AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - The tireless peacemaker Paris Taban, first bishop of Torit

Friday, 3 November 2023 bishops   peace  

Juba (Agenzia Fides) - He was a bishop who placed peace and reconciliation at the center of his life at the service of the people of God. This is how one can describe the figure of Paride Taban, the first bishop of the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan, who died on November 1st at the age of 87 in a hospital in Nairobi (Kenya). The bishop, born in 1936, was ordained a priest 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 ordination from Pope John Paul II on May 4, 1980. In July 1983 he was appointed the first Bishop of Torit. As a result of the civil war, Bishop Taban was forced into exile in 1984, first to Uganda and later to Kenya and the Central African Republic. "I was happy to have been a bishop in times of war because I was able to comfort and encourage the people and share their suffering," the late bishop said in an interview with Radio Tamazuj, a South Sudanese radio station, in July 2022, to mark the 11th anniversary the independence of South Sudan. The country became independent in 2011 after decades of civil war and separated from the rest of Sudan. Bishop Taban also recalled that he was first imprisoned in 1965 by the government in Khartoum and in 1989 by the SPLA (Sudan's People Liberation Army, the movement fighting for the independence of South Sudan). "I was arrested by my own people. The rebels imprisoned me because I stayed with the people when they took Torit and they thought I was a government agent. But I just stayed to be close to people." To promote dialogue, in 1990 Bishop Taban was one of the founders and 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 the Sudan and the Sudan Interior Church. Under his leadership, the NSCC acted as a mediator in peace negotiations during the Second Sudanese Civil War and advocated for the protection of human rights. In his constant pursuit of peace, Paride Taban traveled to Rwanda on behalf of the AMECEA (Conference of East African Bishops) in 1994, the year of the genocide against the Tutsi population. Bishop Taban stepped down from leadership of the Diocese of Torit in 2004 and in 2005 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. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 3/11/2023)