CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Catholic officials cited the need for patience and a focus on what the people of South Sudan have achieved as the church prepares to walk alongside the world's newest country on its path to peace and development.
In "achieving their right to self-determination," marked with a July 9 independence ceremony in the capital, Juba, the people of South Sudan have "what the better-educated and better-fed people of Libya, Yemen and many other countries are looking for," said Dan Griffin, adviser on Sudan to the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services.
"Their potential and hope give them a tremendous advantage," he told Catholic News Service in a July 10 telephone interview from Juba. He noted that the 8 million citizens of South Sudan "may not have phones, banks or roads but they do have rights and dignity and a government of their consent."
A 2005 peace deal that ended Africa's longest-running conflict led to a January independence vote in which nearly 99 percent of the residents of the South voted to secede from Sudan. At least 2 million people were killed in Sudan's last civil war, fought from 1983 to 2005.