Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Celebrations from South Sudan

South Sudan Independence day Celebrations in Lietnhom, featuring Linda Primary School
How do you celebrate a dream you have prayed for, negotiated for, fought for and shed blood for, for over 40 years? How do you celebrate a dream realized which took over 40 years to become a reality. Over 40 years of fighting for equality, freedom, a new nation and a land to truly call home, is the story of South Sudan.

It is this back drop which warms my heart as I celebrate along with the people of South Sudan this dream come true. Two holiday celebrations in one month and I am grateful for it, Independence day July 9th and Martyr’s Day July 30th.

 On July 9th I celebrated with the people of Lietnhom , Warap state South Sudan, the nation’s 2nd year anniversary of Independence. The youngest country in the world is two years old and the joy could be evidenced by the young and old alike. Those who fought “in the bush” as it is often referred, rejoice with those who had fled the country. Refugees are home again, embraced by a freedom which they have never known. The youth still remember the bombs that rained from the sky down on them as they hid in the bushes, the army still has wounds from the fights that made up all of their lives. But that Independence day, all those hurts and pains were balmed with a celebration of freedom, a new land and a new nation at last.
Traditional dances prepared for the celebration
Another celebration I have just witness today July 30, in this beautiful new country of South Sudan is Martyr’s Day. This day the country remembers and celebrates their heroes. Heroes who have shed their lives for the freedom the country has right now.
We are used to seeing Martyrs as people you read about in the history books, but not on this day. The names of the fallen are fresh in the hearts and minds of most of the people who gathered. They were their friends which they fought alongside, their fathers which they just lost a few years ago, their sisters whom they still have fresh memories of their husbands who they still grieve over. This day was a day of celebrating the power of life, the power of sacrifice and the price of freedom.
As I enter Freedom Square Juba where the tomb of John Garang is laid and where all the celebrations were to take place,  I enter with anticipation. The security is tight, the army is adorned with bullet proof vests and bomb shields as if ready for war. The president is expected to grace the celebrations today, so they take no chances. I have never seen so much security in my life. Everyone moves in after a thorough check…I was just happy they did not take my camera away. However I could not use it because only approved photography was allowed.
As I sit under a tent and watch the crowds gather, young and old I am reminded that freedom is never free, someone has to pay the price. Sitting there…watching the people flocking into Freedom Square and enjoying the traditional dances practiced on the lawns…my mind wonders back 2000 years back…I remember the ultimate martyr Jesus Christ who also gave His life, to set us free from everlasting death and separation from God. His blood is the symbol for freedom for all mankind, Jew Gentile, South Sudanese and Sudanese, Cameroonian and Ethiopian, American and Japanese…Jesus died outside of the city of Jerusalem so that all of the world may enter into the city of God.  In his words He says, “It was for freedom Christ set us free” and so although today in South Sudan we celebrate and honor the local heroes, all the world can join in with this celebration if they believe in the God who died for their freedom.
Join me Christian readers and thank the Lord for the celebrations from South Sudan because you can relate with what it means to be not a people and then a people, to be lost and then found, to be slaves and now sons of God (1 Pet 2:9-10).
However if you do not know of this Christ I speak of I invite you to believe in Him for the salvation of your soul (Acts 16:30=31), joining us in South Sudan to celebrate freedom in your own Freedom Square…for this is true comfort for the soul. Until next time, Read, share and be comforted.

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