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

Video Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa 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.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs