Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Southern Sudanese In Anchorage Prepare To Celebrate Birth Of A New Nation
Refugees gear up in Alaska to mark major milestone in Africa
ANCHORAGE—After more than 50 years of bloodshed Africa's largest country has split into two, as South Sudan officially declares itself its own country.
The split was the result of a 2005 peace deal that guaranteed a vote six years later, when southerners were told they could secede from the north. In January, 98 percent of southern Sudanese voted to split.
"We are very happy,” said Dobuol Deng, a Southern Sudanese refugee who now lives in Anchorage. “Very glad, very exciting.”
It's a happy ending that came at a cost: more than 2 million Sudanese people lost their lives and 6 million more were displaced during the civil war, which was fought between 1985-2005.
A thousand of those refugees now call Anchorage, Alaska, their home.
Sudan's civil war pitted the government-controlled north, occupied by Arabs and Muslims, against the oil-rich south, which is occupied mostly by Christians.
"We've been waiting for that day for a long time, but it wasn't easy to reach it," said
Rev. Michael Washtour, who heads up the southern Sudanese ministry at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
Anchorage refugees say Sudanese communities across the world now have an opportunity to return home if they want to.
"We already know that we have a home back there,” Washtour said. “It's going to be up to you (whether you) want to stay in the United States.”
Local celebrations will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Fairview church.