, 29 July, 2020 / 11:20 PM
As South Sudan marks the Martyrs, Heroes and Heroines Day on July 30, commemorating those who died during the liberation of the country, a Bishop in the East-Central African country has urged the people of God in the country to make wise choices amid their “too many pursuits” in life, hinting on the life experiences of Biblical personalities who lived purposeful lives.
In a message sent to ACI Africa ahead of the Thursday, July 30 event, Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban of South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Torit calls on the people of God in the nine-year-old African nation to overcome mistrust, promote a peaceful coexistence, and make the country a “peaceful Kingdom of God on earth.”
“Let us rebuild a new peaceful and developed South Sudan like any other peaceful countries in Europe, America, Asia and Africa,” Bishop Paride says and adds, “The blood of our martyrs is the seed of peace.”
In his message dubbed “let us awaken repent and focus”, the retired South Sudanese Prelate reflects on the life of King Solomon as “a good example of a leader who didn’t know how to get what he wanted.”
“We can learn from King Solomon’s costly mistakes; the king of Israel desperately pursued several unrelated goals in a vain attempt to satisfy himself,” Bishop Paride reflects in his two-page message.
Drawn from the Book of Ecclesiastes, the experience of King Solomon provides a good example of a leader who did not know how to get what he wanted and that “it took him a lifetime and an entire book to” narrow his focus on what he wanted, the 84-year-old Bishops says.
He explains, “By the time King Solomon wrote these words, he had reached a high level of success, but still felt empty, he couldn’t put his finger on why fulfilment continued to escape him. Because he lacked focus, he searched high and low, experimenting with all kinds of goals, yet never achieved satisfaction.”
Sadly, according to Bishop Paride, King Solomon attempted to solve an inward problem with an outward solution.
“The old axiom remains true,” he says, and adds, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape. This was certainly true of King Solomon’s futile attempt to reach his varied goals. He pursued eight goals in Ecclesiastes 2 alone.”
Bishop Paride says that king Solomon was focused on too many things in too short a time, pursued the wrong goals to reach his desired outcome and that “his self-serving goals were all wrong.”
“He (King Solomon) despaired because he never identified what he really wanted,” the retired Prelate reiterates in his reflection ahead of South Sudan’s Martyrs, Heroes, and Heroines Day, July 30.
He says that Christians can, however, learn from the Israelites leader who finally determined what really mattered and what he really wanted.
“How about you, me? Have you, I, figured out our focus?” the Bishop poses, and further probes, “How do we make major decisions? Do we have a way of determining our focus, based on what really matters or what really counts?”
He suggests a “checklist” for the people of God seeking to make decisions about where to invest their time and energy.
“When faced with a decision, ask yourself, is this consistent with my priorities? Is this within my area of competence? Can someone else do it better? What do my trusted friends say? Do I have the time and the capacity?” the retired Bishop counsels.
The founder of Holy Trinity Peace Village, an institution that promotes peaceful co-existence in the world’s youngest nation, emphasizes the importance of staying focused on set goals.
“When you say yes to an opportunity, get ready to focus,” he says, and adds, “Make to do lists. Set your priorities. Avoid clutter. Pursue excellence but avoid perfectionism. Question everything. Work to prevent procrastination. Control interruptions and distractions.”
“When you empower, keep eyes on but hands off. Use the calendar. Narrow your wedge, don’t try to do everything. That means you’ll have to say no to some good things,” he advises.
The retired South Sudanese Prelate who is athletic also provides the example of Paul in the New Testament accounts whose “absolute focus gave him absolute willingness to let go of nice things that didn’t matter.”
Some of the things that the Apostle had to let go to attain his focus, according to the Bishop, included his Hebrew heritage, his pure lineage from the tribe of Benjamin, his status as a strict Pharisee and his past zeal as a persecutor of the people of God.
“Paul so narrowed his focus that he discarded not only the things he once counted as gain, but he counted everything as garbage for the sake of obtaining Christ. He would lose it all if that allowed him to gain intimacy with Christ,” Bishop Paride reflects.
“Leaders who changed the world have this kind of sharp focus,” he continues to reflect and lists the example of Abraham who left his homeland, wealth, and friends for a new land because he focused on unseen kingdom; Joseph who endured hardship and prison because his dream focused on the greatness of God; and Moses who turned his back on Egypt because he focused on God’s plan.
Bishop Paride also gives the example of Stephen who preached an unpopular message and died a martyr because of his focus.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa