Tag Archives: Africa

14 March. Before the Cross I: ‘Living and Dying’ by Blessed Pierre Claverie.

beatification

This Lent we invite you to stand at the foot of the Cross of Jesus. During the last fortnight we will follow the Way of the Cross with Saint Peter, one station per day, ending on Easter Sunday. But before that we have pieces from regular and guest writers in a series called ‘Before the Cross’. Our contributors will put before us images that tell of the death of Jesus and their reflections on their chosen image, and how it helps explain what Cross of Christ means. Not that we can ever explain it.

We begin in Africa. This picture came from the Church in Algeria and shows one of the bishops and a priest present at the beatification of the 19 recent Martyrs of Algeria, with a banner showing the Martyrs’ faces. To the left, a processional cross which the clergy followed on the way to the ceremony. The figure of Christ is almost invisible at this magnitude, as the Church is almost invisible in Algerian society much of the time, but  its members are still bearing witness.

We should remember that many Imams who opposed the Islamist terrorists, as well as  thousands of ordinary Muslims, were killed in those years, including Bishop Claverie’s chauffeur and friend Mohamed. Their names are recorded together on the great doors of the Abbey of Saint Maurice in Switzerland.

The text below comes from the Missionaries of Africa’s Voix d’Afrique N°102.

door st Maurice

At the beginning of Lent in 1996, Bishop Pierre Claverie wrote an editorial for his diocesan newsletter entitled ‘Living and Dying.’

Along with tens of thousands of Algerians, we are facing a menace which sometimes, despite all our precautions, becomes very real. Many people ask themselves – and ask us too – why we insist on remaining so exposed. This is the radical question of our death and of the meaning of our life. God gave us life and we have no right to play Russian roulette with it, risking it for no purpose. Rather we have a duty to preserve it and to foster the conditions needed for it to be balanced, and healthy and fruitful.

We are preparing ourselves to join Christ on the way to his Passion and Cross. Could we not reproach Jesus for having deliberately challenged those who had the power to condemn him? Why did he not flee as he had done before when they wanted to kill him?

The Paschal Mystery obliges us to face the reality of Christ’s death and of our own, and to take stock of why we face it. Jesus did not seek out his death. But neither did he want to run away from it, since he judged that fidelity to his Father’s commands and to the coming of his Kingdom was more important than his fear of death. He chose to follow the logic of his life and mission to the end rather than betray what he was, what he had said, and what he had done, by denying or abandoning them in order to escape the final confrontation.

In every life there come moments when our choices reveal what is in us and what we are made of. There are usually the dark times. It is possible to live for a long time while avoiding this unveiling of the truth. However far we run, or how long we hide, we will have to face this moment of truth. Jesus teaches us to look this moment in the eye and not evade it. Whether it be gentle or violent, we must learn to live our death as the weight we carry through life.

+ Pierre Claverie

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8 February. The Christian Church Against Slavery: Livingstone and Lavigerie

  David Livingstone -1.jpg

For the Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the saint saved from slavery, here is a reflection on slavery by a African bishop.

Livingstone proposed that in order to uproot slavery and slave trade from Africa there was need for “3Cs”: ChristianisationCivilisation (education and good governance) and Commerce (legal and ethical). This vision was taken up by Lavigerie who … in some of his Instructions to the Missionaries sent to Equatorial Africa,  made reference to the writings of Livingstone on slave trade.

In his Anti-Slavery conferences in Paris, London and Brussels, Lavigerie quoted Livingstone on the atrocities and gravity of slave trade in Black Africa. And, while in London, before his conference at Prince’s Hall on 31st July 1888, Lavigerie made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Livingstone in the Abbey of Westminster.


At the head of those who declared this new war was the intrepid, the noble Livingstone. As an old African myself, I wanted to visit the tomb of the great explorer, under the vaults of Westminster. You have buried him in the midst of your greatest men. You were right, for Livingstone, by his courage, by his high intelligence, by the abnegation of his life, is the glory of this century and of your country. But if you are the heirs of his glory, you must be the executors of his last wishes. So, it is with an emotion that brought tears to my eyes that I read the final words he wrote and that England has had officially engraved on his tomb, by order of the Government: “I cannot do anything more,” he wrote in the neglected environment where he was going to die, “than to wish that the most abundant heavenly blessings descend on those, whoever they may be, English, American or Turks, who contribute to making the frightful plague of slavery disappear from the world.

