The referendum for south Sudan independence is now complete! Voting ended Saturday at 6pm. The preliminary vote count has taken place at the polling stations, and the ballots have been collected for the official count and declaration of results, which will take place by February 14. I went around Juba yesterday with some friends and we visited polling stations to review the posted results. Of the 16 polling stations we visited, they had an average voter turnout of 95% and the vote in favor of separation was 97%.
Throughout the week of voting, Juba was very quiet. The voting was conducted with more than just peace, there was a camaraderie among people, a sense of unity of purpose, a feeling of the monumental importance of these events, and an awe that they should finally come to pass. Though the wait in line took many hours, people were patent, solemn, and respectful.
The Archbishop preached at the Cathedral on Sunday. He spoke of the triumph of the people in achieving a peaceful referendum. And he challenged the people and the government to carry this same spirit of unity of purpose into the founding of the new country.
“We have shown to the world the true nature of the people of south Sudan,” he said.
The referendum week has not been universally peaceful. There were armed clashes in Abyei, which is on the border between north and south. Along with other incidents along the border. Some people in the north continue to fear what the separation may mean for them.
Prayers are still needed for this transition period, for the announcement of the results, and for peace throughout Sudan. We also need to pray for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, which are areas on the north side of the border, now entering into the popular consultation process about their own self determination. We continue to pray for peace in the north, for Darfur, and for southerners and Christians living in the north in this uncertain time.
It has been an honor to be here to witness these historic events, to see the people of south Sudan show the world yet again, that they are committed to the peaceful establishment of a democratic society, to see south Sudan show the world that they are a people of peace. So many people have expressed their thanks to me for being here with them at this time. There is great gratitude to the international observers and other foreign visitors who came during the referendum. But most of all, people express their gratitude to God, for bringing them to this day.
There is a book on the Episcopal Church of Sudan called, But God is not Defeated. One of the authors, Samuel Kayanga passed away suddenly last week a couple days before the referendum began. He was a great theologian and teacher, and is missed by his family and the whole Episcopal Church of Sudan. There seems to be greater mourning going on for those who died that week, because they did not get to witness the referendum. There was also greater joy for babies born the week of the referendum, and many were named “Referendum.”
Echoing the sentiment of But God is not Defeated: the people of Sudan have borne much suffering, and much joy. Though it all, they have not been left alone, nor forgotten who it is who is accompanying them. God incarnate, the living Christ, has already defeated death. God is not, cannot, and will never be defeated. While tears of sadness and tears of jubilation are shed at the events that have passed this week, we know that the Prince of Peace reigns in our hearts, and that all things are in the hands of God.