South Sudan’s Peace Marathon Attracts 1,000 Participants, Including 84-Year Retired Bishop

Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban, Torit diocese, South Sudan taking part in the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Marathon in Juba on November 9, 2019
Credit: Egily Hakim

A day after South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the Vice-President designate Dr. Riek Machar agreed to postpone the formation of a unity government by 100 days, a move that has been welcomed by various groups including Christian leaders, the country’s capital hosted a marathon that attracted some 1,000 participants among them, the 84-year Bishop Emeritus of Torit diocese, Paride Taban.  

“I ran 1 Km, with Barnaba Marial; we were the first group to start. We went up to the point and then afterwards, the others came and started the race,” Bishop Emeritus of South Sudan’s Torit diocese, Paride Taban told ACI Africa, Saturday November 9 after the Fun Marathon at John Garang Mausoleum where he was alongside the Presidential Advisor and Special Envoy, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

“When they (people) ask – how old are you? I say, I am 84 years young, not old,” Bishop Taban said hinting at his strategy to keep fit.

The 10km marathon was organized by Biking and Hiking Club with the purpose of getting South Sudanese run for peace and reconciliation in their country that has been experiencing civil conflict since December 2013.

“Our intention was to bring the population of Juba out, South Sudanese and non-South Sudanese alike to come out and participate,” the organizer and Co-founder of Biking and Hiking Club Ambassador Thiik Giir Thiik told ACI Africa correspondent.

He added, “Who else can promote that peace other than the Peace Ambassador Himself Bishop Paride Taban?”

“He (Paride) took a challenge and said if can bring the peace in this country, I’ll do my best with the young people that want to be inspired by people like me to follow the same footsteps to try and preach peace,” Thiik who is part of a 37-member club disclosed.

Bishop Paride has received awards including the Sergio Vieira de Mello Peace Prize awarded by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his work at the Holy Trinity Peace Village in Kuron.

He also won the Hubert Walter Award for Reconciliation and Interfaith Cooperation given by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby for co-founding the ecumenical New Sudan Council of Churches, building Kuron Peace Village, and chairing the mediation initiative between the Government of South Sudan and COBRA Faction of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army.

Bishop Taban who was the first leader of the New Sudan Council of Churches spoke about his secret to keeping fit saying that every morning he runs “counting 1000 times and making all types of drills and jumping like (a) frog 100 metres.”

“This has become a routine for me because they say, if you want to have a ripe old age, you must worry less and play more, that is my principle,” the Catholic Leader who has witnessed the suffering of South Sudanese since he was young advised the young people of the country.

“Why all these problems of war?” Bishop Taban probed referencing the protracted conflict in his country and added, “What we want is coexisting, playing and running together as brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Taban has outlined the secrets for a ripe old age as: worry less, play more; ride less, walk more; frown less, smile more; eat less, chew more; drink less, breath more; preach less, act more; waste less, save more; go less, rest more.

The Marathon was supported by a number of organizations including M-gurush, The Dawn Newspaper, South Sudan’s Athletics Federation, Juba Grand Hotel and KCB Bank.

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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
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