South Sudan Bishop Who Won Clinton Award: Devil Behind Christian Apathy Toward Third World Plight

A South Sudan Bishop has warned that the devil is behind the apathy present in some Christian churches and communities that allows them to relax and enjoy comforts while ignoring the plight of suffering people in third world countries.

"The Christian churches need to become more involved in advocacy," Bishop Elias Taban of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and Uganda said in a phone interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday.

"God has made us stewards of the entire world, (we need to) get involved in building the third world countries, in terms of prayer and physical support," he continued. "When we relax behind our comfortable zones, the problems will continue and come closer."

Taban was recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) during a private ceremony on Wednesday for a remarkable life in which he has influenced an entire region and many people around the world.

The Bishop is a former child soldier who grew up during Sudan's civil wars, but managed to escape and earn diplomas in civil engineering and theology. He returned to Sudan and became a pastor, helping the devastated churches, and began building schools, orphanages and hospitals throughout the region. Today, he serves as the general director of a water wells project, which is restoring entire communities and providing both water and work for residents.

"Each year, honorees are nominated by the CGI community based on their visionary leadership, demonstrated impact, and sustainable and scalable work in solving global issues," the Clinton Global Initiative has said. "Bishop Taban's courage and selfless efforts have saved many lives, and after the war, he became known throughout South Sudan as he built schools, orphanages, and hospitals in the region."

In his interview with CP, Taban said that he hopes what people will be able to take from his story is that the 11 million-strong nation of South Sudan is in the process of being built. The country gained independence from the Republic of Sudan in 2011, and over 60 percent of the population are reported to be Christians.

Many Christian families are still stranded in the Republic of Sudan, however, and are surviving in poor living conditions in refugee camps, hoping to be rescued by organizations such as Barnabas Fund, who are transporting them into South Sudan where they can enjoy greater religious freedom.

"I hope that all of these awards, the recognition, and whatever comes, will be able to encourage people to partner with us and get involved in our nation that will be built on a foundation that will fear Christ," Taban said.

The Bishop had previously spoken with CP while raising awareness for the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) agreement, aimed at restricting the sale of arms and ammunition that often fall in the wrong hands in war-torn regions and help supply child soldier armies.

While there has been progress on the issue over the past year, with over 100 nations signing the ATT, the world continues facing up to major atrocities, such as the chemical weapon attack in Syria in August that killed 1,429 people and over 400 children.

Taban insisted that Muslims and any one group of people cannot be blamed for such atrocities, and argued that people needed to be able to look across religious and faith lines to find "the root cause behind the anger driving men who are willing to blow themselves up to kill others."

"I strongly believe that it is the lack of the fear of God in the hearts of men," the Bishop said, and noted that "the devil has found an opportunity" by hiding behind the actions of those who say they represent Islam.

"We must know that the enemy is there also to destroy Muslims," the bishop added.

The South Sudan Bishop suggested that people need to look past religious differences if they want to work for peace.

"For people to move away from such violence, people need to see beyond religious differences," Taban continued.

"People are quick to jump and blame the Muslims (for terrorist acts), but if we can see beyond Islam, and we can see it is the devil who is always there for destruction."

Taban praised the Clinton Global Initiative, established in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton and later joined by his daughter, Chelsea, and wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The initiative says that it aims to bring together global leaders "to create innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges."

"The most important thing the Clinton Global Initiative is doing is giving us exposure, giving us connections that open up doors," the Bishop continued.

One grassroots project that is being helped by this exposure is Water is Basic in South Sudan, where Taban serves as general director. The effort has so far drilled 433 water wells in the region, while at the same time providing employment for citizens devastated by the war.

"When people think of a water well, they think of people drinking water. But from where I come from, it's about more than clean drinking water. Now we have over 433 water wells that have been built up in South Sudan, and each water well has a community, which is supported by every member of the community, whether it is a Christian or Muslim," Taban explained.

"It opens up an environment of dialoge and an environment of peace building. And it's also big for evangelism too. We have come to understand that by providing physical water, we are also providing living water," he concluded.

The American Values Network provides a full biography on the life, trials and accomplishments of Bishop Taban.

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