A Tribute To The Remarkable Determination And Achievement Of Our Dr. Emmanuel Taban
On Thursday 25 October 2018, Emmanuel Taban received his 3rd degree at Wits University in Johannesburg. Having arrived in Johannesburg as a teenage refugee in 1995, with nothing other than the clothes he was wearing and no place to stay, through his unbelievable faith in life and unstoppable determination, he not only qualified as a medical doctor, but then specialized as a physician and has just completed his second specialization as a pulmonologist – in lung disease! If anything is a tribute to the human spirit, this is, and we congratulate him with all our hearts, we are proud of his achievement and wish him every blessing in his service to humanity in the future. A great life lies ahead.
We invite our readers to read his story, written in his own words, given below. If anything is, this is enough to restore our hope in life and humanity! Read on!
My name is Emmanuel Taban. I was born in South Sudan in 1976 into a Catholic family. My father was a soldier in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. He died in March 1993, during a clash with government soldiers. Shortly after this, these soldiers went to our house, and took my mother away. They put her in prison for two months. I was away at the time, being a boarder at a Catholic school. I went home for the December Holidays. On Christmas Eve I attended the Midnight Mass in our local church, and on my way home afterwards, soldiers arrested me. They took me to prison in Juba and then to Port Sudan.
In this prison I was constantly interrogated about my father and brother. They tortured me and beat me. I had to go dig salt in the harbour from morning to evening, with no food all day. It was only at night that I was given some bread to eat. The torture and beatings went on for 3 months. After some time, I was approached by the commander of the prison who said that he would help me, on condition that I become a Muslim. This was my only hope, and I accepted his proposal. They changed my name to Nazir – which means follower of Mohammed. I had to learn the Muslim prayers and the Koran. They then sent me to a centre of instruction for boys in the Muslim way of life, near the border of Eritrea. I was guarded by 3 soldiers. They said that the instructions would last 3 years after which I would be sent to Yemen for further studies.
I had not been there long when I was commended for good progress. This entitled me to more freedom – I could move around without soldiers guarding me all the time. I took the very first opportunity to escape. I walked for 3 days until I reached the border of Eritrea, but once there, I was put in jail for 45 days, because I had no documents. I was unable to explain, because no one could speak English. On 15 September they released me and gave me a temporary document, but this was in their language – Tigris – which I could not understand!
Soon after that I met a friend of my father. He helped me to get proper documents and helped with some money. It would have been too much of a risk for me to go back to my family, so I made my way to a seaport and got onto a cargo boat to Mozambique. From there I proceeded to South Africa. On 23 November, 1995 I arrived in Johannesburg with no money and no place to go! All I did know was the name of the Comboni Missionaries who work both in South Africa and Sudan. I found their number in the phone book and contacted them. They allowed me to stay with them. Father Henry got me into Jeppe Boys High School where I did matric. Father Joe Sandri did me the very great service of finding a bursary for me to enter Medical School. Thanks to the Comboni Missionaries, I graduated as a medical doctor from Medunsa University, after which I specialized as a physician then completed a second specialization in October 2018 at Wits University as a specialist in lung disease. Happily, Comboni Brother Peter, who mentored me along my way, was able to attend the graduation and my gratitude is immense.