|A pastor who made peace and reconciliation the centre of his life of service to God’s people. This is how one can sum up the figure of Paride Taban, the first bishop of the diocese of Torit in South Sudan, who died on 1st November at the age of 87 while he was hospitalised in Nairobi, Kenya.
Born in 1936, he was ordained in 1964, at the time of the expulsion of missionaries from Sudan. In January 1980 he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Juba and received episcopal consecration on 4 May 1980 from St John Paul II. In July 1983 he was appointed the first Bishop of Torit. The trials of war forced Bishop Taban into exile in Uganda, Kenya and the Central African Republic in 1984.
“I was happy to have been a bishop in wartime because I was there to console and encourage people and to share their suffering,” the late bishop said in an interview with Radio Tamazuj, a South Sudanese radio station, in July 2022, on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. The country became independent in 2011 after decades of civil war to separate from the rest of Sudan. Bishop Taban also recalled that he had been imprisoned a first time in 1965 by the government in Khartoum and then again in 1989 by the SPLA (Sudan’s People Liberation Army, the movement fighting for the independence of South Sudan). ‘I was put in jail by my own people, by the SPLA,’ he recalled with a smile. “The rebels imprisoned me because when they took Torit I had stayed there with the people and they thought I was a government agent. But I only stayed to be with the people”.
To foster dialogue between the Sudanese realities, in 1990 Bishop Taban was among the founders and the first president of the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), which includes the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church of Sudan, the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, the African Inland Church, the Pentecostal Church of Sudan and the Sudan Interior Church. Under his leadership, the NSCC acted as a facilitator in peace negotiations during the second Sudanese civil war and as a human rights defender. In his constant search for peace, Paride Taban on behalf of AMECEA (the Conference of East African Bishops) had travelled to Rwanda in 1994, the year of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi population
Bishop Taban retired from the administration of the Torit diocese in 2004, and in 2005 he founded the Holy Trinity peace village in Kuron, South Sudan, a community that welcomes people of different ethnic backgrounds who are victims of conflict. This village has become a symbol of hope and healing.
Credits to: AGENZIA FIDES
Photo Credits: Catholic Radio Network
07 November 2023
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