In a landslide vote that promises to create a new and different kind of turmoil for the region, the people of southern Sudan voted to secede from the north. A whopping 98.83 percent of voters from the south voted to secede, in official results released today.
This from Reuters:
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir earlier said he accepted the result, allaying fears that the split could reignite conflict over the control of the south's oil reserves.
"Today we received these results and we accept and welcome these results because they represent the will of the southern people," he said in an address on state TV.
Southern officials say the question of a name for the new state is unresolved but it could become just "South Sudan."
South Sudan's leader Salva Kiir added to the conciliatory mood by promising he would help Khartoum campaign for the forgiveness of the country's crippling debts and the easing of international trade sanctions in coming months.
Both sides did avoid major outbreaks of violence over the past five years. But they failed to overcome decades of deep mutual distrust to persuade southerners to embrace unity.
"Southern Sudanese are a new people now. We have a new identity. We have respect from everyone at last. Our country has come today," said Rebecca Maluk, a war widow and mother-of-three in the crowd in Juba.
Several months ago OSV Daily Take urged Catholics to get involved in this issue (HERE) because of fears of civil war, tribal clashes or outright genocide in Sudan. Although the situation following the referendum vote is still precarious, there are hopes that the vote will end years of oppression and violence for the people of the oil-rich south.
The result of the vote, however, could cause turmoil for the Church. Already there are reports that parishes will be closing as Catholics from the north return to the south.
From the website Ekklesia:
"This is the trend. There are some centres in the parishes that are far apart and the populations have decreased drastically. These are closing," Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Adwok, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Khartoum Archdiocese, told ENInews on 3 February.
...Adwok said the closures were occurring after people who had settled in a northern area during the conflict travelled voluntarily and en masse to the south. He said more movement was expected during the interim period between February and July this year. "We expect more to leave within this period ... But we do not expect a big change in the main towns, especially in the main cathedral in Khartoum," he said.
The Rev Ramadan Chan Liol, the general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), a grouping of Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches, confirmed that some of these parishes were mainly of southern people. "With the mass movement of the southerners and people from the Nuba Mountains, some of the churches have been left empty," he said. "Individual denominations are considering what to do with the properties of such parishes."
The Catholic Church is planning to restructure and merge some parishes in the north, according to the Rev. George Jangara Modi, the Khartoum diocesan education secretary. "We are updating records. We want to see who will remain in the parishes," he said.
Jangara explained the churches, parishes and schools most affected were in the camps of the displaced people or areas where displaced people had settled. He said some schools which had nearly 500 or 400 pupils recorded numbers as lows 70 or 60.
Read more HERE.