Saturday, January 08, 2011

Urgent: Prayer Needed for Sudan

We urge you to pray fervently starting now, for the week of
 referendum voting for southern Sudan. Pray for peace, for
 protection of the helpless and boldness for the Church in this pivotal time

The great divide across Sudan is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. Southern Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Jerry's flights take him into southern Sudan about 90% of the time, so you can understand why this referendum vote will potentially impact our lives, but especially ministry opportunities for the missionaries, pastors, relief & medical workers AIM AIR flies.

As for us personally, we have offered to take newlyweds Chris and Tabitha, he's an Australian and she's from southern Sudan, to Kakuma, about an hour from Loki. The refugee camp there is where Tabitha is registered, along with all the other southern Sudanese refugees in the area, to vote in the referendum beginning on Sunday. Jerry and I are interested in taking pictures, gauging the  mood and seeing the Kakuma camp up close for the first time.

Below are some faqs from BBC you may find helpful to guide your prayers

Almost four million people have registered to take part in Sunday's referendum on whether Africa's biggest country - Sudan - should split in two. The vote was a condition of a 2005 deal to end almost two decades of conflict between north and south.
Why do some southerners want their own country?
Like the rest of Africa, Sudan's borders were drawn up by colonial powers with little regard to cultural realities on the ground.
Southern Sudan is full of jungles and swamps, while the north is mostly desert.
Most northerners are Arabic-speaking Muslims, while the south is made up of numerous different ethnic groups who are mostly Christian or follow traditional religions.
With the government based in the north, many southerners said they were discriminated against and north and south have fought each other for most of the country's history. Southerners were also angered at attempts to impose Islamic law on the whole country.
Sudan's arid northern regions are home mainly to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in Southern Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own traditional beliefs and languages.

Who will vote?
Only southerners are eligible to take part in the poll, which means most people think the outcome is bound to be independence.
Nearly all of those who registered already live in the south - the hundreds of thousands of people who fled to the north during the war seem to have either gone home to register - as they were urged to do by southern leaders - or not bothered.
But at least 60% of registered voters must take part for the referendum to be valid - with low literacy levels and little history of voting, this may be more difficult to achieve than the simple majority needed for a verdict either way.
What happens next?
Voting lasts for seven days.
Assuming that the verdict is to secede, Africa's newest country will come into being on 9 July 2011 - exactly six years after the peace deal took effect. Then the hard work really begins.
Is Southern Sudan ready for independence?
To be brutally honest, no.
After years of warfare and being ignored by central government, the country-to-be which is larger than France and Germany combined has hardly any roads and not nearly enough schools or health services for its population of roughly eight million.
The SPLM former rebels who have been running the region since 2005 have at least gained some experience of governance.
They have lots of money from the south's oil fields but their critics say they have so far wasted much of it on the military and not done enough to raise living standards in one of the world's poorest regions.
Most people assume the new country will be called South, or Southern, Sudan but this has not been officially decided. Other suggestions are New Sudan or even Cush, after a biblical kingdom in the area.
What will happen to the north?
The immediate priority for the northern government will be to keep hold of as much of the oil revenue as it can, as most oil fields lie in the south.
Sudan exports billions of dollars of oil per year. Southern states produce more than 80% of it, but receive only 50% of the revenue, exacerbating tensions with the north. 
There is a dispute over one oil-rich area - Abyei - which is to hold a separate vote, possibly later this year, on which country to join. The north may also earn revenue from piping the oil over its territory to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
In terms of ordinary people's lives, both sides have agreed to let all Sudanese - in particular the many southerners in Khartoum - choose which nationality to take.
But President Bashir's announcement that he will implement a stricter version of Sharia in the north if the south secedes may prompt even more southerners to leave the north.

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