South Sudanese Bishop, Paride Taban, will receive the Freedom of Worship Award, one of the Four Freedoms Awards presented every other year in Middelburg, the Netherlands. This year’s awards will be presented in Middelburg on the 16th May.
Han Polman, Chairman of the Roosevelt Foundation, said that Bishop Taban will receive the award for his extraordinary efforts toward bringing peace to war-torn South Sudan. The Four Freedoms Award is one of the most prestigious awards recognising work defending fundamental human rights. Earlier recipients include Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai and Angela Merkel.
Bishop Taban is an important beacon of hope to millions of people in South Sudan and beyond. He is a rare figure in a fractured country, someone who has excellent contact with leaders on all sides and is not afraid to call them to account. He discusses the road to peace with government leaders as well as leaders of armed groups. Bishop Taban has been actively involved in peace work for more than 60 years. At one point, he was held by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, when they were still freedom fighters, because they disapproved of his work.
When Bishop Taban retired from his official role in the church, he founded Kuron Peace Village in 2005 in Eastern Equatoria, a thinly populated area in the southeast of the country. Here, far from the unrest, young people and community leaders learn how to live peacefully together and acquire skills in how to resolve conflict. They bring these skills with them when they return to their communities.
When South Sudan became independent in 2011, underlying ethnic discord was largely ignored, severely limiting the possibility of sustainable peace. Salva Kiir, a Dinka, became president in a power-sharing arrangement, but later dismissed vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer, and the rest of his cabinet. This instigated widespread fighting between the Dinkas and the Nuers, the two biggest tribes in the country.
This was not the only division. The country fragmented even further with fighting breaking out between other parties with numerous long-standing conflicts. Much of the population has fled due to the fighting, agricultural land remains fallow, hunger and lawlessness prevail and scarce resources are manipulated. To achieve sustainable peace, it is crucial that peace processes happen simultaneously at the local community level and at the national and international level. This is what Bishop Taban and Kuron Peace Village are working towards.
The Dutch peacebuilding organization PAX helped establish the Kuron peace village and remains active in an advisory role with the peace work in the village and in supporting local peace committees.
The Four Freedoms Awards are presented each year to men and women whose achievements have demonstrated a commitment to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms – freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
The other 2018 Four Freedom Awards laureates are environmental activist Christiana Figueres Olsen from Costa Rica (International Award), Turkish journalist Erol Önderoglu (Freedom of Expression), Belgian activist Emmanuel de Merode (Freedom from Want) for his work in Congo, and the Nepalese Urmila Chaudhary (Freedom from Fear) for her work against child slavery.