Prayers for peace and reconciliation ahead of Sudan referendum

Christians in England have offered prayer of peace and hope ahead of a crucial referendum in Sudan to determine the nation’s future.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation England prayed for peace and lasting reconciliation in Sudan, where Southern Sudanese are to decide on Sunday if they are to secede from the North.

The referendum marks the final stage of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 to end decades of civil war, and is expected to result in the formation of an independent Southern Sudan.

Despite the close scrutiny of the international community, there are concerns over the transparency and fairness of the referendum, and fears that the outcome will not be respected by the North.

Millius Palawiya, director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation England, said: “I hope the referendum goes peacefully well and that all concerned will dutifully honour, respect and accept the result.

“From my involvement with the Sierra Leone Peace Process I know how important it is for all parties to a conflict (from bottom to the top) to be reconciled with each other for the good of all and the creation of a ‘beloved community’, and for the regional and international organs to support and be guarantors to a peaceful resolution of a conflict.”

John Cooper, fundraiser for the fellowship’s international work, added: “Political transition can test many people’s commitment to peace as previously comfortable power structures change or move.”

The global church has offered its support to Sudan and the Sudanese church ahead of the referendum.

Last October, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said he feared a return to war in Sudan and called on the UK Government as one of the guarantors of the CPA to “show leadership” and effectively monitor the referendum.

He was joined by the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the Most Rev Daniel Deng, who called on the international community to ensure the referendum went ahead as planned.

The World Evangelical Alliance, which was invited to send monitors, has set up a peace fund for Sudan and called upon evangelicals worldwide to pray for a “free, fair and safe” referendum.

Hopes for peace in the South were given a boost yesterday when a ceasefire agreement was reached between renegade General George Athor’s forces and the Southern Sudan government.

The accord signals the end of the general’s rebellion in the South. It was signed at a ceremony in capital city Juba attended by Southern Sudan Vice President Riek Machar, Abraham Thon, a representative of General Athor, David Gressly, the head of the UN in Southern Sudan, and Archbishop Deng.

Thon was quoted by Bloomberg as saying: “This is the end of the troubles in Southern Sudan. We want to tell the world that we are responsible enough to rule ourselves.”