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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs