South Sudan (MNN) – South Sudan’s rivals have come together in peace again…
Rebel leader Riek Machar returned to Juba this week, was sworn in as Vice President of the new government, and, buried the hatchet with President Salva Kiir.
Will it hold? Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says, “What we hope is going to happen is we set aside the conflict; we set aside the war that literally has cost thousands of lives over the last two years, and now South Sudan can start moving forward.”
We’ve been here before…
After years of fighting in Sudan, the southern part of the country became a new nation in 2011. The new country was called South Sudan, and it was independent from Sudan, he explains.
“South Sudan was sort of an answer to some of the persecution that was happening there, because much of that persecution was coming at the hands of the Islamic government in northern Sudan. When it became an independent country, the great promise was ‘now there will be religious freedom!’” But, then came the details of running a new country…and that became a power struggle between Kiir, of the Dinka tribe, and Machar, of the Nuer tribe.
Five years later, the country is struggling to cope with an overwhelming humanitarian crisis.
With Machar’s return, “Hopefully, some of the promise that was there when it became a new country, when it became an independent country, can now be fulfilled.”
Will South Sudan’s ‘new start’ last?
Even with this step forward, the remaining challenges and the expectations of the new government are what brought the pair to violence before.
Years of chaos have taken their toll. More than five million people need aid to survive. Roughly two million were displaced by the fighting, and haven’t been able to return home. Plus, horrific human rights abuses characterized an unbelievable destruction throughout the world’s newest country.
Both sides remain suspicious of each other, and, despite a ceasefire, stand ready to accuse each other of breaking peace. Yet, when Machar called for reconciliation, it was a step in the right direction. “We come back to the table now. Hopefully, we can move forward as a nation and we’ll see that religious freedom flourishing and blossoming as peace comes back to South Sudan,” says Nettleton.
The war also disrupted the South Sudanese economy. Many of the nation’s 11 million people have struggled to find food to eat. “We have been very active to help those Christians, providing humanitarian aid, providing Bibles and also providing encouragement, just to come alongside them to say, ‘you’re not forgotten; you’re not alone.’”
We can pray that peace, justice and religious freedom may be firmly established. Nettleton says for the embattled ministry partners they assist, just knowing that “there are Christians around the world who are praying for you, and who are standing with you and helping you in practical ways” goes a long way.
Pray that Christians throughout Sudan will continue to preach the Gospel boldly, knowing Jesus is the ruler over the kings of the earth.