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South Sudan President Salva Kiir Makes First Official Visit to Israel

1:30 PM, Jan 7, 2012 • By FAITH J. H. MCDONNELL
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Polak described to the newly-freed Sudanese their similarity to the children of Israel. "We were slaves thousands of years ago right up the Nile from here, in Egypt,” he said. “God heard our cries and saw our tears and redeemed us.” He told the Sudanese that they were “very special people” and that “through Christian Solidarity International, God is redeeming you today.” A CSI news release said that Polak “shared with the slaves some of the Pesach practices and encouraged them to commemorate the day of their liberation.”

Comparisons between the Israelites and the South Sudanese extend beyond the experience of slavery. Both the Sudanese Church and the military resistance to the Islamist imperialist government of Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the earlier rebel movement, Anyanya One, (1955-1972) have identified with ancient Israel as well as the modern state. Part of the reason for this is because the South Sudanese have endured struggles and experienced victories of biblical proportions in the past five decades. One example, from Lui, in Western Equatoria, shows how the experiences of the South Sudanese could have been ripped out of the pages of the Old Testament describing the battles of the Israelites.

In the late 1990's, Lui, a frequent bombing target of Khartoum because of its cathedral and hospital, was captured by Khartoum forces and made a garrison town. Missionary to Sudan, Fran Boyle, was told by those who participated how the surviving people of Lui, who had scattered to the bush, recaptured their town.

SPLA Chaplain "Peter" who led the charge on Lui told Boyle that first Christians from all denominations prayed together, repented of their sins, and were reconciled to each other. Then they asked God to give them their town back. Not only that, but they prayed that no one, neither the people of Lui, nor even the Islamist soldiers of Khartoum, would be killed. Finally they marched into Lui, led by Chaplain Peter carrying a rifle, a Christian flag, and a Bible. At the first rifle shot, the Sudanese troops fled all the way back to the front lines of the war. The retaking of Lui took only 30 minutes. Aerial bombardment continued throughout the war, but Khartoum never took the town again.

The South Sudanese also looked to modern Israel as an inspiration. Jimmy Mulla, the president of Sudan advocacy group Voices for Sudan, told The Jerusalem Post that Israel had provided “invaluable training to the rebels.” Sudanese columnist, PaanLuel Wel, said that the head of Anyanya, General Joseph Lagu, “was among the first world leaders” to congratulate Prime Minister Levi Eshkol after the Six Day War. “To the Southern rebels,” said Wel, “Israel was fighting the very enemy that was discriminating against and oppressing them.”

South Sudan's attitude is the same today. Many South Sudanese commented in The Sudan Tribune on their President’s visit to Israel.  One commenter said that although "Bashir will run to Iran soon and brief them about Kiir’s visit to Israel," South Sudan would "continue friendship with Israel for generations to come" because of Israel's contribution during their struggle.

“What a big blow to the North Sudan Arabs who do not want South Sudanese to be open to the outside world,” another commenter exclaimed. “They always want South Sudanese to be like mosquitoes under mosquito net.”

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