MALAKAL, SUDAN (January 11, 2010) – Members of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Sudan (ECCS) danced and sang joyous hymns during worship services Sunday as they prepared to vote in the historic election that could lead to independence for South Sudan.
Voting continues through Saturday to determine whether the semi-autonomous region will separate from Sudan and become its own country. The vote is part of a 2005 peace deal that ended 21 years of civil war between the north, which is mainly Muslim, and the south, where most people are Christian or follow traditional religions.
“The independence of South Sudan will bring all freedoms for the people of Southern Sudan and beyond,” said Mathew Jock Moses, ECCS acting secretary general and project director in an email. “Those freedoms will include the freedom of worship – one’s own choice of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of movements – for everybody, freedom of faiths, freedom of resource usage and utilization and will promote the growth of Gospels in the land of South Sudan and beyond.
“We believe that this freedom is brought by God like that of the Israelites whom he rescued from the slavery of King Pharoah,” the church leader continued. “He did the same to the people of South Sudan whom he is now rescuing from the slavery of President Hassen Omar Al-Bashier.”
The referendum is expected to pass overwhelmingly. Refugees are returning from other countries to cast ballots. Lines including thousands of people have formed at polling stations. News accounts report that people turned away due to long lines one day have returned the next day with plastic chairs to sit in while they wait.
“Southern Sudanese, especially the people of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Sudan, will never forget the relentless and tremendous support given by the Evangelical Covenant Church of USA to them during those years of suffering and still given at the moment,” said Moses.
“Finally, we are still asking your prayers alongside with us, as you have been doing, because there are a lot of obstacles, which are not yet overcome by the people of South Sudan,” Moses added.
The ECCS has roughly 20,000 members and was formed in Ethiopian refugee camps in 2000.