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South Sudan officially raised its flag on July 9, finally declaring the independence it sought for more than 50 years. The new nation was birthed after decades of civil war with the north thatInform-FreedomReigns saw about 2 million people killed. “The church played a bigger role in helping the suffering people of South Sudan than anyone will ever know,” Bishop Arkangel Wani Lami told a Samaritan’s Purse blog.

“Though it was a time of great persecution for us, the church was the voice for the voiceless ... hope for the hopeless. Pastors risked their lives to feed the people and bring the sick to hospitals. The church risked everything to be a light for Christ during the war. Nobody saw but God.”

South Sudan has made rapid progress on the international front despite armed rebellions at home. The U.S. and Britain have recognized the nation. Israel was among the first to establish diplomatic ties. Yet many are waiting to see whether Christians and Muslims can live together peacefully in Africa’s 54th nation.

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