Tag Archives: Africa

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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10 December, 2nd Sunday of Advent: A reflection from Ghana

 
Continuing our Advent reflections from USPG looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies, we visit an Anglican programme they support in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in parts of the Cape Coast. One beneficiary tells her story.
My name is Gloria. I have two children, aged three and one-and-a-half years old.

The health programme has helped me and my family. Before, I didn’t know I needed to wash my children’s hands with soap and water before they eat. They would be playing, but I wasn’t washing their hands afterwards. But now, because of the programme, I make sure I wash their hands. Also, before the programme, whenever I bought fruit and
vegetables from the market, I wasn’t washing them. But now I wash them with a soap and salt solution before I use them to prepare food.

Another thing I learned was that before breast-feeding my baby I first needed to wash my breasts. I learned that a child can contract diseases if I do not wash in this way.
Before the programme, I was not putting these things into practice and my children, in fact the whole family, would visit the hospital a lot because of diarrhoea and sickness. But now it is five months since we went to hospital.

O God, who spoke through the prophets:
we pray for mothers in Ghana protecting their children
from sickness. Bless those who bring life-saving knowledge
and give thanks for children now healthy and full of life.

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Reminder: The Amos Trust is holding a Carol Service in Canterbury tomorrow, Thursday 7th December

A Carol Service in Canterbury to help Street Children and others.

amos.trust carol service

Some news from Christians Together Canterbury – a network of churches and Christian groups across Canterbury, including L’Arche Kent.

 Amos Trust Carol Service

The Amos Trust is holding a Carol Service in Canterbury on Thursday 7th December at St Peter’s Methodist Church from 7.00 p.m.

Amos Trust is a small, creative human rights organisation, committed to challenging injustice, building hope and creating positive change.  Its three areas of work are among street children in South Africa, Burundi, India and Tanzania; building sustainable rural communities in Nicaragua and India; and working for a just peace for Palestine. Every year Amos Trust holds an excellent Carol Service in London at St James’s Piccadilly.  It is seeking to make this Carol Service more widely available, and is experimenting by ‘exporting’ it to Canterbury this year.

There will be a collection during the service to support the vital work in which the Amos Trust is involved.

amos_trust_canterbury_christmas_A4_poster_2017

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The Longest Advent

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo Diolasso from MAfr W Africa

 

Some readers will know that Maurice is researching the life and work of Archbishop Arthur Hughes, Missionary of Africa, Papal Diplomat, and, in this talk that he gave to Saint Joan’s Alliance in 1933, he appears as a Christian feminist. His sister Winifred, whom he greatly loved , was a teaching Sister of Mercy, Sister Edith. She worked for years among the poorest children in the East End of London; by their work and example, those sisters were feminists before the word was coined. Here the then Father Hughes talks of the ‘Longest Advent’: longest because we are not yet living the Christian revelation fully when women are not full and equal participants in the Church and wider society.

The Virgin, the Mother of the Redeemer, was venerated as a symbol of what womanhood could attain, but Christianity was not yet achieved, nor the emancipation of women and we are awaiting this time; we are waiting for the longest Advent to come to an end.

‘… education is a vital part of the longest Advent. The founding of a Girls’ Secondary School crowned the founding of other schools. (Most girls in England at this time would have left school at 14; in Africa Girls’ Secondaries were few and far between.)

Advent is associated with ideas of worthiness and readiness, and during ‘the longest Advent’ feminists should think things out and read and meditate so that they could speak with ever more conviction. Full equality, liberty and emancipation is the completion of the Christian ideal. Our Lord by allowing devotion to Our Lady to become an integral part of our Catholic Faith paved the way for feminism – when he came to earth practically everything had still to be done towards the emancipation of women, not only equality had to be achieved, but something more, therefore external marks of respect towards women should be maintained and expected. Your crusade is associated with the longest Advent. Pray and work with greater courage!

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3 December, 1st Sunday of Advent: A reflection from Tanzania.

hlaes-pla-single-star

For the Sundays of Advent this year, we are sharing reflections from the USPG, the Anglican Society of Partners in the Gospel who invite us to look at how the church around the world is reaching out to mothers and babies.

This article is from the USPG-supported PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission) HIV programme run by the Church of Tanzania.

In 2000, Sophia left the village of Mzula and moved to the capital Dar es Salaam in search of a better life. She found work as a waitress, then met a young man with whom she started a family. Sophia had two children, but illness claimed their lives while they were very young. Then Sophia became sick, developing partial paralysis, and the couple separated.

In 2015, Sophia met another partner. But when she became pregnant, he abandoned her. Unable to cope, Sophia returned to her mother in Mzula. When a mobile clinic from Mvumi Hospital visited the village, Sophia was found to be HIV-positive. She started attending the hospital’s PMTCT services, which showed Sophia how to care
for herself and her unborn baby.

