This referendum was part of the peace agreement brokered by the West in 2005. The country has been torn by conflict for a long time, with two civil wars in the last 50 years. Southern Sudan – largely black, ethnically diverse and tribal, religiously animist or Christian – has the oil reserves. Northern Sudan – largely Arab and Muslim – has the sea ports. Northern Sudan has a long-standing tradition of raiding Southern Sudan for slaves – the Northern word for the Southerners – abd – simply means ‘slave’. The raids still continue today, though less so than during the recent war, and there are tens of thousands of Southern Sudanese slaves in Northern Sudan.
Bishop Gassis of Sudan says that the terror campaign against his people has never stopped:
I can bear witness to more than 20 years of religious persecution, enslavement, rape, torture, starvation and murder of my people at the hands of the Sudanese government.I can tell you of the 2.2 million people who have perished as the direct result of a campaign of genocide against Sudan’s Christian and non-Muslim population—a death toll greater than all the victims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda combined.
I can tell you without hesitation that the Sudanese government has bombed churches, schools, hospitals and refugee centers…
I can tell you that the regime has tortured and killed its own citizens including catechists, teachers and priests. I can tell you that the Sudanese government supports the selling of Christians and non-Muslims as slaves.
According to CNS:
Sudan’s Catholic bishops have not taken a position on the question of full independence for the south. Rather, their priorities are to help voters understand the implications of their decision, and to ensure that the referendum takes place peacefully, fairly, and on schedule. The larger goal, Griffin said, was to make sure the vote and its results would not re-ignite historic conflicts.
At worst, the referendum’s results could prompt a third Sudanese civil war– “far more lethal” than the first two, in Griffin’s estimation, and “just as targeted against civilians.” Such a war, he predicted, would involve not only Sudan’s north and south, but the nine neighboring countries, in what “could be the largest conventional war on the African continent.”
That result, in turn, could de-stabilize large portions of East Africa, immersing other countries in “proxy wars that are ignited and played out across Sudan.” This “worst-case scenario,” according to Griffin, “would make Somalia and Yemen look manageable by comparison.” <more>
St Josephina Bakhita, Pearl of the Sudan, taken from your own people as a child, pray for us to the Lord our God, that your people may be able to chose for themselves. Pray for peace in the land where you were born.