By Janet Persson
It’s a few days after the new nation of South Sudan celebrated its independence on 9th July 2011. The staff on SIL’s Juba centre – Juba is now the capitol of the new country – have gathered for their weekly prayer meeting. Each person in turn gives some items for prayer and one theme dominates – the new nation.
“Praise the Lord for the new country of South Sudan.”
“I thank God that the celebration of the declaration of South Sudan as a full republic went well.”
“Praise God for a peaceful independence day!”
“Pray for wisdom for the new government of South Sudan.”
“May God bless the new nation!”
Everybody is very conscious that something of huge importance has happened. The Southern Sudanese are full of pride in having their own country at last after so many years of struggle and war. The translation staff, being Christians, are also fully aware that the new nation needs God’s help in order to succeed. They recognize that their government needs wisdom. Their destinies are now in their own hands, not in those of a far-away government made up of people from a different ethnic, cultural and religious background.
But what difference does this make to Bible translation and literacy? One significant factor is that the government of South Sudan is made up mainly of people who identify themselves as Christian. There will be no more religious persecution, as there was at times in the past. Christians will be free to practise and pass on their faith and to translate the Bible. It should be easier for Christian organisations to get visas for expatriate workers.
Another difference is that a fundamental policy of the new state is that all the ethnic groups are of equal status and all children should have the opportunity to be educated for the first three years of primary school in their mother tongue. Of course, this can’t happen in big towns where ethnic groups are mixed, so children there will learn in English. But the large rural population, which is normally disadvantaged, will have the benefit of using their own languages, and it is widely recognized these days that learning to read in one’s mother tongue leads to fewer dropouts from school and therefore increases the number of literate people. Already SIL staff have had an impact in the schools of South Sudan through a partnership with the Ministry of Education. They are also making a difference to adults as literacy workers are trained to run literacy programs for rural communities. None of this could happen during the years of war in southern Sudan.
So may God bless the nation of South Sudan and may he give strength and perseverance to all those who want to spread his kingdom there.
Editor’s Note: SIL-Sudan is a primary implementation partner.