South Sudan, North Africa
Population: 11-13 million (estimate)
South Sudan became a nation in July 2011 as the result of a referendum vote. In the coming years, leaders there will be facing many challenges, including the need to build schools and hospitals.
There is also the ongoing threat of violence from the North and from militias backed by the North. Of special concern is the conflict over the right to Sudan’s oil fields, which are found mostly in the South.
Small seeds were perhaps sown in previous decades when European culture and religion influenced the southern peoples. Today the Christian Church is growing fast there among the many African ethnic groups. They face very little persecution or discrimination. The Open Doors World Watch List makes a distinction between North and South Sudan, noting that South Sudan does not rank as a region that heavily persecutes Christians.
The referendum vote in January 2011 was nearly unanimous in favor of independence. The government of the North recognized it and acknowledged South Sudan’s independence.
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