Abyei violence unlikely to affect South Sudan secession

By May 30, 2011

Sudan (MNN) — Late last week, Oxfam announced that only five months into 2011, South Sudan is facing its most violent year since the end of the civil war in 2005. International outcries about possible renewed civil war continue to pepper headlines.

The war rumors were instigated by the ongoing violent dispute between North and South Sudan over border town Abyei. Hundreds have died in clashes over whether Abyei will fall to the North or to the South when the South officially secedes to become the Republic of South Sudan in July.

Phil Byler with Africa Inland Mission is in South Sudan now and says the conflict is multi-faceted. "It's ethnic, it's tribal, it's economic, as well as religious and political–all mixed together."

On the outside, it seems to be a national conflict. But Byler says if it weren't for radio news sources in the very south of the country where he is, they would hardly know about the conflict. "In this part of South Sudan, people are going about normal lives."

There have been protests in the region against the North attacking Abyei, but they've been peaceful. Believers have also spoken out about the conflict, eager for Christ's peace rather than for violence, but they know there are ultimately political moves to be made.

The sense of fear about war is low in regions far from Abyei, says Byler, especially since there's little concern that the violent dispute will keep the South from their July secession.

"From what I am gathering from the local people, they are confident that the birth of the new nation of the Republic of South Sudan will happen," says Byler. That's good news for the people in the South, who are ready to become their own nation.

The violence and threat of war does to some extent affect even evangelical efforts and ministry, though (read more about that here), especially if it does escalate into something worse. So the question still remains: will it really ignite civil war?

"It's really anybody's guess at this point," says Byler. "But we are hoping and praying and believing God that, as He answered our prayers so dramatically in January, if the believers around the world continue to pray for South Sudan, we may see God birth a new nation without this return of civil war."

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