January marks the two-year anniversary of South Sudan’s independence referendum, a vote for formal separation from Sudan after several years of disputes between the two regions over the land. Elias Taban, the national bishop of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and Uganda, experienced the impact of Sudan's war first hand. Just after his birth, Taban’s mother hid with him in the jungle for three days to flee from violence. When he was 13, Taban was forced to become a child soldier with the southern rebels. “During the war … the only hope of the civil population was the dependence on the church,” said Taban, who converted to Christianity at 23. “So the church has been very instrumental in terms of giving people hope in Jesus Christ, preaching the gospel and assuring people that God will hear our cry, our prayers.” Taban is president of the Sudan Evangelical Alliance, which has helped establish close to 200 churches and two orphanages in southern Sudan. He also serves as the Sudan project director of Basic Ministries International, an evangelical organization that has started churches across South Sudan and has drilled more than 400 water wells.
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