I will send them a prophet like you from among their own people;
I will tell him what to say, and he will tell the people everything I command (Dt 18:18).
Bishop Paride Taban was a charismatic figure. He had a gift of moving people through his deeds and actions. The first time I met Bishop Paride Taban was in June 2020. I was impressed with his simplicity and quiet nature. He did not act like other bishops I had known. He was a simple man with simple tastes. He had a charisma about him that made people follow him and somehow convinced me to visit Kuron Peace Village. I ended up working with Bishop Taban for the next three years.
Most people, when they near retirement age, are thinking about enjoying the good things of life and relaxing. Bishop Paride Taban actually ramped up his efforts at peace. He purposely chose the isolated community of Kuron because no one else was helping these forgotten people.
He arrived in Kuron after a two-day journey on a tractor. He spent years living in a tent, bathing in the Kuron River and eating simple foods. He spent his so-called golden years trying to reconcile grievances between the Toposa, Murle, Jie, Kachipo and other ethnic groups in that area.
What I remember most was his gentle, forgiving nature. Often there were staff who did something wrong and Bishop was the last person to recommend any punishment. He would always ask the person to confess and then carry on.
I was struck by his attempts at reconciliation and peace at all times. He wanted people to turn to God and not to the worldly desires that cause people’s downfall. Of course, there were those who took advantage of his forgiving and gentle nature. But he always had kind words for them too. Like Jesus and the prophets, his harshest words were reserved for those in positions of power and influence.
Bishop was fond of telling jokes. He always had a quick wit and a way of talking that made one very relaxed and peaceful. He was always approachable and frequently took time to discuss issues with the local leaders.
I remember how one time he asked me on a field trip to a nearby lake created by overflow from the Kuron River. Off we went with our walking sticks. While we walked he regaled me with stories of their first years out here. After an hour we arrived at a serene place where only birds were singing. We sat on logs gazing out over a very beautiful scene. Then this man pulls a bag out of his back pack and gives us popcorn! I was so surprised and delighted. He was such a down-to-earth human being.
I will miss Bishop Paride. However, I thank God for the time I had with him. I will cherish his wisdom and witness. I hope I am found worthy to carry the message of peace and nonviolence that this prophet of God left with us. May he rest in peace.
Please also read returned Maryknoll lay missioner Susan Nagele’s tribute to Bishop Taban.