians have an ever-increasing awareness of the grace of God flowing into their lives and through their lives to bring the blessings of the Gospel of grace to all their people - and their neighbour to the north.
As I was writing this blog between preaching commitments for Anglican Aid, I took an hour out and scurried up to the State Library to view the World Press Photo Exhibition. Clustered around the first prize photos, displaying the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, there were people openly weeping at the images of human suffering. I couldn’t contain my composure, left dumbstruck, numb and defeated by the immensity of the destruction and the humanitarian catastrophe. It was the same at many of the other exhibits depicting the brutality of war and depth of human suffering.
Pray for South Sudan, that it won’t be another Darfur, Bosnia or Rwanda. Pray that at the 2012 World Press Photo Exhibitions there will be photos of South Sudan and its people, but that they will be photos of hope, joy, industry and resolve.
Would you pray for South Sudan, now, before you move away from this blog?
Additional information: Thee Sudanese congregation at St Alban's, Belmore is holding a special celebration day at St Alban's, at the corner of Canterbury Road and Victory St, Belmore, on Saturday July 16th commencing at midday, continuing into the evening.
People of non-Sudanese background who may wish to come for a short time are welcome to attend from midday to 3.00pm.
Banner photo credit: United Nations Photo