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Remembering Biship Johnson Akio Mutek.

By Steve Paterno March 22, 2013 - Bishop Johnson Akio Mutek of Catholic Diocese of Torit is no more. He departed us last Sunday. For God's shepherd like Bishop Mutek, they embrace death with all it's pain and sorrow for the sake of eternal life. However, the death of such personality with significant influence, leaves a lot of sadness and memories. I came to know Bishop Mutek in Torit in early 1990s. The then young priest impressed us; full of energy and enthusiasm. He organized youth sports and the church choirs. The Swahilli songs and their translations in local languages were particularly big hits. If I think of my youthful years in Torit, the sports, and the choir, I am reminded of Bishop Johnson Akio Mutek. When the government in Khartoum intensified aerial bombardment of Torit town, the church decided that the youth must build shelter in the outskirt of town so as to escape Antinov bombardment. After we cleared the road and the bushes of what would be our settlement, a place call Biyanya, just south of Torit, a raging wild fire engulfed us. Our only defence was a cleared perimeter of no more than fifty feet in diameter. The more older and wiser kids among us decided that in order to save our skins, we must set another counter fire from our perimeter before the mother fire approached our position. The briliant plan worked and we were saved. Ironically, after everything settled down, we discovered that our camp is lacking fire. I am not sure as to what happened, but I suspect that during the ensuing panic when the fire engulfed us, some of the kids or one kid put our camp fire off. Now, we were presented with a new challenge: we will never cook or eat. Fortunately, the then Bishop Parade Taban, Fr. Mutek, and Fr. Jimmy, came to our rescue. Unfortunately, none of them had any sources of fire, such as a match or a lighter, items of luxury in bush life. Bishop Taban then worked out his miracle to our amazement. The Bishop, who is a non smoker, rolled up a paper in a fashion a tobacco is rolled, but only large in shape. He then staffed it with pieces of dried grass and lighted it up with his car lighter and bloom, the fire. We ended up that fateful day playing games, listening to Fr. Jimmy's story about typical life of the youth in the West, and then concluded the night with a rosary prayer as well as battling the encroaching insects and bugs. Nonetheless, we survived to face the next challenge. Few days later, the notorious Antinov arrived. By then, there were rumours making rounds that a new anti-aircraft gun, SAM-5, arrived the town and there was a real possibility of shooting down the high flying Antinov. Anyway, that mid morning, given our location, we watched the bomber with some level of courage, and then the newly acquired missile was fired at the Antinov and to our disappointment, it missed the plane. The Antinov continued south to at about our altitude and then turned back north, without dropping any bomb. Fr. Mutek who was in town rushed to us in his motorcycle and the first thing he told us is that even though the Antinov is notorious for its indiscriminate bombing, we were out of range of its target. In that remote area, Fr. Mutek used the odometer in his motorcycle to determine the distance between our settlement and the town. Fr. Mutek further reassured us that that Antinov, which flew by, never did any damage in the town or to any of our people and the reason could have been to the missle that nearly missed that plane. We were elated!!! So, if I think of war and its cruelty, particularly against the vulnerable young ones; and the caring and mentoring in such kind of difficulties, I am immediately reminded of Bishop Johnson Akio Mutek The last time I can vividly remember seeing Fr. Mutek in Torit was when I accompanied him to alter serve in the village of Loronyo. Our service in Loronyo coincided with a celebration of a lady from that village who happened to graduate from SPLA officers' cadre. We were invited to the lady's celebration. I became impressed when I found out the lady tamed a wild animal to become a pet. I explained to Fr. Mutek though my fascination is more with the birds and my intention to tame them. On our way back to the town, we were lucky to find one of the most beautiful bird in the world; guinea-fowl were right within our grip, crisscrossing the road. (The road of course is not your typical road as it is covered by grass from both sides and the middle. Only the tire tracks made it appeared like a road). So, we decided that we will capture the chick of the bird and I was going to tame it. That was when I discovered the lighter side of the priest. He will drive fast and dangerously close to the birds and then suddenly stop. We could jump out of the car and make a chase through the tall grass. Every time we tried the routine, we came empty handed. Fr. Mutek then resorted into a different method, trying to smash the birds with the car and hopping that by chance, we will get one to tame. That failed as well. I hope God grant me that one more chance so as one day when I meet Bishop Mutek I can jokingly question his driving skills and inability to capture a little chick of a little bird. However, God has his own plans. After departing Torit, l only met Fr. Mutek once in Nairobi at a gathering in someone's house. However, thanks God for making the world so small. The last time I talked with Bishop Johnson Akio Mutek was in late January of this year. He talked of a plan to erect a chapel at Himodonge, a site of massacre of the 1955, Torit mutiny. I also learn that in his last moment, he spoke of peace and reconciliation among the cattle raiding communities of Torit Diocese. May his soul rest in peace!!! Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at

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Publication:Sudan Tribune (Sudan)
Date:Mar 24, 2013
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