Bombing raids that target hospitals and children playing in yards. Sunday church services meeting before dawn to avoid attack. Military helicopters machine-gunning village livestock. This has been daily life for Southern Sudanese for many years. However, negotiations look set to end the violence perpetrated by Sudan's Islamic government and give Southern Sudan autonomy.
"The peace accord signed in July could be the breakthrough we have been waiting and praying for," said Bishop Andrew Wawa, referring to the Machakos Protocol signed in Kenya last month.
The bishop, from Sudan's Africa Inland Church, was speaking during his CNEC/Partners International-sponsored visit to Sydney last month and said he hoped a ceasefire would follow. Although there was a brief window of peace in the 70s, which did not last, this time it is different. The great powers like the US, the UK, Canada and others have made it clear that international aid will be stopped if the warring factions cannot come to an agreement," he said.
Yet, the tentativeness of the Bishop's analysis is justified. Another new element in Sudan has been the discovery of rich resources of oil, gold and uranium in the south. The Islamic northern government imported 500,000 convicts from China, trained as military technicians, to build and protect a 1000km oil pipeline from the southern oilfields to Port Sudan. A 12-mile no-go area was cleared each side of the pipeline, by slaughtering locals and destroying villages from helicopter gunships. The sharing of these rich natural resources is one of the issues needing to be resolved. The accord envisages a miserly peace: an immediate six-month period of transition, followed by a six-year period of shared government. After that there will be a referendum in the south, giving the option of being part of one nation ruled from Khartoum in the north, or a two-nation system, where Islamic Sharia law would prevail in the north but not in the south.
Despite the war the church has thrived. "It is amazing," Bishop Wawa said. "The Church is exploding in the Sudan. In 1984, the AIC had just ten churches and they were all in the south. Today, we have 150 growing congregations, with 100 pastors and evangelists, including 20 churches in Khartoum itself, at the seat of the Islamic government. Our great need now is for the training of pastors."
The Bishop reported that Muslims are turning to Christ in larger numbers than he can recall. "The Lord is using all kinds of means, just like in the Bible. Muslims, even Imans, are becoming believers, as a result of dreams and visions turning them to the Bible; through healings, and especially through the attractive loving concern of Christians. But such converts are given the choice of the gun or money - either they recant (with material rewards), or they are threatened with death," he said.
Article from: Southern Cross