In both Lavigerie and Livingstone, we have two men who loved Africa and the Africans and who, each in his own way, tried his best to fight against the African Slave Trade. Lavigerie’s constant reference to Livingstone inspires us to ecumenical collaboration in the struggle against modern day slavery especially in Africa. The “3Cs” of Livingstone embraced by Lavigerie are still very valid instrument to fight against today’s slaveries.

Taken from a speech by Bishop Richard Baawobr of Wa, Ghana, when Superior General of the Missionaries of Africa in 2013. Follow this link. 

Images in the public domain via Wikipedia.

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February 3. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe IV: The gift of Water, 1.

somers.town. holy spirit

 This celebration of water, slightly abridged, is by Sister Theodora Mercy Kaviza OFS. It is far too easy, for those of us with clean, safe, running water to take it for granted. Sister Theodora Mercy reminds us that it is both gift and necessity. The second half follows tomorrow.

In our bodies, from the rebuilding of our muscles to blood circulation to boosting digestion, one main component is needed, and this is water. We use water to bathe, and for cleansing and purification, because it keeps sickness and bad moods at bay, and rejuvenates the body.

However when we look around and see how we have abused the water sources of the world it is easy to realize that we have totally forgotten how important water is to our very existence. From prehistoric times humans thought that the benefits of water were divine gifts or even that the water itself was a divinity: lakes, rivers, springs and glaciers became places of veneration.

Birds, reptiles and amphibians are born from eggs which are mainly full of water. Mammals too, before they are born, swim in their mother’s womb in a liquid composed principally of water. In the Canticle of the Sun, St. Francis of Assisi praises God for water: “Praised be Thou, O Lord, for sister water, who is very useful, humble, precious, and chaste”.

In Africa, a hot and mainly arid continent, the great rivers Nile, Congo, Niger, Zambezi and the Lakes Chad, Victoria and Rudolf, have always been life-giving. The ancient Egyptians believed their country was “a gift of the Nile” and they venerated the river as a deity.

In the creation story of the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible, God’s spirit first moved “over the face of the waters” and God said “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures” (Genesis 1:2, 20). In Islam, water is the origin of all life on Earth and the Qur’an says water is the substance from which God created the human being (25:54).

The Indians take the Ganges River to be both a symbol of life and a place where one can wash away spiritual impurities, thereby drawing closer to the sacred source of life. In a similar way, ancient Jewish tradition calls people on special occasions to cleanse their bodies spiritually by immersion in a ‘mikveh’ bath. For Muslims, ablution with water, is an obligatory preparation for daily prayer.

Image from St Aloysius’ Somers Town, London. MMB

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14 January: An old missionary’s ecological musings

bins

Passers by set Gerard Manley Hopkins thinking for yesterday’s post, and Otto Mayer for today’s. He was a fellow student of mine, but now works in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have adapted this from an article he wrote. It seems the litter problem is not confined to Canterbury. But if Otto can keep litter picking in Central Africa, I can do my bit in East Kent!

Whenever I pick up plastic wrappers or papers dropped in front of our house in Ruzizi, Congo, passers by look at me as though I’m crazy. The children make fun of me, although the little ones will pick up litter and put it in my bag. But no-one makes fun of the people who drop papers, bags, plastic bottles, tissues…

Sometimes a passer-by will ask why I am cleaning up. I explain that in my home village in Germany, every Saturday afternoon we would take pride in sweeping the footpath beside our house, ready for Sunday. Everything should be ready for the Lord’s day.

Telling people that story starts a conversation, regretting how Goma has become a dirty town, and Kinshasa la belle has become Kinshasa-Poubelle – dustbin city. Everybody wants the council to sort it out. I always say that I can do something. At least in front of my house I can make a difference.

The first principle of ecology is to produce as little waste or pollution as possible. Heineken beer from Holland is an ecological sin when you can get local beers. What a waste, transporting it all the way to Africa.

Buying locally and consuming the products of the region is an ecological obligation. There are seasons when mangoes, cauliflowers, strawberries are chea and readily available. Out of season the price increases as the products are brought in from far away, and the transport costs must be paid for.

The local bus service where I live is cheaper than using a private car; it may take a little longer but means less pollution and less expense. And walking up to half an hour seems to me both reasonable and desirable: Pollution zero, expense zero and more surprises to be met en route. An old priest I remember used to say, ‘Since we got mopeds we’ve lost touch with the people.’ And what progress we’ve made since then!

Père Otto Mayer, M. Afr.

 

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October 19: from skating minister to anti-slavery campaigner: Robert Walker.

