At 100 day mark, Sudan referendum still a go

By October 1, 2010

Sudan (MNN) — Just 100 days before referendum voting is scheduled to take place, the Sudanese government seems far from prepared. Regardless, the semi-autonomous government of South Sudan is forging ahead with their plans for a January 9 vote.

The 2011 vote will determine whether or not the oil-rich region of southern Sudan will secede from the rest of the country and gain independence. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), however, the country has yet to begin voter registration, to train voter officials, or to decide what criteria will be used to determine voter eligibility. Printed materials regarding the referendum also have yet to be distributed across the vast land, which includes the difficult terrain of enormous swamps and grasslands.

Lee DeYoung with Words of Hope says if South Sudan does secede, it is not even clear where the border dividing the north and south will be. Regardless of these many unresolved issue, though, DeYoung says that on a recent trip to the region he found the people to be determined nonetheless.

"There are semi-autonomous government leaders based in Juba, who would become the new government of South Sudan," explains DeYoung. "Their determination and commitment is so complete and overwhelming that even if no help whatsoever is coming from the north, and even if there has been no resolution on outstanding matters, the government of South Sudan itself will make sure that this referendum happens on time and is done in a credible way–at least making sure that there is a credible vote on that date."

Many onlookers are skeptical that this vote can possibly take place on January 9, 2011 when the Khartoum government has demonstrated such an extreme lack of preparation. But DeYoung says this has only made the southern Sudanese more determined to prove the world wrong. Furthermore, if the vote does not take place, threats of violence may come to fruition, Reuters confirms. AFP quotes southern president Salva Kirr as saying that there will undoubtedly be a "real risk of a return to violence" if the referendum does not move forward as scheduled. The country's history is already violently plagued by war and bloodshed.

DeYoung says there is also a possibility that violence will erupt even if the referendum does go ahead as scheduled, instead guided by whatever the results turn out to be. However, the calm presidential election that took place last April has provided many with hope that this vote will also be peaceful.

In the midst of the critiques, questions and confusion, however, Words of Hope is shining light into Sudanese lives. The Words of Hope radio broadcasts throughout the country are encouraging people to show Christ's love to one another no matter the results of the referendum.

"We're focusing with special attention toward programs which address biblical issues of peace and reconciliation so that there can be an easing of the ethnic tensions that have actually flared up since the comprehensive peace agreement was signed in 2005. There are many Sudanese people, including those who are leaders in the church, who believe it is very important to try to diminish that sense of ethnic rivalry and to maximize the sense both of national identity. Within the church, they want to bring brothers and sisters together under one Lord, Jesus Christ."

Pray that believers in Sudan, whether they live in the north or the south, would lead the way in peace throughout this process and would take this opportunity to share the love of Christ with their neighbors. Pray that the Lord's hand would be in this entire process, as He is the one who "sets up kings and deposes them."

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