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Prayer and praise during the Hope for a New Nation festival in Juba, October 2012 (Photo credit: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

Prayer and praise during the Hope for a New Nation festival in Juba, October 2012 (Photo credit: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

By Faith J. H. McDonnell (@Cuchulain09)

Independence Day in South Sudan comes a little after Independence Day in the United States of America…235 years and 5 days, to be exact. But as the people of South Sudan prepare to celebrate their hard-won freedom on July 9, the Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul, the Archbishop of Sudan and South Sudan, is calling them to prepare their hearts to pray for reconciliation, and to break the cycle of violence and conflict holding the new nation captive, as well.

Archbishop Deng is the chairman of the Committee for National Healing, Peace, and Reconciliation. This committee was called into formation by South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit at the suggestion of Vice-President Riek Machar, to help to heal the trauma of decades of war, and to try to end conflict and resentment that had been fostered and nurtured for many years by the Islamist regime in Sudan between South Sudan’s many people groups.

Working for peace by calling people to forgive each other and be reconciled to each other is difficult, but Deng is up to the task. As the Bishop of Renk in Sudan, he stood up to the Sudanese government on many occasions. He has also stood up to Western church authorities that have sought to influence his theological stands. It seems very appropriate that he is named “Daniel,” like the Old Testament prophet that stood up to King Darius of Persia and his den of lions. That Daniel was known for praying, and this Daniel also understands the power of God as His people call upon Him in repentance.

Deng has announced a National Day of Prayer for Reconciliation in South Sudan on Monday, July 8, “the eve of the anniversary of Independence.” Under the theme of “Lamentation leading to repentance and personal conversion/transformation,” nationwide prayer and fasting will take place from July 1-7, focused on such groups as government, youth, military forces, women, and the country’s clergy. On Friday, July 5, Deng says, “Muslim communities will take up the prayer in their mosques” and on Sunday, July 7, “the Christians will take it up in their churches.” Finally, on Monday, July 8, Deng says, the National Prayer will take place in the stadium in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, and in each state capital.

The Committee for National Healing, Peace, and Reconciliation’s paper on the comprehensive strategic dimensions for healing, peace, and reconciliation provides what it calls “The Way Forward.” As the people of South Sudan pray for their country this week, we will explore “The Way Forward” in detail on this blog. By turning to God in repentance, offering forgiveness to one another, and receiving healing and the power for reconciliation from God, Deng assures the people of South Sudan with the prophetic words from the Book of Isaiah:

“…I will restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts” (Isaiah 57:14-15).