Before the South Sudan referendum in January there was much uncertainty. Many people didn’t believe that the referendum could be held on time due to delays. Others thought that there would be interference from the north in terms of voter registration or vote counting. Some people thought there would be violence.
In light of these uncertainties a prayer campaign was initiated by Solidarity in Southern Sudan called 101 Days of Prayer for Peace. It was a movement that started in the Catholic dioceses of Sudan but soon spread across denominations, borders and seas.
And miracles happened.
It has been said that it is a miracle that the vote was held at all, since the ballot papers were stuck in the Heathrow airport during the Christmas blizzard shut down. When no other planes were flying out of London a special army charter was able to leave with the ballots. It has been said that the peace, calm, and orderliness (especially compared to the election in April, 2010) at the ballot stations was a miracle. And the outstanding results of almost 99% in favour of becoming a new country is miraculous.
People in South Sudan are jubilant about freedom in their new country which will celebrate its official independence on July 9th.
The Republic of South Sudan will be one of the poorest in the world. In the state where we live there is an incredible lack of infrastructure in terms of roads, schools, and hospitals. There are vicious cycles of revenge killings within the various tribes and sub-tribes.
So we are praying again.
This time, initiated by the bishop of the Diocese of Rumbek, we are praying 10 Steps to Unity in South Sudan. The 10 Steps represents 10 weeks from May 1, when the prayer campaign began, to July 9, independence. During the 10 weeks there will be discussion groups reflecting on the social teachings of the Catholic church.
During the first week I sat with the women of St Monica’s as they discussed the social teaching of “Common Good”. In the conversation they talked about how they can work together for a better society. One of the leaders of the group had just been to visit a neighbouring community where tensions had been high. People had warned her not to go, saying, “They will slaughter you when they see you.” But she went. And after mass on Sunday she sat down with the women and they talked about what they could do. They decided that to stop the fighting they could: cry together, pray together, talk about peace during meal times with their children and husbands, and not support the bush fighters by giving them water and food.
The women at St Monica’s agreed that this was good. That the holy spirit had surely been working.
One of the woman said, “Prayers are strong. They will cause guns to be dropped from men’s hands”.
So we again invite you to pray with the people of Sudan. That the future can bring a united country where people can work and live together peacefully.