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World’s 196th country gives thanks to God
Charles Braddix & Zoe Allen, Baptist Press
July 12, 2011
5 MIN READ TIME

World’s 196th country gives thanks to God

World’s 196th country gives thanks to God
Charles Braddix & Zoe Allen, Baptist Press
July 12, 2011

JUBA, South Sudan — After enduring two decades of warfare

and the deaths of 2 million people, the Republic of South Sudan saw its day of

independence July 9.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Juba, the new nation’s capital, as

they heard their president, Salva Kiir, declare the southern region of Sudan

free and independent of the north.

South Sudan’s official declaration of independence was read out at 1:25 p.m.,

followed by Kiir being sworn in as the new nation’s president.

Photo by Charles Braddix

On independence day, members of Nuru Baptist Church, Juba’s only Baptist church, sing in celebration over their country’s independence.

“Never again shall South Sudanese be oppressed for their political beliefs,”

Kiir said. “Never again shall our people be discriminated (against) on account

of race or religion. Never again shall we roam the world as sojourners and

refugees.”

The division between the north and the south is sharp. The north is arid, Arab

and Muslim, while the south has many varieties of vegetation, is black African

and is predominantly Christian and animistic.

“We have reclaimed our permanent home given to us by God as our birthright,”

Kiir said. “As we bask in the glory of nationhood, I call upon all South

Sudanese to put the long and sad history of war, hardship and loss behind them

and open a new chapter of peace and reconciliation in our lives.”

With elaborate ceremony, the flag of Sudan was lowered and the new flag of

South Sudan was raised. South Sudan is now the world’s newest nation, raising

the global number to 196, and the African continent’s 54th nation-state.

Among the many dignitaries on hand Saturday were former U.S. Secretary of State

Colin Powell, who played a key role in the 2005 peace agreement to end Sudan’s

civil war, and Susan Rice, the U.S. permanent representative to the United

Nations.

“Independence is not a gift that you were given,” Rice said. “Independence is a

prize that you have won.”

The official ceremonies began with the singing of the country’s new national

anthem. “Oh God, we praise and glorify you for your grace on South Sudan,” the

opening lines say.

In preparation for South Sudan’s independence, government officials urged

citizens to attend churches and other houses of worship to pray for peace and

thank God for their newfound freedom. Many churches held special services

Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Nuru Baptist Church, the only Baptist church in Juba, held community services

on Saturday to celebrate independence day, taking opportunity to share the gospel

with visitors.

The congregation played drums, sang and danced in traditional African worship.

Many waved flags as they danced and sang. A feeling of jubilation filled the

air.

One community leader, specially invited to the event, not only thanked God for

the country’s independence, guaranteeing religious freedom, but also for

establishment of the church in the community. “Your presence here is a benefit

and a blessing to our area,” he said.

“Let us praise God that He has given us our freedom,” said Sworo Elikana, a

pastor of the church. “We must rejoice!”

The service focused on the theme “Heal the Brokenhearted and Set the Captives

Free,” from Isaiah 61.

“The passage says we must bring good news to the poor,” Elikana said. “We have

been poor.”

The U.N. Security Council continues working to stabilize several areas in Sudan

and South Sudan; however, U.N. troops assigned to Sudan since 2005 are being

removed by Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir, despite disapproval from the U.S.

The troops are expected to remain in the Darfur region and to occupy South

Sudan during the early years of independence.

Rice said in a speech July 7 the U.S. was “extremely concerned by the

government’s decision to compel the departure of the U.N. mission in Sudan from

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states and elsewhere in the north.”

President Bashir, who spoke favorably of the new country’s efforts during the

ceremonies, must now work with President Kiir to divide oil revenue, set

borders, apportion responsibility for Sudan’s $38 billion foreign debt and

decide which country the oil-rich border states belong to.

One controversial state is Abyei, located just north of the proposed border.

Abyei has long been hotly disputed because of oil in the region, but recent media

reports say oil reserves are low and conflicts have become ethnic.

Photo by Charles Braddix

This young South Sudanese man celebrates the day of independence from Sudan.

In May northern troops violently annexed Abyei in overwhelming numbers, forcing

nearly 100,000 southern Sudanese to flee; however, a recent deal was made to

pull out northern troops and allow Ethiopian soldiers to serve as U.N.

peacekeepers for six months in the region.

During the July 9 gathering, Simon Gatluaklim, another pastor at Nuru Baptist

Church, asked for special prayers for Abyei, for believers there and for the

state to be joined with the south.

Fighting also broke out in Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan, a key oil

state bordering South Sudan and Abyei that has a large population of southern

sympathizers. Thousands have fled the state to escape killings and air strikes

by the northern army.

Despite ongoing reports of conflict initiated from the north, President Bashir

may soon realize the secession’s benefits for Sudan. U.S. President Barack

Obama has offered to remove Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism,

enabling it to use the World Bank and restore diplomatic ties.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Braddix and Allen are members of the International Mission

Board’s global communication team.)

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