News / Africa

S. Sudan Bishop's Humanitarian Efforts Awarded by UN

South Sudanese Catholic Bishop Paride Taban. (Credit: Hans-Peter Hecking)
South Sudanese Catholic Bishop Paride Taban. (Credit: Hans-Peter Hecking)
Hannah McNeish
South Sudanese Catholic Bishop Paride Taban worked to shelter and feed thousands of people during decades of conflict that killed some two million people. When a peace deal was signed in 2005, Taban's quest for the deal to last led to the foundation of a "peace village."

Now a shining example in a country still torn apart by proxy fighting, tribalism and cattle-raiding, the United Nations has awarded him a peace prize, the 2013 Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize, in recognition for his efforts in promoting peace in communities within the young nation. Vieira de Mello, a former United Nations human rights chief, died in a bombing in Iraq 10 years ago.

Taban’s path to the priesthood was not what he had imagined. Ordained in 1964, after missionaries were expelled from Southern Sudan and the first civil war started, he was one of a handful of priests who regularly came under fire.

“I remained throughout with the war, under bombs, under persecution and many intellectuals and priests had to leave the country," he said. "There were like three priests in Juba, because the rest had to flee for their life. But, we were like under house arrest. And, one of our priests was in prison, accused of having supported the rebels with the weapons, when it was the army that put weapons in his car.”

Despite witnessing many people shot, bombed and starved to death, Taban says he could not bear to leave his flocks in their greatest time of need.

As Taban became a bishop in 1983 in Torit, state capital of Eastern Equatoria and one of the harshest battlegrounds between the rebel movement and Sudanese government forces, another war started that would last for 22 years.

Taban survived a rebel attack that took out around 50 trucks donated to the church to deliver food to famine-plagued areas.  More than 100 people were wounded in the attack, and Taban decided he survived because God had “greater plans” for him.

Peace village concept

The primary school at Kuron village. (Courtesy: Kuron village)The primary school at Kuron village. (Courtesy: Kuron village)
x
The primary school at Kuron village. (Courtesy: Kuron village)
The primary school at Kuron village. (Courtesy: Kuron village)
The inspiration for the peace village came from Taban’s childhood in a British-owned sawmill that brought people, including his parents, from all over Sudan, and his two wartime visits to Israel.

“I found a small cooperative village in Israel … and there, Israelis, Palestinian Jews, Christians, Muslims live in that cooperative as one community. So, I say why not found one of these communities in South Sudan as an inspiration?” he said.

In 2004, Taban picked Kuron as the site of a “peace village” as it was gripped by violent cattle raiding, a practice that he abhors and made him vegetarian, with clinics, schools, and farms now struggling to meet demand in a desolate country lacking basic services.

South Sudan’s government spokesman, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, hopes that after “tremendous pain and suffering”, role models like Taban will encourage more “model villages”.

“Bishop Paride Taban is a man who had done his good religious work, community work, social work, in an environment in the days of the liberation war, and now after peace, I think he deserves it.  And so, on behalf of the president and the government, a thousand congratulations,” said Benjamin.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission also recognizes this “home grown” example of peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

A South Sudanese Desmond Tutu

Former priest Dan Eiffe, who lost his heart to South Sudan about 25 years ago and also dedicated himself to the struggle, says that Taban is South Sudan’s answer to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who took on apartheid in South Africa and reconciliation in its aftermath.

“He’s the person here with the greatest integrity and an example of peace, so we wish him a long life, as we need him very much for this role that Tutu played in South Africa - I think the truth and reconciliation. And, [he’s] greatly loved, greatly respected and very much deserving. I don’t know how they got to give him this award, but it’s not a boost to Bishop Paride, it’s a boost to South Sudan and some of the great people we have here," said Eiffe.

Even now, the spritely 76-year-old calls himself “a refugee from heaven,” who will never leave his country and will only retire when he goes to his grave.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Hannah Glay from: Police Academy Road, Lib.
February 21, 2013 8:17 AM
This is what well call true christianity Bishop Paride. Jesus said. I was hungry and you fed me, naked and you clothed me.
May God continue to bless you and also raise up another Bishop Paride after you shall have left the face of this earth.


by: Ole Kragelund from: Denmark
February 20, 2013 11:39 PM
I hope this bishop will be appointed as the next Pope. He deserves it - and even more so does the World....


by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
February 20, 2013 5:06 PM
A wonderful story of a great humanitarian, which we can all be proud off; we need millions of more people like Catholic Bishop Paride Taban, to turn this world around. Unfortunately, such people are rare.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid