Taban Paride, Bishop Emeritus of Torit is convinced that a lasting peace is possible in South Sudan if only everybody is involved and contributes towards it; and most importantly if the quest for a lasting peace is done with the interest of people at heart, rather than individuals vested in selfish interests.
Last September, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir signed a peace agreement with Riek Machar a leader of rebel factions to end a civil war that has killed at least 50,000 people and displaced two million. The civil war started in 2013, fuelled by personal and ethnic rivalries.
According to Bishop Paride peace is possible in the young nation if the commitment towards its achievement is done on behalf of the people, especially the suffering masses in a country whose people are refugees in thousands, living in the neighbouring countries.
“The greatest thing we can do in this world when we want to bring peace is not to look at ourselves but look at others; look at what you can do to ease the suffering of others. Peace means sacrificing oneself for others, not for any reward in this world,” he explained adding that peace also means sharing with others our God given resources and talents.
Bishop Paride asserted that the contributing factors of conflict in South Sudan are largely tribalism, selfishness, illiteracy and too much guns in the hands of civilians which is a major concern and course of worry.
“The reason why I retired as Bishop of Torit Diocese, eight years before my age of retirement was because of the type of tribalism I saw among the people. I retired in order to find a small place where people can live together as brothers and sisters regardless of tribe, religion or social status. I founded the peace village in order to start a small group who can live together and slowly break the evil of tribalism,” he explained adding that tribe is good but tribalism is an evil, and this is what is destroying the young nation.
“What is also destroying our country is ignorance and illiteracy; these are the factors that we should fight rather than fighting each other. My principle now is to start a school from nursery up to senior secondary school and, if God gives me more time, up to university. I believe that once people’s mind is opened, once they become enlightened, they can begin to appreciate humanity and to be human; to love each other as sons and daughters of God.”
The Bishop indicated that lack of gun control is something that is extremely dangerous in South Sudan, and needs to be addressed immediately.
“In South Sudan you find the youth, anybody else, having guns. If we can get rid of these weapons the country will regain its sanity and people can live in peace without fear. Once I went to celebrate Mass in the village and during offertory people filled the baskets with bullets, saying that was all they had. To say that I was dumbfounded is an understatement: these are things which should not be there. Let the guns remain with the National Army and the Police, not with civilians.”
However, after all is said, Bishop Taban maintains his optimism, saying that one day the sound of guns will cease in South Sudan.
“The history of Europe talks about World Wars I and II, but they all ended. Anything started by human beings will have an end at some point, it is not eternal. However we need contribution from all these countries that have experienced similar situation as ours. We need to learn from them what they did to silence the sound of the gun once and for all,” he suggested adding that more than anything else, the country needs to put God in the forefront.
“We need to trust in our God, not guns. God can still perform a miracle in South Sudan. if peace cannot be achieved through human efforts, God will certainly make it happen.” (Pamela Adinda)