Franklin Graham: War Looms in South Sudan

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The government of South Sudan has declared a disaster as thousands of people flee sectarian attacks.

Violence broke out late December between two tribes in the town of Pibor. An estimated 100,000 people fled to the surrounding countryside. A death toll is not known because officials can't gain safe access to the region.

American Red Cross volunteers are trying to reconnect 150 young children with their missing parents, but it's believed many of them were killed.

South Sudan gained independence from the North last July after more than 25 years of brutal fighting that killed more than 2 million people.

So far, the separation hasn't lead to peace and border skirmishes between the two countries threaten to bring more instability.

Rev. Franklin Graham fears South Sudan is on the brink of another war.

Graham often travels to the South bringing aid and relief supplies via his humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse.

CBN News recently spoke with him about the challenges facing this newly formed nation. Click play for Graham's comments. A transcript of the interview is below.

Thomas: Why have you called for a no-fly zone over the skies of South Sudan?

Graham: The North is using its airpower to do kind of ethnic cleansing, forcing the civilians to free.

Thomas: Do you fear that a war could break out?

Graham: Yes, I believe it is going to break out. They really don't want war, but it is one of these situations where one guy throws a rock and another guy throws two rocks back. And it's just one of these things (that) can be resolved and worked out and we can see peace come to that area. And you have to have somebody who is willing to take the leadership for peace. Yes, war will break out, but I think the United States, I think President Obama has an excellent opportunity to bring all these sides together and hammer out a peace accord. I don't think any one of them wants war, per se.

Thomas: Is a no-fly zone enough? Is that sufficient? Do we need to put, perhaps, the United Nations in the South or do we need to commit U.S. troops?

Graham: No, no, no. You just take away their air assets and I think the fighting is going to kind of grind to a halt. The North doesn't have the ability to hang on to all of these areas without airpower. I am not advocating. I am saying that for a no-fly zone for right now, then let's go to the peace table and let's work out a deal. The South has to have the North and the North needs the South. So the two cannot really survive without each other. The oil is now in the South.

Thomas: You were there when South Sudan became a new independent nation. What is the significance of having a Christian nation in this part of the African continent?

Graham: Well it is not necessarily what you would call a Christian nation. The majority of the people would call themselves Christian and many in the government would call themselves Christian, and to be there for a nation to be born -- that place was jam packed and it was a sea of people and everyone was excited for them to have freedom. They had fought for so long to be free and now they were free. And to experience that day with them and to be with President Salva Kiir and all of these men. I knew many of these men when they were guerilla fighters, when they were fighting the North for their freedom, and now to be actually free and the joy and the celebration and they gave God the glory.

Thomas: You have been there many, many, several times. You have a heart for Sudan, for South Sudan. Just becoming a nation is one thing, but they need the infrastructure, they need the resources, they need roads, they need hospitals, they need schools, and so forth. Is the United States, is the world community, committed to seeing a South Sudan rise with all the resources that it needs to sustain itself 20, 30, 50 years down the road?

Graham: That's a good question. I can't answer it because for right now we are talking about this has only been six months since they've had their independence.

Thomas: But do you see from the world community any commitment from a financial standpoint to be able to go in and bring long-term stability?

Graham: I see a commitment, but you cannot have financial stability when the North is threatening to attack and the North is creating instability by sending tens of thousands of refugees into the South. Now these are areas that are not in the South, but these are Muslims and Christians who do not want to live under Islamic or Sharia law. So they are wanting to be free. So it is Muslims rebelling in the North, too. They are rejecting this, and the world community is going to have to stand with those that are wanting to be free.

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