The Sudan Council of Churches recently affirmed calls made by Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir to forgive the north, which had been engaged in a two decade civil war with the south that left some 1.9 million people dead.
“Our faith is built on forgiveness. If there is no forgiveness, there will be no peace,” said the Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol, the general secretary of the SCC, to Ecumenical News International last week.
The SCC is an ecumenical organization comprised of the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches of Sudan.
Liol believes that forgiving the mainly Muslim north will allow southern Sudanese to move forward and focus on developing the nation that is home to one of the world’s largest oil reserves.
Full results of the referendum are not due until next month, but provisional results indicate 98.6 percent voted in favor of the secession, according to results published Friday by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission in Khartoum.
"We must now focus on the many challenges that face us as a new nation. They are quite enormous," said Liol.
The next step for President Kiir, who is widely expected to lead the impoverished nation after the official results are announced, will be to resolve outstanding issues, including the status of Abeyi, a heavily disputed oil-rich region lying on the border between the north and the south.
At the close of the week-long vote for independence, which is part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, President Kiir urged his people to follow in the steps of Christ.
"May we, like Jesus Christ on the cross, forgive those who have forcefully caused their deaths," he said at the St. Theresa Roman Catholic Cathedral in Juba.
A nationwide prayer campaign, led by the Catholic Church of Sudan, was held in the lead up to the event for fear that conflict would break out in the country, particularly along the border. There were also concerns the north would refuse to comply with the agreement.
However, the Rev. Liol called the polling process "free, fair and transparent.”
“We are happy it has been credible and peaceful. We are satisfied," he stated.