For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord [Luke 2nd]… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9th]—King James Version Bible.
By PaanLuel Wel, Washington DC, USA
December 25, 2011 (SSNA) — Dear country men and women, it is Christmas Time again. The year 2011—historic as it has been—was action-packed that we don’t even seem to remember the last Christmas Time we had on the eve of South Sudan independence. For most of South Sudanese, the last Christmas Day of 2010 was one of belated expectations, unyielding hope and spirited-prayers. On the other hand, it was characterized too by plenty of political uncertainties and psychological anxieties since, then, much of our political future and long-desired destiny was sheathed in a thick fog of uncertainty.
Thankfully, as we marked the 2011th birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, we are relatively out of the thick wood given the immortal dangers we had squarely faced on our protracted trudging to freedom. We paid the full price in blood and flesh, time and resources, and now dare to reap the sweet, hard-earned fruits of South Sudan’s independence. As we celebrate our first ever Christmas in the land of the free, we are once again solemnly reminded of the essential message, lessons and promises of this ancient festival. Whether one is an atheist or religious, a Christian or a non-Christian, Christmas has invariably been about the message of hope over despair, a lesson of deliverance from bondage and a promise of a much brighter future and a commitment to a higher noble cause—one that is much greater than the self.
Before the eventual deification of Jesus of Nazareth, the idea of a coming Messiah and of virgin birth among the Jews was a message of hope over desperations and sufferings from their Roman Conquerors and Rulers. A tiny marauding goat-herding and camel-keeping community, the Israelites were at the mercy of their better organized, military superb and bigger neighbors. Before the birth of Christ, they had been systemically conquered and lorded over by the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians and, when Jesus was born in the year 6 B.C, the Romans. Understandably, under such culturally and politically suffocating circumstances that predate the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised of a coming Messiah, one divined to free them from foreign occupations and lead them into an everlasting freedom, was not a small matter. It was all that there was as far as their political future and religious identity was concerned. Unto them a child was born that December, one to wipe off their incessant tears, once and for all.
Similarly, the birth of the Republic of South Sudan is a great milestone in the history of South Sudanese people. Just like the pre-Messiah Israelites, South Sudanese have had their fair share of foreign occupations and colonization. It all started with the advent of Islam in the Sudan after the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D when the former three African Christian kingdoms of Nubia, Alwa and Makuria—all of which had been flourishing between the 6th to the 16th century—were finally vanquished and taken over by the invading Muslim Jihadists. Slave raiding and forced conversion ensued, resulting in untold suffering to and destruction of the indigenous African cultures, lives, properties and land, and most importantly, the loss of political freedom and self-identity.
As if that was not enough tragedy, one that closely mirror the changing-hand captivity of Israelites before Christ; the Turks, the Egyptians, and finally the British, all wreaked havoc and left wounded souls and a plundered country in the land of South Sudanese. No sooner had the British left than the self-proclaimed Arabs of the Sudan took over the colonial mantle, burgeoning into a bitter long-drawn-out civil wars that embroiled the Sudan till 2005 when the CPA was finally negotiated and signed between the SPLM/A and the NCP. By the time South Sudan finally broke away from (north) Sudan in July 2011, these new islamofascists rulers had broken all the previous known records of political oppression, cultural and religious suppression, and economic impoverishment.
Just as in the Christmas narratives, the true meaning of South Sudan’s birth is that rare, once-in-a-while, message of redemption from servitude, renewal of self-identity and self-consciousness after decades of concerted political, cultural and economic subjugation. And above all, it is particularly about the consummate confident and boundless optimism not only to face the unforeseen uncertainties and fears but also to construct the envisaged future for ourselves and the future generations.
But as we very well know from the Holy Scriptures and from our own yearly enactment of the birth and infancy of the baby Messiah, it was never a smooth ride of all joys and cordial welcoming from the shepherds, the magi and from the choir of angels from above. First, there was King Herod the Great, falsely scared of losing his kingdom, who wanted the new born baby dead. Secondly, there were many people, from high places and mighty positions, who couldn’t stomach the idea of the Promised Messiah being born into an unknown poor family and in the manger among the donkeys in a cold dark December midnight.
