Tag Archives: Africa

March 9, Desert XII: Our Mission

The Diocese of Nouakchott covers the desert land of Mauretania. The local population is 99% Muslim, but there is a growing expatriate Christian community under the care of Bishop Martin Happe, a Missionary of Africa.

He wrote at the end of last year:

We in the Diocese of Nouakchott had the joy of living through a special moment of grace, culminating in a big feast: the golden jubilee of our Cathedral of Saint Joseph!

The visible sign of this grace are the two side aisles we have added to our cathedral, since it had become too small on Sundays, and also the new altar in Atar stone which I had the privilege of consecrating on Gaudete Sunday, 15 December, with two bishops, many visiting priests and numbers of faithful. Gaudete! an invitation to the whole Church, just  few days before Christmas, to be joyful. We had the grace to live this joy and taste it in an extraordinary way last 14 and 15 December.

But let’s not forget one thing: each time the Lord gives a particular grace to a person, a community, a people … this grace is always bound up in a new mission! Both the Old and New Testaments are full of examples. So we must not forget that the enlarged and refurbished cathedral has as its vocation to be the place of where the Church of Nouakchott gathers together. I recalled in my homily that the Greek word for church ‘ecclesia’  means a people called together. Here in Nouakchott, we are called together every Sunday to receive once more our mission: to be witnesses to the Love of God for every person. For us, this means first and foremost the Mauritanians, the people who make us welcome and to whom the Lord has sent us.

Wherever we are, we can feel like a voice crying in the wilderness; people are indifferent to the Church, or downright hostile, the faults obscuring the graces for them. But whether our desert is in the sand or in the city, our mission is to be witnesses to the Love of God for every person; first and foremost to the people who welcome us into their lives as neighbours, work colleagues or family. To witness to the Love of God rather than seeking conversions.

 

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24 February: Cardinal Lavigerie’s Campaign against Slavery, 3.

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It had taken three hundred years of campaigning to undo the Atlantic slave trade, often in the face of determined opposition from powerful men, but now the missionaries had made Pope Leo XII aware of the continuing situation in Africa. He wrote:

It is indeed manifest, by their testimony and word, that each year 400,000 Africans are usually thus sold like cattle, about half of whom, wearied out by the roughness of the tracks, fall down and perish there, so that, sad to relate, those travelling through such places see the pathway strewn with the remains of bones.

This horrific picture was conveyed to Leo by Cardinal Lavigerie, who now called for support from European governments, as he travelled to speak in their major cities. In London he related the methods used by the Tuaregs in the Western Sahara:

“Their hearts are as hard as the iron of their lances, and a handful of raw sorghum each evening, with a drop of water, are all that they give to the Slaves who travel, carrying the horrible Slave yoke. If anyone falls it is instant death – the experienced eye of the merchant can judge whether his victim is likely to escape from him by death before the end of the journey. If he feels sure of this, he finishes him off with one blow of his club – the hyenas and the jackals will come and devour their flesh, leaving blanched skeletons to mark the road to the markets of Morocco or Fez.”

A situation that is paralleled today, as thousands try to cross desert and sea to reach the gold-plated streets of Europe.

MMB

A cross made from a wrecked migrant boat on Lampedusa, Italy.

 

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22 February: Cardinal Lavigerie’s Campaign against Slavery, 1.

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From the 1860s onwards, as missionaries arrived in the interior of Africa south of the Sahara, it became clear that the work of William Wilberforce and the abolitionists earlier in the 19th century was far from complete. Although the slave trade across the Atlantic had been ended in 1807, and slavery itself abolished in the British Empire in 1833, the missionaries found that people were still being kidnapped and sold to Arab slavers across the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The European powers, while busily carving up Africa between them, had agreed in Berlin in 1885 to work for the suppression of slavery in Africa. It was time to take them at their word.

