Christians worldwide are urged to join a Sudan Global Day of Prayer on Sunday for the country's first democratic elections in 24 years.
Sunday's event is the culmination of a week of prayers. Christians from the United States and around the world joined Sudanese churches to pray for peaceful elections to take place from April 11 to 13. The historic elections could help pave the way for lasting peace, or, in a worst case scenario, spark another civil war.
"In 17 years of doing relief work in Sudan, we've witnessed so much horrific violence in this nation," said Gary Lundstrom, vice president of Samaritan's Purse International. "Yet with this historic election, Sudan sits at a crossroads and has an opportunity for long-term peace.
"We are asking every Christian to join us in prayer for the people of Sudan."
For more than 21 years, Sudan was embroiled in a civil war sparked by a government effort to impose Islamic law on the mostly Christian south in 1983. The civil war was one of the longest lasting and deadliest wars of the late 20th century. About 2 million civilians were killed in southern Sudan and more than 4 million people displaced because of the violence.
The war also destroyed an estimated 500 churches in southern Sudan.
Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, has vowed to rebuild all the destroyed churches. Thus far, the Christian humanitarian organization he heads has rebuilt 367 churches. Samaritan's Purse has also built a hospital and provided clean water to the country's people. In total, the organization has provided $83.7 million in relief assistance to Sudan since 2001.
Samaritan's Purse is urging people to pray that all polling stations will be safe and secure, for peaceful elections, for political stability in Sudan, and for an end to the conflict in Darfur.
The April presidential and national elections are part of the 2005 Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the 21-year civil war. The CPA called for a government of national unity to be formed for a transitional period of six years. During this time, the South would be autonomous, and at the end of the six-year period a referendum would be held on the issue of a unified Sudan or secession of the South.
Next year the people of Sudan are scheduled to vote on whether South Sudan wants to remain one country with North Sudan or secede and become independent.
"We are praying that everything will run smoothly," said James, a church pastor in Sudan whose last name was not given, to Samaritan's Purse. "We are praying for the nation of Sudan."