Sudan (MNN) — The countdown to the Southern referendum has
begun in Sudan.
Out of half a
million south Sudanese in the north of the country, 9,000 have registered to vote in
an independence referendum. Many see it
as a real chance to exert their right to self-determination, notes Lee DeYoung with Words of
Hope. "People are
anticipating very eagerly the January 9 referendum which was
provided for in the comprehensive peace agreement signed between the People's
Liberation Movement and the Khartoum government."
DeYoung says their team knows the issues well because of
years of radio ministry in the region. They broadcast the hope of Christ to Sudan, but they've been focusing
more on key issues in the run up to the vote. "Words of Hope is broadcasting every
night in Dinka and Nuer, and several times a week in Bari. The programs have increasingly emphasized
themes of peace and reconciliation based on relevant teachings from the Bible."
If the referendum passes, a new country could be the
result. It is
the culmination of a long and bloody civil war between northern and southern Sudan
that claimed the lives of two million people before it finally ended in 2005
with a peace accord that promised the chance for autonomy.
North and South are arming a
border region, in anticipation of conflict. "One of the concerns that many people have is that the rivalry
between various ethnic groups in South Sudan might prevent a peaceful
resolution even if the election itself is credibly determined."
With the risk of ethnic tribalism and violence running so
high, executing a credible vote will be a difficult task. However, voter registration began on November 13 and will end December 1. DeYoung says, "They are organizing for the election. Polling places have
been set up. Absentee ballots have been sent, and a number of people who are
living outside are also making it known that they plan to travel to Sudan so
that they can participate in the vote."
Unanswered questions could put the referendum at risk. An East African regional summit on Sudan has
ended with no deal between north and south on key disputes threatening it.
Disunity threatens to undermine independence. DeYoung says their team is talking about the
peace of Christ, emphasizing key points because "most in the South now would identify
themselves as Christian. That is a very important basis on which unity can be
Ask God to grant wisdom to the leaders who rule this
war-torn country. Pray that the
believers will understand the unity of the Gospel and be able to live this
out. Pray, too, that the referendum will
go forward peacefully. There are more details about Words of Hope's East Africa ministry here.