Saint Daniel Comboni, founder of the Verona Fathers had died in 1881. His life’s work had been in Sudan, where an ancient slave trade was still being savagely practised by the Arab colonisers. He saw that ‘In Central Africa, slavery remains as flourishing as ever, but the cries of the victims are never heard far away in Europe. The desolation continues and will continue for a long time.’ It was reports like his, as well as those sent to Cardinal Lavigerie by pioneer Missionaries of Africa like Fr Simeon Lourdel and Brother Amans, that made sure their cries were heard, and inspired Pope Leo XIII and Lavigerie to initiate a new campaign.

Despite the many difficulties they faced in establishing their mission in Uganda, Lourdel and Amans immediately set about ransoming slaves and providing safe houses for them. Lavigerie had alread been doing the same thing further north. Buying slaves would never be a long-term solution though, since the slaver had his profit without the trouble of transporting his captives to the coast, and could still pick up a few more unfortunates once out of the missionaries’ sight.

Fr Lourdel became influential at the royal court of Buganda, the main kingdom of what would shortly become the British protectorate of Uganda. He and the other missionaries, including the Protestant Alexander Mackay, would successfully lobby King Mwanga to have the abolition of slavery and freedom of religion enshrined in the treaty he signed with Great Britain in 1890.

MMB

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November 30: Saint Andrew; and those in peril on the sea.

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These mariners are all at sea, one of them in great distress, seasick, transfixed by the waves. It puts me in mind of two things: when the apostles were in peril on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus came to them over the water: this is almost a ‘Jesus’ eye view of them as he approaches!

And in the fourth watch of the night, he came to them walking upon the sea.  And they seeing him walk upon the sea, were troubled, saying: It is an apparition. And they cried out for fear.  And immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying: Be of good heart: it is I, fear ye not.

(Matthew 14:23-34)

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The second thought that springs to mind is the unfortunate group of people who died in the back of a lorry on their way to what they hoped would be a new life in Britain. These were not hundreds of miles away on the Mediterranean Sea, but in a car park a few miles from London, dying from cold and suffocation, while those who drove by them on the Continent or in England were completely unaware they were there.

Nor we dare forget the thousands in peril on that Mediterranean Sea, crammed into small, unseaworthy boats, hoping to reach Europe and a new life. And the many awaiting their chance to embark on this perilous voyage in North Africa or Turkey or on their way through Africa or Asia, after paying vast sums to people smugglers, human traffickers.

Over the years many migrants have brought great gifts to their host countries; they and their children have settled and become good neighbours. Perhaps you can number immigrants among your ancestors?

Let’s pray that we might have a “Jesus’ eye view” of today’s migrants, as Pope Francis urges us.

And let us pray that the distressed may have an Andrew’s eye view of the Saviour approaching, either to be welcomed to a dignified life in a new land, or opening his arms to lead them eternal life with him, after all their trials here below.

 

 

 

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by | November 30, 2019 · 01:00

29 October, Month of Mission: In Peril on the sea.

This is taken from a news release by Stella Maris, the International Catholic Apostolate to seafarers. It tells not only of the regular day-to-day work of port chaplains, but also of the grave dangers faced by sailors in the course of their duties. I was struck by the picture of crew members not being allowed to land because of visa restrictions. As if they were less than human; yet they endure long months away from their loved ones in order to keep bread on the family table and to educate their children.

Deacon John Archer, Stella Maris port chaplain in Mobile, USA, has spoken of meeting the crew of the cargo ship that was attacked near the port of Douala with eight crew kidnapped.

West African pirates attacked the general cargo ship MarMalaita in the dead of night at anchor near the port of Douala, Cameroon. “It’s shocking to hear that the crew of the MarMalaita are still being held captive after the ship had been attacked.’ said Deacon Archer. ‘The vessel was in Mobile for a few months running between Mexico and Mobile and I got to know the Chief Cook during their short visits to Mobile and I knew they were heading to the coast of Africa. I’d been on board the ship a number of times. On my last visit I did what I usually do, such as asking the crew if they wanted to visit the town, go shopping, or offer to shop for those unable to go ashore due to visa restrictions.’

