Tag Archives: Zimbabwe

31 March. Before the Cross XVI: Repenting of Sanctions

 

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Friar Chris writes to us from Zimbabwe, where he has been teaching. Thank you Chris, you have certainly had a fruitful time back in Africa! We are grateful for your sharing it with us and for inviting us to reflect on these issues. Agnellus’ Mirror is here for all manner of reflections!

When I was a teenager, I recall sanctions being imposed against the illegal continuation of a British colonial regime in Rhodesia. Struggles were taking place to replace that outdated structure and form a new nation, Zimbabwe, and by 1980 that had taken place. I also remember wondering how ordinary citizens can cope when many items which we consider to be essential are made unobtainable. When do sanctions become a big hammer used to crack a nut? How can anyone prevent them from becoming one more version of bullying?

This is a relevant question when the churches pass through a repeated catechetical exercise for newcomers to Christianity, which we call Lent. The danger is always the practice of frowning intensely about all the wrongdoings of the human race, but not seeing the changes of heart which need to be the true ‘penitence’ of a change of heart in ourselves. Letting go of our approval of strong arm tactics must often be an aspect of welcoming God’s peace and grace into our lives. Sanctions still exist in the southern African country of Zimbabwe, imposed not only by the United States, but also by the European Union. They seem to be a mode of coercion, not against a right-wing white-domination system, but against a mild version of socialism which happens to question the neo-conservative consumerist programmes favoured by the large market monopolies achieved by commercialist manufacturers. These are generally manufacturers who have done least to extricate the cultures of the world from environmentally-destructive practices.

I do not intend to compose an argument in favour of every governmental alliance built up technologically by the government of Zimbabwe. Geopolitics is an aspect of human circumstances which pervades news broadcasts but which mostly cannot be turned around by churches, even in their most valid calls for charity. Nevertheless, the current school student-led world-wide protests concerning the destruction of environments, which lament that we ignore paths that consider climate change, are genuine appeals for understanding grace and peace. Greater sensitivity to what makes sustainable community, not just sustainable industries, is a challenging and valid concern to introduce to our prayer lives.

In Zimbabwe at the beginning of 2019, a large increase in fuel prices was imposed, leading to rioting, six hundred arrests and a combination of woundings and deaths. With 90% unemployment, this added to an already existing awareness of shared vulnerability for great numbers of the country’s inhabitants. The effects of the sanctions only worsened the realities experienced by the most vulnerable. The cyclone which hit Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique in the middle of March brought flooding, with hundreds made homeless and a possible two hundred deaths. Lack of fuel has its further impact on limits to emergency services. I think for English readers, one factor which might capture the character of the problem is this: when there are raids or beatings, a call made to the police is likely to be met with a question, ‘when can you drive to the police station and pick up the police and bring them to the scene?’ That is an effect of crudely introduced sanctions, which seem to be an illegal measure for the sake of Western domination.

There are areas which feel these effects most, and others, especially for those with some kind of job, where an unimpressive but vaguely ‘normal’ level of daily existence continues to operate. Good numbers of Catholics continue to get to their nearest churches and celebrate the Eucharist as a community gift of solidarity. The teaching and training of young men to help the celebrations to be vibrant, kind, and compassionate continues to be taken on by a seminary and by a college in Harare which is nurturing members of several religious congregations. It takes time to acquire the kinds of perceptive insight and concern which make a genuine pastoral charism deepen and become evident. I have been spending three months teaching this group of young men, at Holy Trinity College.

The parish of the Nazareth House sisters next to the college has a strong lay commitment to developing genuine community gifts and relationships. The students are also involved in running prayer services and giving talks at a number of parishes, forming a network of Christians with shared convictions and sympathies. I try to explore connections between church history and theological developments, especially Vatican II, with them. One student asked me what the reasons are for the well-known decline of European Christianity. I explained it in terms of a lack of real understanding of community bonding and its qualities of transforming awareness. I said that those single diocesan priests who do have a sense of community are moved around with no respect for the needs and wishes of a local congregation. At the same time, where religious orders have been able, with slightly larger numbers, to create a good presence as a communal empowerment focus, they may not be known by believers living twenty miles away, so helping their good charism to spread to other areas will often not take place at all easily.

