I lived during the hardest of wars, and I moved under the bombarding of cannons, but in all these terrible circumstances, we had many opportunities to reach people, and to create models of coexistence, no matter which tribe or religion they belong to.
I was born in the region of “Ofary”, Mqwi province, in the state of “Tourit” in 1936. My father used to work with a Greek merchant in his shop, and one day my father was accused by someone of stealing money from the store, so; my father was imprisoned. This was before my mother carried me in her womb. When my mother went to visit him in prison, my father thought she was pregnant with another man’s child and he kicked her in her stomach in order to cause her abortion.
However, my mother cried to God with a prayer, saying:”Do not make this child abort, so that I could prove that I didn’t do anything wrong. Help me, Lord.” Indeed, after my birth, I was completely like my father in appearance, and from that time on, he began to respect my mother again, and he was sure that he was mistaken in his sinful thoughts about her.
In 1940, my father was sent with a large group to the Katiri area, to saw wood during the colonization period. They were bringing people from all over Sudan, because this was the first place dedicated to sawing timber in southern Sudan.
We went with my father to Katiri, where we grew up, Muslims and Christians of all communities; we didn’t know tribalism. There was no church there, but a priest from Tourit came to lead the people in prayers, and we used to respect all religions.
After we finished our primary school in Katiri, we were transferred to Loui School of Missionaries, until 1964, when all the missionaries were dismissed. I was in the fourth term of the Theology Study, and I was assigned to be the manager of the Faculty of Minor Theology, instead of the Italian manager who was dismissed, It was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in my life.
The war began, one day I was with a priest; we were bringing food supplies from Lyria; about 42 miles from Juba, where some soldiers put ammunition in the priest’s vehicle. Both of us were arrested, we were almost killed that day. Afterwards, we were transferred to a prison in Juba. We called Mr. Abel Aller, who is a lawyer in Khartoum. He asked the government to show all the ammunition and uniforms they found in the priest’s car. When they checked it, they discovered that it was made in Russia. The military uniform contained the number of the Sudanese army. That’s how they were sure it belonged to the Sudanese army, and we had nothing to do with it. In accordance to that, we were released from prison.
Despite I was a skilled hunter, and I had a small gun and a small weapon before war, in addition to a huge weapon for elephant hunting, however, when the war broke out, I destroyed all these weapons, for I didn’t want them to be used by any Sudanese citizen to kill any other citizen, no matter what his religion or his tribe was.
The war was at its peak in 1965, many of the enlightened individuals were assassinated in Juba, others fled to Uganda and Kenya. While we remained until the peace agreement in Addis Ababa was signed in 1972. There were only three priests in Juba, and the rest fled abroad.
The war broke out again in 1983, when I was the bishop of Tourit, in this war I lost many lives. The government was fighting the rebels and they had no supplies, so we had to serve the people in the places where they were displaced. So I established the Council of Churches of the New Sudan, along with the Bishop of Bor, and Bishop Nathaniel Karank.
We started serving people in those areas controlled by the People’s Army, in the middle of daily bombarding cannons. When the BBC asked me: “Bishop of Taban, are you with the People’s Army?”
“No, the People’s Army is here with me, but I’m not with it!”, I answered.
In 1988, I was on my way back from Rome. All the roads were closed, people were dying in Tourit, and buried in mass graves. So I asked the government to send a convoy loaded with food, the convoy included about 100 vehicles. The People’s Army was angrily throwing bombs on these vehicles!!
We traveled 84 miles from Juba to Torit in more than one month, we started moving on the 21st of May 1988, and we arrived in Torit on the 1st of July 1988.
Many of the vehicles were destroyed on the road, and many people died, I used to bury them on the sides of the road every day. The People’s Army radio broadcasted that I was among the murdered people, but thank God I arrived, and I was alive. God’s blessing was with us, so we managed to deliver a little amount of food, out of a hundred vehicles; half of which were destroyed, and more than 100 on board were wounded, and sixty of them were killed.
In February 1989, the SPLA took over Torit City, it was believed that we were supporting the government; so we were captured (three other priests and I), and we stayed in the wilderness for a hundred days, where we were fed boiled beans of corn only, we suffered a lot; our bodies were full of lice, but we always prayed: “O Lord, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. Eventually, after hundred days of international pressure, we were released, and ready to serve the people once again.
In 2004, I was sixty eight years old and I decided to retire from the pastoral management in Torit, just seven years before the official retirement age, in order to establish the Village of Peace, as I always say, that we, as the people of Southern Sudan, need to forgive each other, and find a model for a cooperative village, where Muslims and Christians live in harmony. So, we have established “the village of Koron for Peace”.
In the village, there is a school, with children descending from 24 different tribes; most of them lived in bomb shelters under the ground. Some of these children are peacemakers now, they don’t call themselves after their tribes, and they are either Southern Sudanese or Sudanese. Collectively as sons and daughters of one Father in Heaven, we are all created in the image of God.
In those days, the Council of Churches of Sudan formed a platform for all churches, from all over the world. We went to Europe and America to declare the need for making peace. We asked all countries not to buy oil from Sudan, because oil revenues were used to kill innocent people. The efforts of the church were fruitful and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005.
Now that I have retired, I received many awards from the United Nations in Geneva, from former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and I received an award from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and I also received the Worship Award from the Roosevelt Foundation in the Kingdom of Norway. Most of these awards were an appreciation for the humanitarian work for equality in all religions.