A road to peace

A road to peace

Bishop Taban Paride's inspirational vision for Holy Trinity Peace Village Kuron shows where the road to peace may lead in South Sudan.

Violence has become uncommon in Kuron there since Bishop Paride established the Holy Trinity Peace Village in 2005. 

Story and photos by Thorkild Jørgensen.

'If cattle raiders from neighbouring states invade our territory,' Bishop Taban says, 'we work very hard to tell the community that they shouldn’t go there to take revenge by killing.

'We neither have soldiers nor police in that area, so the community has to solve the problem, and the chiefs are supporting this.'

Multiple programmes funded by the EU and delivered by Norwegian Church Aid give opportunities for Kuron's citizens. The value underlining every activity in this unique place is co-operation and peace.

A peace village welcome

In August this year an EU delegation flew from Juba to experience the village for themselves. Accompanying them were Wani Joseph Emmanuel from the Peace Village's Juba office and Norwegian Church Aid worker Jonas Halvorsen who lives and works in Kuron.

'The purpose of coming to Kuron today,' Emmanuel begins, 'is to visit the projects that our partners support so that the delegation can see with their own eyes what is happening here and the impact it has on people.

'Their coming is a blessing because we can show them that what they are giving is going in the right direction,' he explains.

Not far from the airstrip a large group of Toposa women greet the plane and its passengers with chanting, dancing and clapping.

'MAF has given Peace Village a lot, and that is why we choose MAF.' Father Emmanuel 

Simple answers

The delegates are soon bumping along the uneven dirt road that leads to Kuron Primary Health Centre, the first stop on their tour.

At the health centre Toposa children are monitored for malnutrition. One by one the mothers bring their small children for measurement while the rest sit around chatting and smoking pipes.

A single Toposa man overlooks the crowd of women with distinctive facial piercings and tribal markings on their faces, arms, backs and bellies.

Measuring the Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) is a simple way of assessing the nutritional status of a child. Weight, height and age are also meticulously logged.

Mothers of malnourished children receive packets of ready-to-use therapeutic food, composed of peanut paste, milk, and a special mix of vitamins and minerals and packets of Supercereal Plus to supplement their breastmilk.  

The diet meets a malnourished child’s basic nutritional needs and the growth and health of the child from week to week is tangible.

New careers

Further into the bush, the road leads to Kuron Vocational Training Centre where young men from the community learn skills that are far from the traditional cattle herding they know.

With big smiles, the instructors willingly show the visitors how the students are taught the techniques of carpentry and joinery, of sewing and tailoring, how to make bricks out of clay and cement, and how to weld.

The training centre provides food, and the boys have a mattress each on the floor of the dormitory.

Early education

Next stop is St. John Paul II Nursery School where a little sign on the gate commands that you to only speak English inside the school.

A group of small children in brown uniforms greets us with singing, 'We are happy to see you, we are happy to welcome you!'

The children leave as the school day is over for these little ones and the amiable teachers give us a tour of empty classrooms.

Blackboards show how the pupils are taught the alphabet, each letter representing a word in English.

Buy, don’t steal

The journey down the bumpy road continues to the Kuron Village Base we the delegates meet Bishop Taban for lunch.

Bishop Taban explains the original purpose of the village.

One goal was to increase the community’s water security with water from bore holes. Before they were living on milk and blood from the cows.

'Education is another pillar,' Bishop Taban says. 'If you can attain the tools to earn money then you can buy cows instead of stealing them.'

Learning something new

The compound next door, St. Thomas Primary School has space for a great number of pupils.

The delegation steps inside a few of the classrooms and each member addresses the class.

After an update by teachers and administrators the party moves on. It is time to return to the MAF plane. 

A long road to travel 

In the air Father Emmanuel share more of the vision for Kuron.

'We want to build a community that will be independent of workers from outside. We train our own people at the vocational centre, but we have also embarked on exporting local young men to be educated, so that one day they can come back and deliver services to the community. We have one who is studying Peace and Development and others who are doing nursing and other courses in Uganda and in Sudan who are paid by Peace Village.'

'We have been flying with MAF ever since we founded the Holy Trinity Catholic diocese of Torit,' Father Emmanuel continues. 'We built the partnership long ago, because MAF offers services... to places that are difficult to reach by land.'

'We were once able to drive from Juba to Kuron, but now Kuron is inaccessible by land. MAF is safer compared to commercial airlines and always have the system which is controlled. MAF has also given Peace Village a lot, and that is why we choose MAF.'