The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Yei, Hillary Luate Adeba, recently retired after serving for the last twenty years. According to the constitution of the Episcopal Church, a bishop can retire from active service after clocking 65 years.
Radio Tamazuj caught up with and sounded out Bishop Adeba about his achievements, regrets, and future plans. Below are excerpts:
Q: When did you retire?
A: I have been the Bishop for Yei diocese for the last 20 years and I stepped down on the 1st of January 2021. I have stepped down with all happiness because my time as a bishop is over and I thank God for having kept me in this service for the last 20 years.
Q: You have been in the seat for the last twenty years, what were some of your achievements?
A: Yes, I served 20 years in this position and as I stepped down, I am leaving a strong united church in Yei. As a bishop, I had two main targets, and one was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Evangelism) to the communities in Yei under my areas of operation in the church and the second achievement was the establishment of education as a center for human resource development. We constructed several primary schools in all the Episcopal churches in Yei, the establishment of Yei Teachers Training College, Vocational Training College, and the establishment of Martha Medical Center. We have also set a foundation for the construction of the modern diocese of Yei. We also constructed a modern house for the Bishop, a modern guest house in Yei, and many other good things. We were interrupted by the 2016 conflict.
Q: Apart from these positive developments, what relationship with development partners are you leaving for your successor?
A: I have no regrets because I have been working under the constitution of the church and I have created good relations for Yei diocese in London and with other partners and this relationship and partnership is very strong and I will leave this vision to the new incoming bishop.
Q: What challenges did you face while serving as Bishop of Yei Diocese?
A: This is one of the most difficult areas. I have faced challenges. I was accused and was to be removed from the role of being a Bishop and many people from the church, including elders, wrote a petition to the Archbishop for me to be removed from my position but all investigations involving lawyers and senior members of the church proved I was innocent.
Another major challenge I faced included an attack on my family in 2016. 15 well-armed men attacked me at my residence and all my valuable items including phones, money, laptop computers, and a three months old brand new church Toyota Land cruiser vehicle were robbed from me. Later, the car was recovered.
Again, recently before my retirement, a group of people accused me and a petition was written against me to the archbishop of the Central Equatoria Internal province but the issue was resolved peacefully and we reconciled.
Another major challenge I experienced was the issue of the 2016 general insecurity in Yei and that was due to the conflict. Many people fled Yei for safety to refugee camps and we stood firm to speak on behalf of the ordinary people left in Yei to be protected and given humanitarian assistance. We spoke strongly on behalf of the voiceless people to the international community and international media houses about the situation in Yei.
As I have stepped down, we are still working very hard to see the unity of the people and the congregation of Yei and we shall continue to promote the unity of the sixty-four tribes of South Sudan amidst difficult challenges.
Q: What vision and plans are you leaving to the new Bishop of the diocese of Yei?
A: We have already laid a foundation and we planned for development programs and I expect the new bishop to pick from these areas. We need to build two or three more primary schools and one secondary school in all the six archdeaconries of the Episcopal Diocese of Yei.
The church in Yei should pick and start the Yei Centenary University with all faculties including sciences, health, education, law, and other relevant courses like mechanics and engineering. We have all colleges like Reconcile International on Leadership, Alison Theological College, Yei Vocational Training College, Martha Health Center, and many secondary schools in Yei and we want the new Bishop to take a lead in those areas in his plan of work. We have also laid the foundation for the construction of the new cathedral at the diocese of Yei and we all need to join hands to build this 21st-century cathedral.
Q: What are your plans after retirement?
A: If someone retires and he is in good health, I will be an elder in the community and I will no longer be in the administration of the church. As a priest, I will not give up on preaching. I will be engaging myself in community peace dialogues and if the archbishop wants to assign me another duty I am ready to take it up.
As for now, I want to go to the village to focus on community issues affecting them because the villagers have been forgotten and the NGOs have been concentrating their services in Yei town only. I am looking at doing small programs in the rural areas, like teaching in the schools, village empowerment schemes, workshops, pieces of training and to begin community transformation programs in Otogo, Mugwo, Tore, Lasu, and many other villages, once there is peace and stability in the villages.
Q: What is your message to the government and the actors in the conflict in South Sudan?
A: I want to see the government and the local government structures in the county formed so that there is peace and stability in the country. I also need to see the encouragement of continuous peace dialogue so that there is peace all over the country. I am appealing to all actors, including the government and the other non-signatories like Thomas Cirilo of NAS and Paul Malong and Pagan Amum, to embrace the spirit of peace dialogue to end the suffering of South Sudanese in all corners of the country.
Q: What is your last message to the people of Yei and the church leaders in the Episcopal Diocese?
A: To the people of Yei, let’s all join hands and work for peace because we are tired of this conflict and we must pursue peace through dialogue. To the cattle keepers and the farmers in Central Equatoria, they need to address their challenges through peaceful dialogue and not involve themselves in conflict but be at peace.
To the members of the church, I want you to elect one new leader and support one candidate in peace, and let the selection and appointment of the new bishop be done in a peaceful way because I want to leave a united church in Yei. And as I have retired, I am really happy and I am still thinking about what to do in helping local communities in Yei and thank you very much for the interview.