The strife-ridden backdrop of independence for the Republic of South Sudan is captured in this photo of a South Sudanese woman and, in the background, a military tank. The world’s newest country gains its independence July 9. BP file photo
WASHINGTON (BP)--The Republic of South Sudan will become the world's newest independent country Saturday, but it will celebrate with questions and threats still pending.
South Sudan will mark its independence with a ceremony in the capital of Juba, capping a bloody, lengthy path to freedom. The celebration will follow a two-decade-long civil war between the Arab Islamic north and the mostly Christian south that ostensibly concluded with the signing of a 2005 peace agreement.
That agreement, though its implementation is still incomplete, required a referendum to determine the future status of the southern part of the country. In January of this year, nearly 99 percent of the southern Sudanese who voted in the referendum chose independence.
Questions still remain for the new state and its old country, such as: Where exactly will the border between the two be, especially regarding the region of Abyei? How will the revenues from the oil-rich south be divided? Will southern Sudanese maintain citizenship rights if they continue to live in the north?
There is also the danger of militia forces possibly backed by Khartoum fomenting unrest in South Sudan.
Despite the uncertainties, advocates for religious liberty and human rights applauded the milestone.
It was "a long time in coming" for people who "paid a tremendous price," Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Va., told Baptist Press.
Southern Baptist religious freedom leader Richard Land said July 9 "will be a great day for southern Sudan and its people."
The southern Sudanese "have suffered terrible deprivations, and hundreds of thousands have died under the brutal Khartoum regime," said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). "Their 98 percent-plus vote for independence in the referendum was compelling proof of their desire to rule themselves as an independent nation.
"Freedom-loving people around the world should celebrate with the people of southern Sudan this propitious occasion," he said, "and the world community should do everything in its power to guarantee the full independence and sovereignty of its new neighbor, the Republic of South Sudan."
Faith McDonnell told Baptist Press her first reaction "is to be very happy for South Sudan, to almost not be able to believe that it is happening."
"It's just a miracle, really," said McDonnell, director of the Church Alliance for a New Sudan at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo said it would be "a tremendously exciting day for the people of South Sudan and the world." Read More