I’m flying back from Washington, D.C. after a sobering few days in the nation’s capital. We are all still grieving the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona and those who died in the gruesome attack. In the capital city this past weekend, all flags were at half mask and there were hushed conversations everywhere.
This morning I was walking with two friends to a meeting near the US Capitol Building when police cars with glaring lights blocked all entrances to Capitol Hill. We were told that a suspicious package had been found and they were taking no chances. We bided some time at a nearby Starbucks packed with government workers who couldn’t get to their jobs. Sobriety and concern was in the air.
But then, out of this ominous backdrop, I heard the news: Sudan, the largest and one of the poorest nations in Africa, was voting for freedom—and it appeared that liberty might prevail.
Isn’t that just like God—when everything appears to be black–to pierce the darkness with his light?
And is some new found freedom in Sudan a sign of things to come in other nations as well?
You might want to Google a map of Sudan to get a good visual. As you can see, it’s situated in the Muslim band of nations that occupy much of the Saharan tip of Africa. Sudan is a large nation. It’s a dry nation. It’s an extremely impoverished nation.
But today, in all likelihood it voted for freedom. The votes aren’t fully counted, but the result does not appear in doubt. The suffering people of southern Sudan, many of them believers in Christ, are being given a chance to decide their future—and they are overwhelmingly voting for freedom.
This could be a new day for Africa, other nations, and even some territories and states. But before we look at the future implications, let’s think for a moment about this Sudanese miracle.
Do you remember the name Darfur? Yes, it’s a southern portion of Sudan where hundreds of thousands of primarily Christians have been mercilessly slaughtered for nothing else but their faith over the past ten years. The very name Darfur reeks of carnage, injustice, suffering, and genocide.
Darfur is a part of southern Sudan where nearly two million people have been killed in a gruesome civil war. Most have died since 2005, so this is recent stuff. Four million people have also been displaced and forced to live in primitive encampments.
Why? Because the southern portion of Sudan is that area of the African continent where Muslim control of nations and cultures ended—and Christianity has been exploding for the past three decades.
It is also the region where much of Sudan’s lucrative oil industry lies. For decades, the Muslim north has been raiding and pillaging the defenseless south—taking the oil revenues to Khartoum in the Muslim north and leaving the southern fourth of the country destitute and under-developed (there is less than thirty miles of paved road in southern Sudan).
They’ve also tried to force Muslim society and sharia law on some areas of the south, and when that failed and faith in Christ began to spread north, the militants decided to simply kill all the Christians. Two million died. Four million fled their homes.
That’s the meaning of Darfur and southern Sudan: Darkness, tyranny, violence, bloodshed. I think you know where those tactics originate—in the world of Satanic evil– and in this case, evil that is wrapped in the cloak of religion.
But through much prayer, international pressure, and some miraculous changes of heart, even Sudan’s Muslim leader, Omar Hassan al-Bashir was forced to change his mind and agree to allow the south to vote for independence.
Starting on January 10, an estimated seven million Sudanese began going to the polls. It is an election that will probably last a week. Polling places have limited hours because there is no electricity after dark. Since 85% of the southern Sudanese people are illiterate, ballots simply showed pictorial choices that stood for YES for independence (freedom) and NO for the status quo.
And the Sudanese are voting for freedom. It’s a God-given cry of the human heart. If they prevail, the southern quarter of Sudan will become a new and free nation with a new capital—Juba– where families and children can be safer, and a desperately poor and persecuted people can build a future filled with new-found dreams of hope.
Many thousands of displaced Sudanese who now live in other nations are voting as well and look forward to returning to their homeland. Lee Everisto, a 48-year from Juba who now lives in Cairo, Egypt, said over the sounds of drumming and singing: “It is a historic day, a day that is going to put an end to our tragedy. I’m ready to go back as soon as possible.”
Freedom is a precious thing.
It is the birth-right of all people—made in the image of God.
Some individuals with whom I do not usually agree–former president Jimmy Carter, Senator John Kerry, and actor George Clooney—were all in Sudan for the historic vote and hailed the process. I applaud their efforts and stand with them in this historic milestone.
Maybe there is hope for bipartisan ship when the choice is between liberty and tyranny.
As I was meditating on the expected results of the elections in Sudan—and probable creation of a new and independent nation—my thoughts went back to a “prophetic vision” that is told in the first chapter of my 1989 book Leadership for the 21st Century: Changing Nations Through the Power of Serving. In a futuristic passage covering 1986 to 2025, Lee Grady and I accurately predicted the fall of the Iron Curtain (three years before it happened), and some of the social developments of the 1990s.
We also made this prediction for the 21st century: “By 2015 there was no longer a Third World. The globe was only divided into two areas: The Free World and the Dark World. And freedom was growing in the nations of the earth.”
Lee gets most of the credit for that perspective. He’s was right. Free Nations and Dark Nations.
That is the meaning of today’s events in Sudan. There are really only two forms of government in the world. One form tends to tyranny, and this includes most of the Islamic nations on earth. The other form produces liberty based on the creation of man, human rights, and societies based on biblical principles.
One of these principles is de-centralization of many aspects of life including economics, technology, and civil government. Where the ways of the Living God are practiced, people tend to be freer to communicate, invent, build, create, grow wealth, and govern themselves. The Christian worldview diffuses tyranny and central control and multiplies freedom and autonomy.
Freedom includes the right to vote for your leaders.
Another metaphor is light and darkness. A light-filled society creates the freedom for self-determination and an explosion of blessing—like sunshine to a summer day. A controlled, tyrannical society brings a creeping darkness of domination, lack of democracy, and loss of fundamental human rights. This would be the ultimate result of a one world system.
Yet, God appears to be expanding the longing for liberty in the nations of the world. Communism is dark by nature. The Chinese, North Koreans, Cubans, and others are longing to be free. Socialism has many shades of gray. It is hurting nations in Europe and growing in influence in America. Muslim nations that enforce harsh forms of sharia law may be the darkest of all.
But darkness does not do well when the light is turned on.
It ceases to exist.
I believe we stand at the beginning of a new day when many nations—even states in some nations of the world—will take votes for liberty and cast off their chains. I believe we will see a liberated and re-united Korean peninsula; I believe many African nations may rise to fight the fight for freedom in their societies. Freedom marches and votes will also take place in many parts of Asia.
In my U.S. state of Washington, I know some folk who would love to “vote for independence” from King County—the liberal bastion of the Northwest. If they want big government, high taxes, and decreased liberties, let them have it. The rest of Washington can become another state where the biblical principles of freedom are allowed to thrive. Many Californians feel the same way about the north and south of their fair state. And Texas hints that if the federal government forces Obamacare on them as a people, they just may vote for liberty and succeed from the Union.
These are radical steps to take—but we live in radical times. Peoples should not change their governing structures lightly or no compelling reason. However, “When in the course of human events…”
Ah yes. That is the heritage of the American Revolution.
I encourage you to pray for a great expansion of personal, social, and civil liberty in the nations of the world in the 21st century. If I am reading the heart of God right, we just might have a rendezvous with destiny that is drenched in the blood, sweat and tears of an explosion of freedom.
And when we are dead and gone, and the history of the 21st century is written, Remember Sudan in 2011. It may be pointing the way to a light-filled future through the power of prayer and the principles of liberty found in Jesus Christ.