Happy Birth Day South Sudan!
Country #193 celebrated its birth into the world of democracy on Saturday while the band played "I Will Follow Jesus." Not concerned about the tedious arguments over "separation of church and state," the Republic of South Sudan endured decades-long labor pains to create a state with church...free of Islamic persecution and destruction. While the world's attention was frantic over the Arab Spring, bubbling underneath was another spring of cool waters refreshing the tree of liberty.
The Rev. Franklin Graham (son of Baptist evangelist Rev. Billy Graham) has been faithfully working in the trenches of Sudan, both north and south, since 1993 under the international relief organization of Samaritan's Purse (www.samaritanspurse.org) based out of Boone, North Carolina. For the 8.2 million people, they have been operating hospitals, providing food, clothing, shelter, clean water, re-built hundreds of war-destroyed churches, and 140 primary schools. "We must stand with South Sudan as this infant democratic nation struggles to secure its own," implores Graham who was an invited guest of President Salva Kiir Mayardit to the new capital city of Juba for the reading of their Declaration of Independence.
"We, the people of South Sudan..." reads their newly minted document. Sound familiar? One could almost envy those witnessing this miraculous birth. The sighs of relief from a war-exhausted citizen echo the historical words of one of America's battle-fatigued leaders: "Free at last...free from oppression, and free for Jesus Christ." Whether one is Jew or Christian or Pagan or Atheist, the personal choice of religious faith and the freedom to live out that belief can certainly be appreciated by anyone.
The story of this nation is seen in microcosm in one African. "Peter" was a boy who grew up without his father who had left to join resistance forces. Peter's grandfather was killed at their home by drunken soldiers. While a young child, his mother nursed him back from the brink of death only to die herself on the ground as the family endured one move after the other from refugee camp to refugee camp. Peter re-counts tearful memories of walking through the darkness with only the African stars to light the way. He walked so long and so far seeking safety that his feet were bloodied. He says his only dream was to one day go to school. From his current home in the South, he joins the Juba-lation of freedom and peace process and uses his rough English-language skills to tell the world an important message. Peter teaches us: "We will have freedom, and we must prove that we are worthy of this great gift from God." He himself has become an African Star lighting the way for others.
Child of war, grief, and unbelievable poverty, Peter does not speak of his "rights" as does this generation of Americans who constantly clamor for their version "equality" and "justice," even a perversion of marriage as a "civil right." No, Peter knows better. Freedom is a gift from God. May South Sudan build their foundation on such men as this "little stone."
Despite the fact that the creation of a Christian South Sudan also resulted in an Islamic North Sudan, we can still join the "Juba-lation" and add our voices to their joyful triumph. Righteousness will always prevail. Presidents and world leaders will come and go, true Freedom and Liberty remain. They do not require a vote by the United Nations nor do they require the recognition of new borders, either pre- or post-war proclamations. Righteousness, Freedom, Liberty, Truth: these are gifts from God. No treaty or declaration necessary. President Salva also gives us a lesson. He calls his fellow citizens to Forgiveness, knowing that it is the only way for them to heal and prosper. They should not and will not forget the atrocities and sins against them (and those they too have committed) but in living out daily forgiveness, they will be victorious.
This may be the true hope of an Arab Spring: the birth of a Christian nation whose citizen proclaimed, "America is our best friend!" Who doesn't wish for their best friends to know and support each other? "Like" attracts "like." It's the basis for the whole social revolution network connection thing. This means that friends of America could also become friends with South Sudan. Thus, out of the chaotic uprisings in Islamic nations comes a new friend for Israel. Such irony is a thing of beauty.
I am glad to join in singing their new national anthem..."Oh God! We praise and glorify You for Your grace on South Sudan, land of great abundance. Uphold us united in peace and harmony...Oh God, bless South Sudan."
193 candles on a celebration cake illuminate much darkness, even way across the ocean to America. Happy Birth Day, South Sudan!