Sudan (MNN) — After months of anticipation, the Sudanese seem ready for the referendum vote just four days away. The Sunday vote will determine whether Sudan will remain a unified country, or split into a two entities.
"The southern Sudan people are very eager to declare their voice, and it's almost certain that that will be a pretty unanimous decision to separate," confirms Sudan Unit Leader Phil Byler with Africa Inland Mission.
Secession from the North is a long-held dream of the South. Now that the possibility for change has finally arrived, the atmosphere in South Sudan is one of excitement.
"I would describe it as cautious optimism, but also a real sense of accomplishment," says Byler. "It's almost like a big holiday coming up."
The caution comes from a long history of war. Sudan has been known by its violent civil war perhaps more than by anything else. The North has claimed that they will accept whatever comes of the referendum, but a vote to split could easily reignite militant behavior.
Byler says many in the South have contingency plans in case war does break out. For the most part though, Byler says people are fairly certain any violence would be at the border, not all over the region.
Nevertheless, threat of war would indeed bode poorly for ministry in the region. Byler says AIM's work would be pushed to the fringes of the country, even out of it, if violence were to erupt. The proclamation of the Gospel would be significantly hindered.
On the other hand, if the referendum ends peacefully, AIM is prepared to begin recruiting more missionaries. Five tribes–one of them of substantial size–surrounding the area in which AIM works are unreached. If the referendum goes smoothly, the ministry plans to gear up to bring more missionaries to Sudan.
With that in mind, the most coveted prayers for the referendum are not that the country will finally split, but that whatever happens, it will happen peacefully. "We just hope and pray for the peace of Sudan so that the Gospel and the church can continue to press forward," reflects Byler.
The referendum vote will take place this Sunday, January 9, 2011. Over these next few days, pray for a peaceful end of this violent chapter in Sudan's history. Pray that ministry would be able to go forward, and that the Lord would do a mighty work in Sudan.