In June 2016, Sophia gave birth to a baby boy, Shedrack, who was free from HIV. Sophia was overjoyed! She reported: ‘Without the support of this project, I would never have been tested or received support. I have regained the happiness I lost.

O God, whose promises to faithful Abraham and Sarai
were fulfilled in the birth of Isaac:
bless all expectant mothers in Tanzania,
and bring their children to fullness of life.

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Child Trafficking and Abuse: a Chance to Help.

appeal SCA nov2017.1

 

In August last year we recorded the death of Fr Patrick Shanahan MAfr, who became fired by the street children he met in Ghana and went on to work with and for them to government and UN Level.patshan2b

The work continues. Street Child Africa is now CHANCE FOR CHILDHOOD. They have written to say that every pound they receive in donations over the next week will be doubled by the Big Give. Over to you. the site is http://www.bit.ly/cfckenya .

MMB.

 

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November 27: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxvii – Incarnation is about being adult

syrian-gathering

A crucial issue about creation is the emphasis we tend to put on the divine coming into the world as a helpless baby – but the Incarnation is primarily about being adult, not being a child. The Incarnation of the divine in human existence happened 2000 years ago. Says who? The human species has been on earth for over 6 million years – and the 2000 years has tended to distort this. Incarnation did not begin with Jesus’ earthly dwelling 2000 years ago. It began 6 million years ago when the human species first evolved. The first 5 million happened in what we know as Africa.

Thus far our human unfolding has been largely of a biological nature, it has taken that long to bring our biological development to maturity. Biological development has reached a high point, we can’t evolve much further. The future will be spiritual development rather than physical growth, which we call the Kingdom of God. The days of hard graft with the focus on the material is changing; the future is about growth in mind and spirit. Which is what Jesus promised: if I do not go I cannot send the Spirit to lead into this fullness. Resurrection means humanity refashioned in the direction of the spiritual rather than the physical.

This transformation is global, not confined to the Christian religion. Because all religions suffer the desire for control, all have developed notions of incarnation that are alarmingly exclusive. None of them – including Christianity – have fully appreciated what unconditional love means. There is no such thing as a master species, each is unique in its capacity to give, and is equally co-dependent. Humanity has the responsibility for drawing forth the conscious dimension of creation especially through evolution which is crucial for our understanding of universal life.

This brings out the capacity for wisdom, necessary to keep us on the way to universal love. This is where things have gone wrong – wisdom became rational and mechanistic, serving the love of power rather than the power of love. Learning to love unconditionally is crucial if we are to have meaningful relationships; there can be no love where there is no justice. Sadly, many religions work hard at installing love – but too often neglect justice. Justice translates ideals into action, and engenders hope. Justice means holding no one and no thing in disregard. Mistakenly we link justice with just wages, just rights [rarely speaking of responsibilities]. Justice is all about fostering right relationships – a way of life that means empowering the powerless. Right relationships cannot exist where rivalry rules; where economies, health and education are based on competition.

Justice should be taken out of religious systems, because religions are tainted by association with oppressive regimes. Justice needs to be primary. We need to learn to think differently in order to see the bigger vision. Thinking should always be inclusive – we are expected not to think ourselves into a new way of living; but to live ourselves into a new way of thinking. Put simply, everything and everybody is included – no exclusions whatsoever. Indeed there are obstacles, we have been brainwashed about who to like and who to dislike, who to love and who to hate – all that has to be left behind.

Equally important, the Kingdom is not just about people – it’s also about systems and structures. The Cosmos is the womb of belonging – things either belong or they have no existence. Relating in the Kingdom is not possible without recognising we belong to the whole of creation – from where everything starts. In creation everything has its place and space, awaiting the warmth of hospitality; which allows for all kinds of possibilities.

As we have seen, God didn’t create a perfect world, but a world able to become what it was meant to be by the way it is lived in. For thousands of years we befriended creation in its birthing forth bringing new life through growth and decay – all this was spoiled when missionaries came and caused confusion by insisting that we were wrong to worship nature – when all we were doing was being at home with it. We need to recover awareness of the enormity and complexity of our beautiful world; only then do we have any hope of walking in tandem with Evolution.

Church is never to be equated with Kingdom. When it comes to Church we need to recall what Paul told us after visiting those infant Christian communities; that we relish what we have been given and don’t be over-concerned about structure and procedure. We must rid ourselves of all aspects on imperialism, with its regalia and pomposity and the accompanying legalism. The Kingdom is all about right relationships, not just in a religious or church context, but in fidelity to the wonder of and enjoying belonging. Every human structure needs to be called to give account of its stewardship.

