Global Christians are praying for Sudan.
Southern Sudan will hold a weeklong referendum of self-determination beginning Sunday, Jan. 9. The vote will decide whether southern Sudanese remain part of the national government or pursue a course of independence.
Jimmy Carter and an international delegation of observers will assess the quality of the referendum. The Carter Center will have more than 100 observers across the country.
Actor George Clooney’s organization, Not on Our Watch, Google, Harvard University researchers and others have the Satellite Sentinel Project, which will monitor via satellite troop movements to guard against war crimes and humanitarian disasters.
“We are the anti-genocide paparazzi,” Clooney said.
While a prestigious team of international observers and a high-tech collaborative pitch in for peace, rank-and-file Christians will be praying for peace in a place where conflict has already taken 2 million lives in a 20-year civil war between Muslims in the north and Christians and animists in the south.
The Baptist World Alliance urged this week global Baptists to pray for three things to happen in Sudan: a transparent election; religious freedom, especially for Baptists in the north; and reconciliation and sustainable economic development, regardless of the vote.
“Please pray for peace among all the peoples of Sudan,” said Reid Trulson, executive director of American Baptist International Ministries, in a statement released Jan. 6 about the referendum. “We urge prayer that this process will be conducted in a manner that respects the dignity and well-being of all.”
Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief, David Neff, closed a column on Sudan by saying, “And remember to ‘pray, pray, pray.'”
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) asked Christians to have a global day of prayer for the people of Sudan back on Dec. 5.
WEA urged Christians to pray for a “peaceful and fair referendum on January 9th,” “that the results of the vote will be accepted by the Sudanese government and the international community,” “that the religious liberty of all people will be respected and safeguarded” and for “the rebuilding of infrastructure and social services post referendum.”
The Mennonite Central Committee called in late September for a “worldwide prayer for peace” in Sudan.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, called on Episcopalians in mid-September to pray for the people of Sudan.
At the forefront of prayer for the Sudan has been Catherine Arata, a Catholic Church sister, who helped launch “101 Days of Prayer toward Peaceful Referendum in Sudan” in the fall of 2010. Her campaign caught fire and was soon endorsed by Catholic Relief Services.
Arata said at the close of the “101 Days of Prayer” that the people in the town of Wau gathered at Christmas some 300 messages for peace. The messages were placed in a box Jan. 1. Catholic Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak prayed and then placed the box in the Jur River – spreading the word of peace.
She also noted that the spirit of the “101 Days of Prayer” would continue after the referendum.
Catholic Archbishop Paolino Loro, too, said that a prayer campaign for Sudan needed to continue.
Given the nation’s poverty, oil wealth, religious clashes, tribal conflict, low literacy rate and limited infrastructure, the future of Sudan is problematic – regardless the outcome of the vote. Complicating the situation is the fact that the International Criminal Court in The Hague charged Sudan President Omar al-Bashir in July 2010 with three counts of genocide resulting from conflict in Darfur, located in western Sudan.
The world’s attention is on Sudan. Let’s hope the global Christian community remembers Sudan this weekend and for weeks to come.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.