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S. Sudan churches pray for national peace, forgiveness

7/10/2005 10:46pm

KHARTOUM, Sudan, July 10, 2005 (AP) -- Thousands of Christians celebrated the new national unity government Sunday at churches in southern Sudan, where prayers were devoted to hopes for sustainable peace and forgiveness.

Residents of Juba who spoke to The Associated Press in Khartoum said the sermon at All Saints Cathedral was attended by thousands of jubilant worshippers, a day after John Garang was sworn in as first vice president, the highest office ever held by a southerner and a Christian.

"Sudan has now entered a new era," the Rev. Eluzai Lemi Manas said in his sermon. "The government of lies and oppression ended on the 8th of July, hallelujah, hallelujah."

The audience in the church responded with joyful ululations.

Eluzai said the next priority was forgiveness.

"Although many bad things were done to us, for 22 years, a lot of bloodshed, the government of lies has gone, let us pray and forgive them."

He urged the worshippers to join hands and pray.

"We must now forgive, forgive everybody, forgive them," he told worshippers at the downtown mosque.

Every church in Juba devoted sermons and prayers to the hope that peace would prevail. Church leaders said the same prayers were being offered up at churches across the southern Equatoria region.

"Let us join in solidarity with clean hearts and prayers so that Sudan's peace can be sustained," said churchgoer Gordon Abina.

A new constitution signed Saturday calls for wealth and power sharing, democratic elections within three years and a referendum for southern Sudan secession after six years. It follows a peace agreement reached in January to end the 21-year civil war in the south that led to the deaths of nearly 2 million people, mainly through war-induced famine and disease.

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