I have been staying with one of these student groups, the Franciscans, who are present now in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia as well as Zimbabwe. This group struggles to win new members, and has increased its ties of Franciscan commitment across the region since the late 1950s. I lived with the friars in the Zimbabwe custody residence, half an hour’s walk from the College.

The image of a carving of the crucified Christ that accompanies this article is in the small chapel of the friars’ residence. It comes from a centre for sculptures at Driefontein, some way outside Harare. We don’t know the name of the carver. I like the restrained honesty of the image. It speaks to me of the gift of Christ’s understanding of human hardship, of the human need for better interactions and interdependency. This is a thoughtful Christ, one who has clearly spent his life perceiving the pains and heartfelt longing of those to whom he brought forgiveness and hope. Although it seemed as though the hope was rejected by those who wanted to see him killed, I see in the face a possible mind, one which looked in love beyond the knee-jerk rejections and sanctions, which grew up like a wall to prevent his message. In his death he was open to the empowerment of his divine Father, the living God of all human aspirations for peace. There is no barrier to risen reality in this face, and no barrier to our risen realities in the gifts which come to us from the God, who heard his prayers, and who brings our prayers too into their realisation.

Chris Dyczek, OFM

Harare, March 2019.

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February 7. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe VII: Brother Sheward and Brother George did the impossible.

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Br. Hugues OFM

Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” (St. Francis of Assisi).

Br. Sheward Mandongwe and Br. George Machega have spent the past several years in the Franciscan formation programme, which included human development, religious and Franciscan studies with practical experience in pastoral ministry.

Br. Sheward did his Franciscan Year at St. Francis of Assisi-Nharira Mission in 2014 while Br. George, at the same place in 2015. The Franciscan year is a period of integration and Franciscan experience as it is said in the General Statutes of the Order of Friar Minor that during the time of temporary profession, all the Friars must follow an integrated formation that is properly Franciscan so that they may live out more fully the life of our Order and carry out its mission in a more suitable way.

Following the tradition of the Franciscan Friars in Zimbabwe, at Our Lady of the Angels Friary, Tafara, the day before the profession of our two brothers, after an evening meal there was a time of dialogue between the brothers of the Custody of Good Shepherd and Family members of Br. Sheward and Br. George.

Some brothers explained the Formation stages: Aspirancy, Postulancy, Novitiate and Temporary Profession, Philosophical studies, Franciscan Year and Theological studies. Br. Alfigio explained about the three religious vows; Poverty, Chastity and Obedience with the fact of renouncing all individual goods. Other senior Friars explained the total belonging of the friars to the Order until death, that brothers are buried in the graveyard of the Franciscan Friars not in the family graveyards.

That evening gathering was also a time for the family members of the two brothers to ask questions about Franciscan life. The following day, the special day for Br. Sheward and Br. George, the ritual of their Solemn Profession took place during the Mass led by Br. Fanuel Magwidi OFM, the Parish Priest of St. Matthews Parish, Glenview. The Celebration was well prepared by a committee from St. Matthew’s, in collaboration with their parish Priest. Br. Jean Claude OFM, during his homily instructed the two brothers that Solemn Profession is done only once in life and there is no way backwards once it is done. Brothers are bound by vows into the Order for the rest of their life.

The Custos, Br. Alfigio, received the Final Profession of Br. Sheward and Br. George. After the Eucharistic Celebration, a meal was shared with all who were present, religious from different congregations, families and relatives of the two brothers, the faithful and even uninvited guests. We thank God for this grace, Br. Sheward and Br. George did the impossible by not only gathering different people from different families and leave everything for the sake of Franciscan life, a decision which is not easy to take. Through this celebration, the Franciscan Family is also growing and the Order is very thankful to God and to all the people who made the day possible.

Thanks to Brother Chris for letting us learn about Franciscan Formation in Zimbabwe. We hope to return there in the future. Will.

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February 4. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe V: The gift of Water, 2.

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The second part of Sister Theodora Mercy Kavisa’s post, celebrating water.

Religious traditions have used the cycle of drought, flood, life-giving rain, and the rainbow to symbolize moving out of Separation from God to Redemption. God sent a great flood at the time of Noah because “the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). God rewarded Noah’s faithfulness with dry land and a covenant “between you and me and every living creature” (Genesis 9:12-13).