The International Maritime Bureau recently noted that of the 75 seafarers around the world who were kidnapped and taken hostage for ransom in the first six months of 2019, 62 were kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea.
Paul Rosenblum, Stella Maris North America regional coordinator said ‘this kidnapping highlights the high price that can be paid by seafarers when things go wrong. This tragedy is a reminder of the dangers seafarers face each day to bring us the various goods and food we rely on’

The abducted crew are from Russia, the Philippines and Ukraine.

John Green, Stella Maris director of development said ‘Today our thoughts and prayers are very much with those who are still being held captive and their families’.

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October 7: Extraordinary Month of Mission: True Religion.

Laying foundations for an orphanage building in Rwanda.

This post is adapted from the Missionaries of Africa site in the USA, but it is not about them; no it tells of brave Rwandan women seeing a need and working to fill it. Fr Denis P. Pringle introduces them.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress . . . .”

James 1: 27


These days, a lot of people seem to be discussing what it means to be “religious” — to have a belief in God that is demonstrated through words and actions. Even those of us who consider ourselves “spiritual, but not religious” search for ways to express our relationship with that which is sacred. Two thousand years ago, things weren’t much different among the first Christians. One of the first followers of Jesus, St. James, wrote a letter in which he offers guidance on what “true religion” is. He felt that few things are more important than caring for those who are less fortunate than ourselves — particularly widows and orphans. That is still the case today.

In societies where there are no government support services for the poor — widows and orphans are among those most urgently in need. Many live without basic necessities such as food, water, medical care and adequate housing.

Recently, one of our missionaries, Fr. Simplice Traore, wrote to ask if there is some way we can help the widows and orphans in Kigali, Rwanda, where he lives and works.

“During the Rwandan genocide in 1994,” Fr. Simplice writes, “a young woman began reaching out to women whose husbands had been killed and little children whose parents had been murdered during that tragic time. This young woman became like a mother to the orphans that she gathered. As time went by, the number of orphans increased tremendously — especially since she was taking good care of them. Unfortunately, though, she did not have the resources needed to continue her work. She was all alone. That was 25 years ago.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Since then, more than 100 other women have joined her and they are now officially a congregation of religious Sisters dedicated to serving poor widows and orphans. What a gift these Sisters are!”

“As I write this letter to you, the Sisters are working hard to construct a building where orphan children can live. The need for housing for orphans is critical in this community.

Unfortunately, the Sisters — themselves having little income — do not have the funds to pay any construction costs. They have been able to acquire a piece of land where a building will be constructed and local people are even willing to help with the labour — but still no one has money to pay for the building.

To learn more about the Missionaries of Africa, here are a couple of addresses:

In the UK: https://www.missionariesofafrica.org.uk/

In the US: http://www.missionariesofafrica.org/support-africa/how-to-help/

We are hoping that you can help us. Whatever you can give will give all of us hope for a better future for these children.

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30 July: Fair Trade and Climate Change II.

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The second Fairtrade farmer introduced by the Fairtrade Foundation. 

Zeddy Rotich, a coffee farmer in Kenya

Zeddy explains how Fairtrade has helped her take action on the climate crisis locally.

“Climate change is affecting us because the weather patterns have changed. We fear low coffee production in future because of it. But through Fairtrade we have received training on climate change and we are taking action. However, we still need more, because we need to train other people who are not aware about climate change.

“We also need more tree nursery beds, so that we can plant more trees as a way of tackling climate change.”

There is a need for more tree cover in our own country too, extending rural forests but also in towns where we need their green lungs.

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July 28: Fair Trade and Climate Change

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Ebrottié, a cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire

link to video

 

The Fairtrade Foundation invited readers of their website to share the next three stories from their farming partners; given in their own words.

