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Paride Taban: building peace in South Sudan

Logo https://stories.paxforpeace.nl/paride-taban-building-peace-in-south-sudan

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A long life, full of war. And until today, offering that long life to one goal: freedom and peace. Since the '60s the emeritus-bishop Paride Taban has been a peacemaker. 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 function as prelate, Bishop Taban works tirelessly to bring peace to South Sudan. The young country has been torn by war since its independence from Sudan.

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"One of my first war memories is being on my uncle's shoulders, running from the violence, and seeing people around getting slaughtered. In my life and that of my people war has been a constant factor ever since."

"That I still grew up without fear, I have my mother to thank for. She taught me to concentrate on the suffering of others who need more help and comfort than I. That lesson has always helped me to overcome my fear in risky 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 land to graze. The climate is harsh. Because of the many conflicts in the region weapons and munitions are widely available and government presence is limited.

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 gotten out of control. This has lead to outbreaks of violence, and many people have been killed.

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Cruelties and unsolved conflicts from the past form a breeding ground for fear, hatred and renewed conflict.

To prevent this, it is important to break the circle of violence and revenge, to support the local population in overcoming the hatred, to mediate conflicts and to build trust.

Because of their tenacity, local peace activists have succeeded in breaking this circle in various ways. A local network of peace organizations has been established that work together closely, even across borders.

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Peace & sports

Bishop Paride Taban approached PAX in 2005 to develop a program together, aimed at young armed warriors of the nomadic tribes in the borderlands.

The Peace & Sports programme brought rival communities and warriors together and offered sport as an alternative to violence in breaking the spiral of violence. In collaboration with local organizations young warriors were trained to become sport leaders and those educated trained as Peace & Sports facilitators. Peace meetings and cross border sports tournaments were also organized.

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A peace village in South Sudan

"When after twenty years of war peace was finally made between the North and the South, I got a piece of land from the South-Sudanese government. I could finally fulfill my dream: building a peace village."

"A place where different people can live together in peace. A place where there are no fights over cattle or land and no tribal conflicts."

"A place of hope, harmony and reconciliation. A place amongst the poor and the most abandoned. A peace village as an example to my country, that suffered from war and violence for too long."

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"My dream has been fulfilled, also thanks to the support of PAX and other international friends. In Kuron Peace Village people of different tribes live together peacefully and new villages have arisen in the surroundings."

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

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Bishop Taban, along with a number of women leaders, also works to improve the position of women and girls in South Sudan.

In Kuron he established a boarding school where dozens of girls from different ethnic (conflicting) groups are going to school. This is unusual for girls in South Sudan. They are often forced into arranged marriages at a very young age (as young as 11 years old) in exchange for cows as a dowry.

With singing, dancing and theatre performances, girls from this school spread the message to stop child marriages, cattle raiding and violence against girls and women.

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"In 2015 we established the Kuron Peace Academy with programs for peace education which uses sport and theatre among other things. PAX is helping us with this project."

"For me the Kuron Peace Academy represents hope. It´s an inspiring meeting place, a place to learn, a retreat center, but above all a center for peace and reconciliation."

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Every year the Roosevelt Four freedoms Awards are handed out to men, women and organizations that give substance to Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms: Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.

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On the 16th of May 2018 Paride Taban received the Four Freedoms 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. With this award he follows the footsteps of people like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and Malala Yousafzai.

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Sara Ketelaar
Program Lead
South Sudan PAX

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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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