Via the Catholic Sentinel:
On January 9, the people of southern Sudan will vote on whether or not they wish to become Africa's newest nation: Southern Sudan. Southern Sudan is only 20% Christian but a Catholic radio station, which made its first broadcast on Christmas Eve 2006, has become a kind of de facto national parliament.
Feisty Radio Bakhita, a project of the Archdiocese of Juba, has incurred opposition from government officials and even sparked a rebuke from church leaders, yet its director, Mexican Comboni Sister Cecilia Sierra, says the station will continue helping people construct a new nation in the wake of decades of war.
"With a highly illiterate population and poor infrastructure, the only way to effectively communicate with people in Southern Sudan is radio. Yet, more than just giving people information, we offer a platform for people to communicate among themselves, a place for them to express their views and opinions and feel like active members of whatever is taking place," Sister Sierra told Catholic News Service.
The station is named after Josephine Bakhita, a slave girl from Darfur who went on to become Sudan's first Catholic saint, the station broadcasts in a local version of Arabic, as well as in English and a host of local languages
Sister Sierra, who studied journalism in the US, has been threatened by government officials but refuses to back down.
"Earlier this year, Sister Sierra said, a security official and a contingent of police came to the station and order it closed. Although she was not directly reprimanded by the head of state security, who chastised a representative of another station in front of her, a lower-ranking official lectured her.
"He told me, 'You heard the message. No more politics.' I said nobody had told me anything. The guy responded, 'He told you not to get into politics. If you get into politics again I will come and close the radio again.' He was so upset he wanted to beat me. He raised his hand. Fortunately, there was a priest there and he didn't, but he felt inferior because I was a woman and I was talking back to him."
Pray for the brave pioneers of Radio Bakhita and the people of southern Sudan as they near the vote on independence.