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Paride Taban: building peace in South Sudan


Four Freedoms Award

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A long life, full of war. And yet up to today he has sacrificed that long life to just one goal: freedom and peace. Since the 1960s emeritus-bishop Paride Taban has been a peacemaker at different levels. In the shadow of a tree, where tribal chiefs argue over cattle, but also as bishop-diplomat on a national and international scale.

Outgrowing his position as prelate, Bishop Taban works tirelessly to bring peace to South Sudan, which has been torn apart by war for decades. The young country has been torn apart by war since its independence from Sudan in 2011.

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"In one of my early memories I’m sitting on my uncle's shoulders, who is running from violence, and we see people around us being slaughtered. Ever since that moment, war has been a constant factor in my life and that of my people.

And yet I grew up without fear, something I owe to my mother. She taught me to concentrate on the suffering of others who need more help and comfort than me. Her example has always helped me to overcome my fear in dangerous situations."
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Cows & kalashnikovs

The borderlands of South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya are inhabited by agro-pastoralists. They move around with their cattle, searching for water and fields to graze. The climate is harsh. Government presence is limited and because of the many conflicts in the region weapons and munitions are widely available.

Young warriors steal each other's cattle to acquire a dowry. Since the availability of modern weapons such as kalashnikovs, this age-old tradition has spiralled out of control. This has led to outbreaks of violence, where many people have been killed.

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Cruelties and unresolved conflicts from the past are a breeding ground for fear, hatred and renewed conflict. This circle of violence and revenge must be broken. The local population needs support in mediating conflicts and rebuilding trust.

Owing to their commitment and tenacity, local peace activists have succeeded in breaking the circle of violence in several areas. A local network of peace organisations was established. They work closely together, even across national borders.

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Peace & sports

In 2005, Bishop Paride Taban approached PAX to develop a programme together for the young armed warriors of the nomadic tribes in the borderlands.

In collaboration with local organisations, these young warriors were trained to become sports leaders, while educated young men were trained as Peace & Sports facilitators. Peace meetings and cross-border sports tournaments were organised and the programme managed to bring rival communities and warriors together, using sports as way to break the spiral of violence.
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A peace village in South Sudan

"When after twenty years of war, the North and South of Sudan made peace, I received a piece of land from the South Sudanese government. On this land, I could finally fulfil my dream: building a peace village.

A place where people of different ethnic backgrounds can live together in peace. A place without fighting over cattle or land and no tribal conflicts.

A place of hope, harmony and reconciliation. A place amongst the poor and those who have been abandoned. A peace village to serve as an example for my country, which suffered from war and violence for far too long."

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Kuron Peace Village

"My dream has been fulfilled with support from PAX and other international friends. In Kuron Peace Village people of different tribes live together peacefully and new villages have sprung up around us.

We have established schools, built a clinic, an airport and hundreds of kilometres of roads, we have installed water pumps and built twelve bridges."

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Women and girls have a very subordinate role in South Sudan. Bishop Taban is working with women leaders to improve their position.

In Kuron he established a boarding school where dozens of girls from (opposing) ethnic groups are being taught together. This is rather unique in a region where only very few parents allow their daughters to go to school. Girls are often forced into arranged marriages at a very young age in exchange for cows as dowry.

Through music, dancing and theatre performances, the school girls spread the message that child marriages and all violence against girls and women must stop.
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Peace Academy

"In 2015, we established the Kuron Peace Academy. We run peace education programmes that include sports and theatre. PAX is helping us with this project.

To me the Kuron Peace Academy represents hope. It is an inspiring meeting place, a place to learn, a retreat centre, but above all a centre for peace and reconciliation."

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Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award

Every other year the Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards are presented to men, women and organisations whose achievements have demonstrated a commitment to Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

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On 16 May 2018, Paride Taban received the Award for the freedom of worship in the presence of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, Her Majesty Queen Máxima and Her Royal Highness Princes Beatrix of The Netherlands. As a laureate he follows in the footsteps of people like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and Malala Yousafzai.

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Sara Ketelaar
Programme LeadSouth Sudan PAX

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28 'words'

These are my 28 words that can build peace and which can help us to live peacefully together:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Compassion, Sympathy, Kindness,Truthfulness, Gentleness, Self-control, Humility, Forgiveness, Poverty, Mercy, Friendship, Trust, Unity, Purity, Faith, Hope. I love you, I miss you, thank you, I forgive you, we forget, together, I am wrong, I am sorry.

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