AMcC

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A Carol Service in Canterbury to help Street Children and others.

amos.trust carol service

Some news from Christians Together Canterbury – a network of churches and Christian groups across Canterbury, including L’Arche Kent.

 Amos Trust Carol Service

The Amos Trust is holding a Carol Service in Canterbury on Thursday 7th December at St Peter’s Methodist Church from 7.00 p.m.

Amos Trust is a small, creative human rights organisation, committed to challenging injustice, building hope and creating positive change.  Its three areas of work are among street children in South Africa, Burundi, India and Tanzania; building sustainable rural communities in Nicaragua and India; and working for a just peace for Palestine. Every year Amos Trust holds an excellent Carol Service in London at St James’s Piccadilly.  It is seeking to make this Carol Service more widely available, and is experimenting by ‘exporting’ it to Canterbury this year.

There will be a collection during the service to support the vital work in which the Amos Trust is involved.

amos_trust_canterbury_christmas_A4_poster_2017

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November 10, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: x – ‘Not reinvention but rediscovery.’

 

Dogma helps hold people together in faith communities – but it does not inspire or animate. Faith is in the heart rather than the head. We grow in faith through relationships with others whose fidelity to Christ is a living experience. If we judge each other by what we believe in, we are setting up in and out groups – responsible for so many -isms; blood has been shed through this, and witch-hunts become inevitable – in no way conducive to Jesus’ stark love your enemies. But if we are to let-go the way of dogma – what do we replace it with? The new Evangelisation that Pope Francis is calling for! To set Jesus and ourselves free from the captivity of absolute dogma.

All over Africa, where Christianity is preached, churches are adorned with a white Christ, bearded and robed like an ancient Roman. Both Jesus and Mary were ethnic Palestinian – dark-skinned, of non-European features. Jesus as white and male became indisputable facts. Biologically no one can dispute the gender of Jesus. This isn’t attempting to create a patchwork quilt making Jesus all things to all people. This is not reinvention but rediscovery. If Jesus is God-incarnate – then Creation tells us that there is something of God in being male and female.

Most of our story as God’s people [6 million years] belongs to Africa; yet the demonising of blackness still feeds cultures of racism. Darkened skin is a powerful symbol of what it means to be human; it is the primary pigmentation that humans have known for most of our time – created, blessed and loved by God. We need to honour Jesus who belongs, not to the land of Israel, and even less to Western Europe, but to the primary soil of East Africa – just as the earthly Jesus belonged to every creed, colour and cultural condition.

The heart of the problem is not that Jesus was a man, but that men are not like Jesus! For thousands of years before Jesus males alone were considered to be fully human. They possessed the seed through which new life would be procreated – a view endorsed by Aristotle, Aquinas and Luther – with male offspring more valued than female. This is why Jesus, to be Messiah, had to be seen as descending through a male line.

But Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom is clearly not male in the conventional sense. He adopts none of the typical male behaviour characteristics: dominance, control… he engages with people, especially with the powerless made so by Church and State. Instead of protecting power he gives it away; instead of reasoned argument he tells stories – he is inclusive in his relationships, especially at table.

AMcC

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29 October, Christ walking with travellers: IV. A journey around my room

piano2 (800x600) (2)

At the end of the eighteenth century, Xavier de Maistre found himself locked up. He was more comfortably off than most prisoners, but still bored. He used his time to write a little book which he called A journey around my room. It can be found in the original French: here.

If for some reason we cannot go out – weather, illness, time of day, domestic duties – we can sit comfortably and begin our own journey, not just around the corners of the room but around the corners of our heart.

The lamp above my shoulder I made as an exercise on a college course many years ago in Hull, Yorkshire. That reminds me of my fellow course members, my tutors and friends, as well as Paul, a Hull man I often see down here in Kent. Thinking of them soon turns into a prayer.

Then there is the piano, not used much these days, but a bargain buy from a neighbour who was moving away. Think of her, and her son, exiled, perhaps for ever, from their native land; but at least she can walk along the street alone in Britain, free from fear and bare-headed, and still count herself a faithful Muslim.

The fire! We were glad to replace the ugly gas fire with something more in keeping with the house; everyone enjoys it on the special evenings when it burns.

Next, a nineteenth century engraving of a mother bathing her child before the kitchen range where elder sister, aged maybe seven, is warming a blanket, while father with an arm around mother, looks about to tickle the baby’s tummy. That was found in a Belgian flea market, brought home and remounted in a new frame. My wife’s keen eye at work!

To one side, an African carving of the Holy Family where Joseph is twice the size of Mary protecting his wife and the infant Jesus. But those two objects invite so much contemplation that I shall leave you there; perhaps to return to that corner another day.

Take a trip around your personal space and see where it leads you!

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