Skating_Minister

Almost closing time at the National Gallery of Scotland, and I hadn’t seen the Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch. I could not come back across the border without paying my respects. It was all I could do to stand upright, last time I tried skating. The attendants showed us where to look, and I was not disappointed.

Yesterday afternoon I was looking for some papers my mother had lent me, when I found an article about this picture, so decided to write about it. When I went to download the picture, I changed my mind.   Robert Walker   was not just a long-serving minister and expert skater, he was an early anti-slavery campaigner, helping pave the way for William Wilberforce. And yesterday was Anti-Slavery Day.

The Church of Scotland is rightly proud of the prophetic  Robert Walker . Follow the link to find out more. This picture is an Icon of a Saint as well as being iconic in the modern sense!

Image: Public Domain from Wikipedia

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30 September: 150 Years of the Missionaries of Africa

Celebration at Mphangwe of 150 Years of the Foundation of the Missionaries of Africa

Fr Dave Cullen Dave Cullen - Chipata Hospital 2014 06 copie M.Afr. shared this account of the  celebration

at Mphangwe in Zambia of the 150th anniversary of the Missionaries of Africa, known as the White Fathers.

Bishop George Lungu of Chipata Diocese, graciously offered to commemorate the foundation of the Missionaries of Africa 150 years ago with two Masses in the diocese, one at Chasera where the missionaries first arrived, but for a very brief period, and the second at the first parish established by the Society in 1913 at Mphangwe. It was at there that we celebrated Mass on the Feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th.

It was Katete Deanery that both prepared the celebration and, together with some help from other deaneries, funded the expenses involved. The Montfort Fathers, who are in charge of Mphangwe Prayer Centre, had put a great deal of effort to ensuring that the event was fittingly celebrated. Tarpaulins had been put up to enable almost everyone present to be shielded from the sun. Radio Maria was present to record the Mass and ensure that the loudspeaker system was in good order. A considerable number of the diocesan clergy concelebrated the Mass, together with a Comboni Missionary and several other priests, one coming from as far away as the United States on visit in Katete. Likewise, there were representatives from the various Religious Congregations, Sisters and Brothers. Parishioners from Mphangwe itself had also come in large numbers.

ZAMBIE 2The Mass was presided by the auxiliary bishop of Chipata Diocese, Benjamin Phiri. Before the Mass began, the bishop invited our Provincial, Fr Felix Phiri, to give a brief history of the work of the Missionaries of Africa in Chipata Diocese. It was, in fact, the Missionaries of Africa who founded the Church in the Eastern Province. In 1937 the Prefecture of Fort Jameson was established with Fr Fernand Martin as the priest in charge. At that time there were 3 missions in the care of ten Missionaries of Africa, strangely enough, precisely the number still doing apostolic work in the diocese today. However, those original ten eventually increased to fifty-five.

It was Fr Firmin Courtemanche who succeeded Fr Martin in 1947. He was ordained bishop and named Prefect Apostolic of Fort Jameson in 1953. The first diocesan priest in the Prefecture was Fr Zakaria Kapingira, ordained in 1939. The number of White Fathers, as they were then known, having been given that name in North Africa where they were distinguished by the white habit they wore, increased in the diocese during the Second World War that began in 1939, and many new mission stations were opened up by them. After the war, the number of diocesan priests gradually began to increase, foremost among them being Fr Medardo Mazombwe, ordained bishop in 1971 of what had now come to be named Chipata Diocese. He would later be transferred to Lusaka Archdiocese and be made a Cardinal.

As the number of parishes increased Bishop Mazombwe sought the help of other Missionary Societies, the Comboni Missionaries, Missionaries of St Patrick, known as the Kiltegan Fathers, Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, the Montfort Fathers and the Carmelites. Not only did the number of diocesan clergy begin to increase, but also Religious Congregations of Sisters, some from other countries, others from locally founded Congregations, caring for the sick in hospitals, teaching in schools and sharing in the apostolic tasks in a number of parishes.

Felix Phiri 03Fr Felix Phiri finished his presentation by giving thanks for those who had gone to the Lord as also by asking blessings on the Priests, Brothers and Sisters still offering themselves for the spread of the Kingdom of God in Chipata Diocese today.

After this introduction, before beginning Mass, Bishop Benjamin introduced to the congregation the Missionaries of Africa present, four of whom he described as our ‘Senior Citizens’, first of all Fr Henk van Kessel who, the previous day, had celebrated his 92nd birthday and is still very active as the diocesan archivist, Fr Joe McMenamin, Fr Toon van Kessel and Fr Dave Cullen, all of whom had given many years of service in the diocese. He then began the Mass which was offered prayerfully with the well-rehearsed contribution of the choir and Stellas.

