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EDITORIAL: Bishop Paride Taban deserves a state burial

Authors: Chany Ninrew | Koang Pal Chang | Published: Thursday, November 2, 2023

Bishop Taban is pictured in a 2010 photo in Washington. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Departed Bishop Paride Taban is a person of great national significance, and there is no better way, other than a state funeral, that South Sudanese can express their gratitude for his lifetime of selfless service.

The demise of Bishop Taban occurred on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, in Nairobi Kenya, according to the South Sudan Council of Churches.

The outpouring of condolences from South Sudanese signifies their shock and grief over the loss of a man who truly stands out as an icon of peace.

Vice President, Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior has joined many others in extending her deepest condolences on the passing of the much-beloved bishop.

“Today, we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual who dedicated his life to the betterment of South Sudan and its people,” VP Nyandeng said on her social media page.

“Beyond his dedication to education, Bishop Taban stood as a symbol of peace in our nation. He tirelessly pursued reconciliation, unity, and harmony among different communities,” she said.

“He demonstrated the power of dialogue, compassion, and forgiveness in bridging divides and fostering understanding.”

“As we bid farewell to this great pillar of our society, we recommit ourselves to carrying forward his torch of peace and unity in South Sudan,” Nyandeng added.

Hon. Mary Nawai Martin, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs conveyed a condolence to the family of Bishop Taban.

“On behalf of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, I am saddened by the death of our dear Man of God, Bishop Paride Taban. I convey my condolences to his family, the Catholic Community and all people affected by his death. May his soul rest in peace,” said Hon. Nawai.

Hon. Josephine Napwon, the Minister of Environment and Forestry says Bishop Taban left South Sudan better than he found it.

“The Lord has decided to take you to a better place when we need you the most in this difficult time. You fought a good fight; you left the world especially South Sudan better than you found it,” Hon. Napwon said.

Rita Lopidia, the Executive Director of Eve Organization sent a condolence message.

“You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race and you have kept the faith. May your soul rest in the Lord,” Lopidia said.

The former South Sudan’s Ambassador to China, John Andruga wrote: “Bishop Paride Taban and Fr Sebastian Angu visited me in Nairobi hospital when I had surgery on my leg. He always cracks jokes to make you smile and laugh to forget your pains.”

John Andruga: “May Bishop Paride Taban’s soul rest in eternal peace. He was a friend, uncle, spiritual advisor, Bishop and a servant of God. He has been in and out of Nairobi Hospital since 2021 until today the 1st of November 2023 when he returned to his creator. May Almighty God grant them eternal peace.”

Born in 1936, Bishop Taban grew up in the midst of wars and bitter suffering in Sudan and dedicated his time to advocating for an end to oppression and mediating peace between different political and ethnic groups.

His life is intertwined with that of the troubled years of then southern Sudan, and it is almost impossible to discuss the country’s journey to independence without talking about Paride Taban.

After his retirement from the diocese, he led an effort to make peace in South Sudan real by setting up the Kuron Peace Village, established in 2005.

Having been ordained on 24 May 1964 and consecrated as a Bishop on 4 May 1980 in Kinshasa, DR Congo by Pope John Paul II, the clergyman served as Bishop in Juba, Torit, and the Roman town of Tadamata from 1980-1983.

He was also sent to Rwanda by the Pope in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide for reconciliation efforts.

Bishop Taban received numerous awards including the Sergio Vieira de Mello Peace Prize from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2013 for his work at the Holy Trinity Peace Village in Kuron.

He also received the Hubert Walter Award for Reconciliation and Interfaith Cooperation from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in 2017 for co-founding the ecumenical New Sudan Council of Churches.

Bishop Taban received the Freedom of Worship Award on May 16, 2018, for his extraordinary efforts toward bringing peace to war-torn South Sudan.

The Four Freedoms Award is one of the most prestigious awards recognising work defending fundamental human rights. Earlier recipients include Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai and Angela Merkel.

He was also recognized for building Kuron Peace Village and chairing the mediation initiative between the South Sudan government and the COBRA Faction of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army led by David Yau Yau, which produced a successful peace agreement on 6 January 2014.

In December 2016, Taban was appointed by President Salva Kiir as a co-chair of the steering committee of National Dialogue.

Hence, Bishop Taban’s lifetime of solid peacebuilding ambition, the government of South Sudan should, upon the family’s consent, organize a public-centered funeral to involve South Sudanese in a National Day of Mourning.

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