As established in the peace agreement of January 2005, signed by the government of Khartoum and the SPLM (Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement), the citizens of South Sudan were asked to vote on whether or not they wanted independence from the rest of the country. The results of the referendum, which are even now being counted and which will be publicly announced on 7 February, indicate that South Sudan has chosen to secede.
With most of the votes now tallied, the commission for the referendum says that 99% of the population eligible to vote went to the urns.
Meanwhile Salva Siir, the leader of South Sudan, has launched an appeal to the population, asking them to be ready to forgive the North for the deaths inflicted on the South during almost 50 years of civil war. And the Catholic bishops, who have been working for decades to promote peace and form consciences, wrote in their latest pastoral letter: “Secession is a division of territory, not of people. Cooperation and collaboration must continue in the spirit of good neighbors.”
Thus the present referendum is only one stage of the journey. Now begins the long and patient work of rebuilding the country and resolving many questions–a task to which all the Sudanese people must commit themselves.
At this very delicate time in the country’s history, our thoughts are with the Daughters of St. Paul who opened a community in Juba, South Sudan three years ago, and who are striving, through the Pauline apostolate, to educate people to the Faith and to promote their human and cultural formation.