Hundreds of Southern Sudanese nationals traveled to London earlier this week to take part in a referendum that is widely expected to result in the birth of a new African nation.
According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), in an atmosphere of excitement that was also tinged with trepidation, Southern Sudanese from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and elsewhere gathered to register their votes at the Methodist Central Hall, the only polling center in Europe.
CSW said many had testimonies of great suffering and loss during the decades of civil war. However, upon exiting the polling booth, each person rejoiced. Some of the voters danced, while one sang, “I have voted; we are free. I have voted, praise the Lord.”
Excitement was tempered by a realization, CSW reported, that a new Southern entity would immediately face the challenging development and humanitarian needs of a population swelled by over 90,000 returnees.
In addition, CSW said, there are many outstanding issues between North and South Sudan. They include the sharing of oil revenues; the demarcation of the North-South border and citizenship for Southerners who remain in the North and vice versa.
In addition, CSW noted, there is the future of potential flashpoints such as the Blue Nile area, the Nuba Mountains and oil-rich Abyei, where clashes during the weekend resulted in over 30 deaths.
“I will not be celebrating yet,” one young man informed CSW. “There was violence and killing even yesterday in Sudan. I will be waiting and hoping to celebrate soon.”
Another agreed, saying, “This referendum is only the beginning.”
Former politician and prominent Abyei elder Dr. Zacharia Bol Deng told CSW, “I feel hopeful given the interest and response of the international community. However, this interest must be sustained. The international community must remain committed for there to be a positive outcome.”
CSW National Director Stuart Windsor said in a news release, “It was a privilege for CSW to join the Southern Sudanese diaspora during this landmark moment for their nation. Six years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended decades of civil war, Southerners are understandably overjoyed to begin what they view as the march towards a better future. We join them in their celebration, and will continue to pray for a peaceful polling process during the coming week.”
Windsor added, “CSW also echoes the call for the international community to maintain its engagement in both Northern and Southern Sudan, to continue its assistance in the development of infrastructure in the South, and to ensure that international protocol is observed in determining the future of Abyei, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.”
CSW is a human rights organization which works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.
For further information visit www.csw.org.uk
Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “Homeless in the City.”
Additional details on “Homeless in the City” are available at http://www.homelessinthecity.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at firstname.lastname@example.org.