Promoting Peace within Communities: Bishop Emeritus Taban Paride, a true South Sudanese Hero
18 February 2013 - There was an air of excitement today at UNICEF South Sudan Offices when United Nations Peace Prize winner Bishop Taban Paride graced the office in Juba. Bishop Paride is the winner of the 2013 Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize in recognition for his efforts in promoting peace in communities in South Sudan.
The Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize named after the late Vieira de Mello, former United Nations human rights chief, who died in a bombing in Iraq 10 years ago recognises an individual, community or institution seen as having made an exceptional contribution to reconciliation of communities or groups in conflict, and whose example can be duplicated elsewhere.
“The award that I have received does not belong to me but for the people of South Sudan who have worked closely with me in promoting peace in our new nation. I am happy that South Sudan has found a place on the map as a country that has people, who promote peace,” said Bishop Paride.
Bishop Paride started the Holy Trinity Peace Village in Kuron, Eastern Equatoria following his retirement from the Diocese of Torit in 2004 as a way of combating tribal conflicts and tribalism due to cattle raiding. Cattle raiding is a common phenomenon that led to hostility, insecurity and even deaths among communities in Kuron.
“We started the peace village because we wanted to breakdown tribalism. Now the Toposa, the Jie, the Murle and the Kachipo who were quarrelling because of cattle raiding and could not move for even move for 2km from their villages because of the killings can now move for over 270 km in the different villages. The communities no longer refer to each other as enemies but as friends,” said an elated Paride.
So how did Paride and his team manage to bring peace and harmony to communities that were once hostile to each other?
“This was achieved through sports for peace whereby the cattle warriors were engaged in games such as football to promote peace and understanding in the community. Community leaders were also sensitized and trained in community policing and were tasked with the responsibility to inform other leaders of stolen cattle. Theatre groups portraying the consequences of cattle raiding were used to sensitize the communities and all this and more helped to bring change,” he added.
Though much has been achieved in the peace village, it has not been an easy road for Paride. Challenges such as convincing the communities to send their children especially girls to school, lack of funds to implement activities, poor infrastructure and few partners on the ground are but a few issues that slow down peace initiatives. This however does not deter him or slow down the peace building activities. Bishop Paride plans to offer trainings and to mentor South Sudanese from different areas to be agents of peace and to replicate the activities in Kuron in other areas of South Sudan. The Holy Trinity Peace Village will serve as a training and mentorship center.
UNICEF South Sudan is planning to foster collaboration with Bishop Taban on Peace Building and Conflict Mitigation initiatives in 2013.
Finally, what message does Bishop Paride have for South Sudanese?
“What makes South Sudan are the different ethnic groups, the different tribes and different regions; therefore we need to embrace the different cultures and the diversity in our communities for harmonious living,” concluded Paride .
UNICEF South Sudan congratulates Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban and the people of South Sudan for the well-deserved UN Peace Prize.
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