The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) has issued a statement on the referendum held in southern Sudan in early January. CNN reported that final results show close to 99 percent majority vote to split from the north of Sudan. This would create southern Sudan as the world's newest country. The independence celebration is set for July 9. Sudan state television has reported that President Omar al-Bashir has stated his commitment to the results and said he will accept them.
Following is the AACC statement:
"We welcome and salute the results of the self-determination referendum which was conducted from Jan. 9-16, 2011. The results are a clear expression of the will and aspirations of the people of southern Sudan. The interim official results that have been released by the south Sudan Referendum Commission show a 99.57 percent vote for independence.
"Many actors contributed to the resounding success of the referendum. In particular, the AACC wishes to express sincere appreciation to the leadership of Sudan, President Gen. Omar al-Bashir and 1st Vice-President, and President of south Sudan, Gen. Salva Kiir, and the entire government, and in particular the south Sudan Referendum Commission for diligently organizing the south Sudan Referendum despite daunting challenges.
"We are impressed by the dignified manner in which the people of south Sudan conducted themselves throughout the week-long referendum. We were encouraged by their character to demonstrate their sense of civic duty and the general atmosphere of peace, which prevailed. This happened despite the fact that the referendum comes so soon after the presidential and general elections, which were a challenge in themselves after many years without similar elections, and following a protracted civil war.
"The AACC, teaming up with the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and other ecumenical organizations, accompanied the people of Sudan once again as we have always done throughout the period of the search for peace. The AACC played a significant role in assisting the churches with voter education programs and voter election monitoring.
"For the church in the entire continent, the referendum is a turning point after the huge loss of life and the prolonged pain by the Sudanese people.
"The impressive campaigns by supporters of either side of the referendum is an indication that the people of Sudan would want to see democracy work for them. The challenge that this presents for the leadership is to ensure that the expectations of the people are matched with a realization of a new era of peace and progress.
"We once again pray and hope that, even with interim results indicating a 99 percent vote in favor of independence by south Sudanese, when finally the official outcome of the referendum is announced on February 7, 2011, we call on:
- The leadership of both north and south will not assume that they are indebted only to those who voted for their convictions but will provide leadership and service to all the people regardless of their vote, faith, or any other consideration as per the mandate of their offices.
- The Sudanese in the north not to see themselves as losers and react in a manner that would plunge the country back to the abyss of death and darkness. Rather they would appreciate and respect the will of the people of the south through the referendum for self-determination which offered a chance for the southerners to define both the self and their belonging.
- The leadership in both the north and the south to value their shared history and therefore consciously engage to offer each other opportunities that would continue to strengthen the history of a shared identity through the many years of hurting.
"...The success of the referendum is not an end of the struggles of the people of the south Sudan but opens the door for a new future that must be characterized with strong relations with the north. Accordingly, we call upon the international community and African countries to rise up in solidarity and in support of the people of Sudan (north and south) to reconstruct their country and rebuild their nationhood.
"It is further our hope that religious leaders will use this time and space to build viable moral foundations for the Sudan society regardless of the political division that may place some in the north and others in the south location.
"The Church in Africa looks forward to a future when the people of Sudan and specifically in the south will benefit from their God-given natural wealth, which ironically has been the main source of their untold suffering."
-- The All Africa Conference of Churches is a fellowship of 173 member churches and Christian councils in 40 African countries. Its statement on Sudan also included specific recommendations about additional referendums and consultations in particular areas of the country, which were omitted above. For more go to www.aacc-ceta.org.