US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Prayers with Sudan

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The 101 Days of Prayer for Peace seems to be paying off in most of Southern Sudan, where a referendum for independence has started off peacefully, for the most part.

The referendum, which started January 9 and lasts for seven days, is the result of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a 20-plus year civil war in Sudan.

Solidarity with Southern Sudan, along with Catholic Relief Services (see President Ken Hackett's guest blog post) and the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, initiated the campaign to pray for peace ahead of the referendum (see news story). The campaign includes booklets, prayer cards, events, and radio broadcasts to get Sudanese thinking of peace.

“What is unique about the 101 Days for Peace in Sudan is its focus on prayer, acknowledging that peace is a gift from God and that each person has the responsibility to prepare for this gift at an individual as well as at a community level,” the organization’s website explains. When I read this sentence, I couldn’t help thinking the comments I heard about Christians killing Christians when I visited Kenya following the country’s post-election violence.

But it’s too soon to quit praying for peace. As CNS reported a month ago, the Abyei region has been the exception to the rule of peace. According to reports, about 40 people have died in fighting in the contested border area. Nomadic tribes from the north fear losing access to land. Meanwhile, Fides Agencia reports that 4 million Southern Sudanese currently reside in the area of Khartoum and may return to the South during or after the referendum. The Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith also worries about the future of the church in a Muslim-majority north.

As the New York Times coverage points out (check out helpful Q&A about Sudan with Nick Kristof and President Carter), independence is just the first, small step in the process of nation-building. Though oil-rich, the country is very poor. And as Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said in our interview with him, it’s essential that development not mean simply exploiting natural resources to the detriment of the people.

Once the oil wells dry out, Sudan—north or south—will only have a sustainable economy if it invests in its human resources. This is one of the reasons Southern Sudan is expected to become an independent nation, but independence will not guarantee a more fair distribution of resources. For this, we’ll need more prayers and the continued involvement of the church.