Celebration and hope surrounds landmark vote in Sudan

By January 11, 2011

Sudan (MNN) — Long lines formed Sunday at polling places in Juba, the would-be capital city of  southern Sudan, for a referendum on
independence. The voting, which ends on
January 15, is reported to be going smoothly.

Lee DeYoung with Words of Hope explains what's at stake. "A
week-long referendum is now underway to decide whether or not Southern Sudan
will become an independent country from the administration of Khartoum in the

A Words of Hope producer, Peter Garang Thieel, in Rumbek
noted the celebratory atmosphere. He
writes, "I would describe the happiness I have during South Sudan Referendum
Day as my second most-joyous day I had in life! The first day was December
24,  1975 when I was baptized in Juba after having finished 3 years
of Dinka Bible and Catechism Classes. It's also the day that wipes away the
tears of sorrow I shed during the death of our fallen hero Dr. John Garang
De Mabior who died in a plane crash on 30 July 2005. To me, on February 14, 2011 when the final result will be announced will mark
the conclusion of our celebration. "   

The vote was a key part of a peace accord signed in 2005
that brought about an end to decades of civil war. The results seem a foregone
conclusion. DeYoung says, "The president of all of Sudan,
Omar al Bashir, visited Juba, and in his public statements he seems to have
indicated a kind of resignation to the inevitability of the outcome."

"There were long queues of people lining up," DeYoung continues, "and there seemed
to be jubilant celebratory atmosphere. All but one report that we have heard
indicates that everything was peaceful, that the referendum has gone well."

2011 is greatly anticipated as a year of potential and
growth. One of the WOH Dinka producers, Pastor
David Wat in Kukama, writes, "I myself left Sudan in 1987 for Ethiopia. I
stayed in I tang Refuges Camp as a Refuges
In 1991 I left Ethiopia for Sudan. I stayed for two year in Sudan
then back to Ethiopia.  In 1999, I came
to Kenya as a refugee. I lived in Kenya for twelve year plus five years —
seventeen year in exile, due to the long war in Sudan which 2 million people
lost their lives. This year is the year of peace in Sudan."

If the referendum passes and the South breaks off from the North,
the next issue to fix will be the disputed border. Additionally, DeYoung says, "If independence
comes, Sharia law will be more strictly enforced in what remains of Sudan in the
North. Christians who live there might feel increasingly unwelcome."

They've already seen evidence of this. "A number of
Christians from the North have already relocated into the South, perhaps
anticipating the possibility of difficulties, or simply to celebrate the
independence of their own native land."

DeYoung says their staff is trying to encourage listeners to
keep the future of the country before the Lord. Wat says, "I want to ask all the believers to pray
during this referendum day so that God will control this referendum. As we
started peacefully, also [pray that] it will end peacefully without death."

"Our radio programs have been emphasizing themes of peace
and reconciliation," DeYoung says. "A number
of churches have organized prayer meetings over recent weeks and months. This is culminating now in this week-long vote
which ends on Saturday."

Click here to find more details about the ministry of Words of Hope
in Sudan.

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