“Climate change is a global issue. We, the farmers, have to deal with its consequences every day. For instance, this year we lacked food because of the heat. The production decreased this year too, so this affects the economy. People harvested less and received less money. So we all suffer from the negative consequences of the climate: it impacts the environment and our economy.

“There will be a food shortage because of the heat whereas, before, there were a lot of forests, the rains were regular and the seasons were well divided. It was easier. There were four seasons, now we don’t know anymore when we should plant and when we should stop.

“Climate change has an impact on crops which results in less money and food available. There is also a lack of workforce, because the cocoa farming is not profitable anymore. Young people who used to work with us do not come anymore. The farmer is left with his family, struggling to keep the production because of the negative effects of climate. These are the difficulties we currently face.”

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May 6: Ramadan begins.

Ramadan 1440 H (2019)

A post from the Missionaries of Africa

6 May 2019

Who among you sees the new moon appear will fast the whole month.
(Koran, 2 -The Cow-185)

The obligation of fasting is one of the major expressions of Muslim belief. Whoever fasts detaches from food, need for which seems to go without saying. He thus brings into his lived experience the conviction that it is not his to own, but something given to him. He emphasises that there is another dimension to human life than basic needs. Fasting reveals the fundamental relativity of man in relation to God and the ensuing obligation to give thanks.

For the whole of the month of Ramadan, the Muslim neither eats nor drinks from sunrise to sunset. The pace of work is slowed and the daily timetable is completely disrupted. The whole family gathers at sunset to break their fast and they go out for part of the night.

Clearly it is very difficult to sustain such a pace in Europe. As society at large does not provide for this practice, the Muslim will look for support in family and neighbourhood reunions for ‘the celebration of the nights of Ramadan.’

The greatest charity is the one accomplished in Ramadan. (Anthology of Tirmidy)

During this month, the Muslim pays a tenth of what he owns in solidarity, ((Zakat). This ‘legal almsgiving’ is one of the pillars of Islam.

How is the date of the first day of Ramadan determined?
Ramadan is indicated by one of the following events:

1 – When the number of days in the month of Shaban, preceding Ramadan, reaches 30 days. The 31st is incontestably the first of Ramadan.
2 – When the new moon is visible on the eve of the 30th Shaban, it is the beginning of Ramadan and the fast must begin.

There is therefore a degree of uncertainty concerning the exact date, depending on the region. It underscores the relative nature of human certainties.

Let us try to understand others who differ in the expression of their beliefs and in kindness let us make this fundamental expression of their way of life easy for them. Uniting our thanksgiving with the prayer of other believers would be a sign that we are all children of the same God.

To see also:

1st October 2008 End of Ramadan Fête de l’Aïd El Fitr
Ashura

The Hegira
Aïd el Kabîr 2007
* The Moon, the Calendar of Muslim Feasts.
* ISLAM and its MOVEMENTS
*
Holy Day of the Sacrifice: Aïd al Adha or Aïd el Kébir

 

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5 May: Peter’s rebirth.

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Bishop Gabriel Piroird, Bishop Emeritus of Oran and Hippo in Algeria, died on April 3, his family at his side, and following a long visit from his friend and fellow Bishop in Algeria, Henri Teissier. Here we publish an extract from an article  (written in  French) on the Church in Algeria, at the time of the deaths of the martyrs of the 1990s. A new view of Saint Peter at the time of the Passion.

Luke mentions the eleven’s initial incredulity, but he also underlines Peter’s perplexity: But Peter rising up, ran to the sepulchre, and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths laid by themselves; and went away wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. Luke 24:12.

In order to understand Peter’s journey, we must go back a little way. His triple denialPiroird (548x684) during the passion forced him to measure the strength of the link which united him to Jesus. To deny Jesus was to deny himself. The regard which Jesus cast over him at that moment brought about his rebirth to himself: the journey through the night was already accomplished for Peter. He was ready to receive the light of Easter.

+ Gabriel Piroird.

The Apostles went back to Galilee. St David’s Cathedral. MMB.

 

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