John Ashworth who was present at this event has published a report and photos and kuronvillage.net has got his permission to republish these evidences for our readers.
Jubilee Celebration of Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban
26th February 2012
We are called to be Ambassadors of Reconciliation
So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were urging you through us (2 Cor 5:20)
Retired (Emeritus) Bishop Paride Taban recently reached his 75th birthday, and a grand celebration was held in Kuron Peace Village on 26th February 2012 to mark this auspicious event in the life of a wise and holy man who has become something of an icon in South Sudan.
More than 200 guests came from all over the world to join several hundred local people in this remote corner of South Sudan to pay their respects to a living legend. Several flights and literally dozens of cars brought them to Kuron, creating a logistical nightmare for the hard-working and hospitable staff, but in the end everyone had a place to sleep and the food was both sufficient and excellent. Bishop Paride himself slept in a door-less Toposa thatched house so that his own room would be available for guests. The recently published biography of the bishop, “Peace deserves a chance” by Alberto Eisman (Pauline Publications), was on sale and at one point it seemed that the bishop would spend the whole weekend just signing copies of it.
The entire government of Eastern Equatoria State, the Governor of Western Equator, representatives of Central Equatoria and the Deputy Secretary General of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement testified to the key role that Bishop Paride played in both the liberation struggle and nation-building. Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro, who drove for several days from the far west of South Sudan to the far east, represented the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference, and the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Juba, of which Bishop Paride was once auxiliary bishop, represented the Archbishop, who was out of the country. Many priests, religious brothers and sisters were amongst the South Sudanese friends of the bishop. Friends, benefactors and supporters came from as far afield as New Zealand, Canada, USA, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Ireland and the UK, and as near as Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. The youngest of the foreign guests was a 3-year old Dutch boy whom Bishop Paride had baptised. Various NGOs were represented by current and retired members, including Caritas, CRS, NCA, Pax Christi, Stromme Foundation, AGEH and Carter Center, as well as the UN. The presence of the Dutch Ambassador and the Norwegian deputy head of mission showed the international influence of a humble South Sudanese churchman.
Paraphrasing 2 Corinthians 5:20 (see heading), the theme was “We are called to be Ambassadors of Reconciliation”. The Bishop of Torit, Bishop Johnson Akio Mutek, went one step further in his letter, calling Bishop Paride not just an “Ambassador” but a “Hero of Reconciliation”. But Bishop Paride was also described by those who know him as “a faithful friend and teacher”, one who goes ahead to show the way, like a bee going from tree to tree to collect the nectar and make sweet honey. He is truly “living in God”. He never gives up and is never frightened, and indeed has been given a local-language nickname to that effect. He is a leader who inspires others, “a true servant of the Prince of Peace”.
Holy Trinity Peace Village, Kuron, has been a long-standing dream of Bishop Paride. In one of the most neglected and isolated parts of the country, amidst warring tribes, he created this oasis of peace. Through his example and leadership, different communities now live together and have begun to experience the benefits of peace: a health clinic, clean water, a school, agricultural projects, community policing, a bridge across the river, a guinea-worm eradication project. As the Governor of Western Equatoria said, “Bishop Paride is a Madi who chose to set up his peace village in Toposa land. It is a lesson to all of us South Sudanese to love each other more than I love my own tribe”. Bishop Eduardo suggested that Kuron should be multiplied, as it is “the vaccine to conquer tribalism in South Sudan”. Bishop Paride was able to thank personally many of his friends and benefactors who had helped him, but he also made a plea to the NGOs “which are stepping on each other's toes in Juba” to come here, where they are desperately needed.
The local Toposa people expressed their appreciation in dance and prayer, both of which were dynamic and dramatic. As Bishop Paride drew our attention to their traditional costume, he reminded us that this was not put on just for the occasion; this is the way people dress normally. A local chief gave a stirring speech. Other groups, including the bishop's own Madi people, also danced and drummed.
The Eucharistic Celebration was joyful and vibrant. The Mass was in English, the readings in both English and Toposa, the songs in various languages, the Prayers of the Faithful were done in traditional style by a Toposa elder, and the liturgical dance at the Offertory Procession was augmented by local people who couldn't resist joining in, with a flurry of bells, beads, spears, feathers, tassels, animal skins and stamping feet and a cloud of dust.
Bishop Paride Taban has inspired people in South Sudan and across the world by his simple and humble message of peace and reconciliation. He has led by his example, inspired people by his faith and courage, and gently guided people using simple stories. A humble carpenter once also taught in parables...
A personal view by John Ashworth, 28th February 2012