Commemoration of Fr. Philip Abbas Ghaboush in London

by Nanne op 't Ende

5 July 2008

A nod of the head, a hint of grief. "Did you have a personal relationship to Fr. Philip?" "I am his son." "Please forgive me, I didn't know... I'm so sorry for your loss."

It has been a good five months since Philip Abbas Ghaboush passed away, leaving the Nuba people with one less hero. The Nuba in the UK, organised in Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad, have arranged a commemoration day for this exceptional man. I didn't come to attend as a journalist; I'm not taking photos or writing down names... I did bring some copies of 'Proud to be Nuba' with the interview I had with Father Philip in April 2006, and I'm happy to give a book to his son.

The lobby has slowly been filling up with Sudanese from all over the UK, most of them Nuba. There are Southereners, there are Darfurians and other Northerners, there are a few Nuba from abroad and there is one gawadja who doesn't seem to remember a single face.

Greetings and conversations; a hasty attempt to dress up the empty white walls with large photo-copied posters of the late leader of the United Sudan National Party, and handwritten slogans calling for unity. It's time for the commemoration to begin. The son and the gawadja are seated next to each other on the front row.

Speakers like Mohammed Ali and Amna Nagi talk about the great example the late Fr. Philip set to all Sudanese. Abduljaber Nur alDain stresses the similarities between the situation in the Nuba Mountains in the 1990s and Darfur today. A man from the Bija Congress highlights the need for the people from the marginalised areas to co-operate.

Suleiman Musa Rahhal calls upon the Nuba to unite and take their future in their own hands. Arop Madut-Arop warns the Nuba that they need to get their act together if they don't want to be left empty handed by the CPA. The khawadja hopes a new generation of Nuba politicians will work for the sake of their people with the same unfaltering courage and energy and passion that drove Philip Abbas Ghaboush.

Fr. Philip's son thanks the people for their kind words and stays clear from politics. His eldest brother Joseph calls from the United States to address the people gathered to commemorate his father. There is food and there are more speakers and there is an end to everything.

"My uncle always had a suitcase packed," says Fr. Philip's cousin in a private conversation after the official program. "he knew they could come for him any time, so he thought it was better to be prepared."


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