After communion gifts were offered to the Missionaries of Africa, first by Bishop Benjamin, then by many of the clergy and Religious present, as also by many of the laity. As something of a finale, a group of Missionary of Africa students who were present at the Mass, together with a Missionary of Africa priest from Zambia itself, swaying rhythmically to the singing of the choir, brought a gift to the bishop. Coming from various countries in Africa they, together with the ‘Senior Citizens’ and the several other Missionaries of Africa present, witnessed to the international and multiracial character of the Missionaries of Africa.

After Mass all present were invited to a meal that had been prepared for us by our hosts and shared in the dining halls that the Montfort Fathers have had constructed for such events as that of today. From there we all departed in thankfulness and peace to our communities and homes.

ZAMBIE 1

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25 July: A French Village opens its heart to refugees.

refugee sw.jpg

A small community in Alsace has been welcoming African refugees as they go through the processes of finding a safe home in France. The Franciscan sisters’ convent is the hub for this neighbourly work.

This link takes you to the UNHCR story about the people of Thal-Marmoutier and their guests: French village opens its heart  to refugees.

Meet some of the ordinary people doing ordinary things to help the refugees find their feet in what volunteer Nicolas Ndoole (above) describes as another planet compared to Africa.

 

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30 April, Mary Queen of Africa.

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Picture from Missionaries of Africa, West Africa.

This statue of Mary is at Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, a modern, West African expression of the crowned statue of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers. But our reflection is by Père Paul Marioge M.Afr., formerly rector of that Basilica, and it appeared in French at Voix d’Afrique, No 74.

Fr Marioge explains that he was surprised to ‘find himself the rector of a basilica visited by so many faithful Muslims, greatly disturbed by the evils of terrorism and feeling a spontaneous need to approach Heaven and implore Mary’s protection. I took things as they were: my mission was to help the people who came, creatures, every one, of the same God, our creator and merciful saviour.’

People come to Our Lady of Africa as they might go to Lourdes, with everything they are carrying in their heart: a great pain or suffering of body or mind; someone sick wants to be healed; or maybe it’s their child who was ill, or else they don’t have a child and they want one; or they only have boys but still want a little girl – or vice versa; a battered wife, maybe; or else a pilgrim comes who finds himself without work, without resources; or again he wants to pass an exam; and then there are the young people who love each other, who come to confide in Mary their heartbreak, their desire for a happy marriage.

Those who come are the human race of every age and from every land.

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8 February: Saint Josephine Bakhita

wed-feb-8-bakhita

Saint Josephine Bakhita

Saint Josephine was born in Sudan in 1869 where she was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child. She was a modern slave: in servitude despite laws forbidding it. After changing hands many times, she was sold to an Italian diplomat and taken to Italy, where slavery was indeed illegal, but it was only through the help of some sisters, the Canossian Daughters of Charity, that she gained her freedom from his family. She learned about God from the sisters and entered the congregation where she lived a life of love and service until her death in 1947.

Josephine Bakhita was canonised by John Paul II on October 1, 2000. He spoke of Josephine Bakhita as ‘a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights’.

Let us pray for all people caught up in modern slavery and those working to release them, often in grave personal danger to themselves.

You may also like to return to the Littlehampton Sisters’ reflection from last year.

 

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January 14: Why are you doing astronomy when there are people starving in the world? 

nasaM81galaxy

A very short question and answer that I could not resist sharing with you all. Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ is the Director of the Vatican Observatory. This is taken from an interview he gave a couple of years ago, which you can find here.  Go on, click!

Why are you doing astronomy when there are people starving in the world? 

I learned the answer to that when I served in the US Peace Corps. When my African students learned I was an astronomer, they wanted to look through my little telescope and have the same joy in discovering the universe that I had. They, too, had an insatiable hunger to know about the universe. They reminded me: it’s not enough to feed the body; we also have to feed the soul.

Psalm 146(147) 2-5 links care for physical and emotional needs with astronomical endeavour.

The Lord buildeth up Jerusalem: he will gather together the dispersed of Israel. Who healeth the broken of heart, and bindeth up their bruises. Who telleth the number of the stars: and calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and great is his power: and of his wisdom there is no number.

Brother Guy and his colleagues are still doing one part of the Lord’s temporal work while others are healing broken hearts and bodies, all in his grace. Let us pray for the wisdom to respond to his call, day by day.

MMB.

Image of a galaxy from NASA.

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