Together or apart? One hand or two? Unity or separation? For better or for worse, we’ll soon know.
When I was in Sudan, talking with Southern Sudanese refugees longing for their homes in the south, the subject of two Sudans came up. “Give us a chance!” they pleaded. “Let us show the world what we can do!”
Almost certainly, they will get that chance. In Juba, capital of the south, men and women couldn’t wait for election day. They walked to the voting stations in the middle of the night. Because so many among the population can neither read nor write, the ballot is a picture: a solitary hand or two hands clasped together. Which do you want?
Almost everyone agrees that the mainly Christian south will secede from the mainly Muslim north. “One hundred percent support for independence!” one jubilant Southern Sudanese man insisted. Even Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, who has been indicted for war crimes in Darfur, acknowledges the likelihood.
In the U.S., thousands of Sudanese refugees living here sang and waved flags as they traveled by car or bus or plane to vote in one of the eight poling places in this country: Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, Nashville, Omaha, Dallas, Phoenix, and Seattle. Many were the war orphans we came to know as the Lost Boys of Sudan.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a news conference that most people in Sudan are tired of war. (An understatement, I would say. It’s been going on for more than a quarter of a century!) He said, “There is enough in history to tell us that enmity between people need not last forever, and bitter enemies have made peace, and today many parts of the world live peacefully together and it can and should happen here also in Sudan.”
Not that it will be easy. One of the world’s poorest regions, with a mere 30 miles of paved roads, South Sudan is rich in oil. Southerners have long resented the fact that their half is horribly underdeveloped, and that somehow their oil money never gets to them.
They said, “What we need most, is someone to teach us to forgive.”
May God grant it.
“This is the only bullet I need. South Sudan is a new country!”
Sudanese man as he finished voting, holding his purple-ink-dipped finger over his head.