Thirdly, there were the Roman Rulers and their subjugated, entrenched political and economic sycophants who could not fathom losing all the privileges their collaborations afforded them. Finally, there were the utterly corrupted and arrogance High Priests and teachers of the law—the Pharisee—whose Jesus’s birth and professed heavenly message was nothing less than a heresy and unforgivable blasphemy. All these people, among others, were not there to usher in the little born boy. On the contrary, they were all up in arms and in full-fledged gears, ready to obstruct and preclude the mission of Jesus of Nazareth.
Likewise, in our case, the fact that a brand-new nation is born unto us should never be taken for granted. Though our new born baby of the Republic of South Sudan had a very warm welcoming ululations from our womenfolk, moving tears of joys from our menfolk, and cheering songs and feisty dances from our youth and children; still, the new born nation needs urgent protection from the King Herods, the High Priests, the Pharisee, the Mighty Placed, and the Romans of the Republic South Sudan. Moreover, it has to be recalled that some people saw, in baby Jesus, a bandwagon for political stardom or an opportunity to amass wealth. By the same token, some people in South Sudan may see, in the new born nation, a cow to be milked dry or a dominion to be lorded over for life or just a playing to play dirty tribal politicking.
Indeed, the imminent mortal endangerments antagonizing the new born nation, as it was in the case of baby Jesus, are not just in the realm of creative imaginations. As if he was parroting King Herod the Great who had conspiratorially requested the three Wise Men to inform him about the whereabouts of the new born king so that he could go and worship Him too, President Omar Al-Bashir of the Sudan, just on the eve of South Sudan referendum, sensationally told the world that he would be the first to recognize and respect South Sudan’s independence.
Yet, barely a month later into South Sudan’s secession, his government started undermining the new country by refusing to a speedy settlements of post-independence disputes and by sponsoring and arming perennial militia leaders of South Sudan origins. And if President Omar Al-Bashir is South Sudan’s King Herod the Great and the Republic of Sudan the Ruling Romans, then our marauding rebels, the entrenched corrupted and largely ineffective political system in Juba, the various dysfunctional and self-serving, briefcase opposition parties, plus the tribally conscious and highly biased, politically misinformed society, do constitute the rest of the danger that was facing the infant Messiah and now the new born baby of Sudan.
Gloomy as the outlook was to the little born baby Christ, however, not only did He successfully and spectacularly survive the odds amassed against Him, He actually overcame them and thrived to preach and found Christianity that still prosper to this day, 2011 years after his birth. The young Jesus survived a rough ride to Egypt, fleeing the wrath of King Herod the Great. The matured Jesus survived the temptation of the Devil in the wilderness. And according to his followers, not only did he survive death but also vanquished and defeated death forever. As Jesus once orated, the very stone that was once rejected by the builders, has now officially become the cornerstone in the kingdom of God and the chosen leader of the selected few.
In spite of the daunting political and economic challenges ailing the besieged infant Republic of South Sudan, both from within and from without, the promising message and true meaning of this special Christmas is that of infinite hope and interminable optimism in the face of the unrelenting predicaments; renewal and re-evaluations of the past; and recalibrations of the vision and mission for the desired and envisioned brighter tomorrow.
The new born nation, like Baby Christ, may get harassed, persecuted, betrayed, falsely charged, tried, unjustly sentenced and successfully crucified. It may not even matter that the ordinary people of South Sudan, who had already sacrificed everything and anything for the independence of the country, and unto whom the new baby is born, just as it were to the first century Israelites to whom the Messiah was born, may get uprooted and exiled from—and unscrupulously denied—their rightly-earned share of the national cake.
The falsely accused and wrongly crucified Jesus, nevertheless, rose from the dead and the Jews that were forcefully expelled and exiled from their homeland for over two millennia have now returned to the Promised Land. With that assurance of final victory and last laugh tucked deep down its heart, the new born baby will trudge on and on till it takes its rightful place among the Great Nations of the world.
Merry belated Christmas and a Happy Prosperous New Year 2012 to you all!!!
You can reach PaanLuel Wël at [email protected], PaanLuel Wel (Facebook Page), PaanLuelWel2011 (Twitter) OR at his blog: http://paanluelwel2011.wordpress.com/