One water ritual that draws all these elements of life, purification, protection, healing, separation and redemption together is the sacrament of Baptism in which Christians have water poured over them or immerse themselves in water to be cleansed of sin and admitted into the Christian community. The community prays,

In Baptism we use the gift of water, which you have made a rich symbol of the grace you give us in this sacrament. At the very dawn of creation, your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. The waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of Baptism that made an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness.”

And yet, too many members of the world’s religions neglect to respect water as a finite natural resource. Many people are in need of an inner, spiritual conversion to appreciate the value of water.

As Christians there are three ways to view the current situation: gratitude for creation, reconciliation with wounded creation, and action that heals creation. We need to confront our inner resistances and cast a grateful look on creation, letting our heart be touched by its wounded reality and making a strong personal and communal commitment to healing it. Remember this the next time you throw out plastic bags, empty cans, empty beer bottles, plastic containers etc. Are you healing or further inflicting wounds on an already bleeding creation?

Shrewsbury Cathedral

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

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 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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31 January. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe III: a commitment for life.

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The Zimbabwe Custody is part of a larger East African Province of the Franciscans. We continue the theme of formation with Brother Victor Orwa’s account of making his final vows in Uganda. 

One of the most special moments in my life was when I was received in the Franciscan novitiate to undergo spiritual nourishment as I prepare to make my first vows in religious life. At the end of the year, I committed myself for one year to live in simplicity, with nothing of my own and in chastity. I continued renewing my vows as I promised to the Lord till 5th August, 2018 when I committed myself to the Lord. I was not alone, together with Friar Elcardo Muhereza ofm, we committed ourselves in the hands of the Minister Provincial, Friar Carmello Gianone, the Minister Provincial of the Province of Saint Francis in East Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius.

The event took place in Uganda in one of our Parishes called Rushooka. The procession started at 10 a.m with a good number of religious attending and joining in the profession. The mammoth crowd were jubilant and vibrant in singing to the highest level of their voices. I could notice the smiles on the faces of the Christians who attended and this gave me courage to move on step by step towards my final commitment.

The celebration ended at around 3:00 p.m. and then followed by the congratulatory gifts from the parents and the parishioners. Afterwards, there was the late lunch and taking of photos to keep the day in memory. The event was much awaited since we undertook this journey. I kept on praying for the good Lord to guide us, as He has started. And with the help of the friars we shall manage to reach that level of perfection. Special thanks goes to our formators who had journeyed with us all along and who have believed in us in such a way that they had recommended us for the step. To Our Minister Provincial Friar Carmello Gianonene, for believing in us too and given us the opportunity to be among his friars in the province. To the Custos of Zimbabwe friar Alfigio Tunha, OFM who has given us a home and journeyed with us and lived among us as our own brother. And to the whole friars of the Custody of Good Shepherd. Special Thanks !!!

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January 30, From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe II: Faithful Vocations.

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Brother Givemore Mazhanje is a young Franciscan in Zimbabwe. There is a freshness in his writing which I hope you enjoy. The post is about when he attended 

A WORKSHOP ON FAITHFUL VOCATIONS

 

Mr and Mrs Musiyiwa from St Francis of Assisi Parish, Waterfalls in Harare, were the facilitators.

Firstly, they took us through reflections on our life as religious men of today, including: what is the significant contribution of my vocation to people in the Church and in society? Is my choice of vocation an informed decision? Does my vocation have a foundation in God?

One’s choice of vocation gives life to the individual and humanity only if it has God as its source of being. God is the source and summit of each and everyone’s calling. All vocations are nurtured by Him. On the other hand, it is of paramount significance that each person should cultivate some crucial values and virtues; including endurance, flexibility, dedication, commitment, truthfulness, humility, trust and self-control.

Akin to these, is the establishment of personal boundaries that a person to protect oneself and remain focused. Boundaries can be emotional, physical, psychological and material. Above all these practices, a vocation is nourished with prayer. Without prayer, religious life can be fruitless and meaningless.

Several challenges affect faithful vocations: identity crisis, health, personal doubts, the balance between prayer, study and work, family demands, cultural diversity and economic crisis among others.

Identity crisis is a question of knowing oneself. It is a challenge in religious life if one does not really know who he or she is. Yet knowing oneself requires introspection and acceptance; failure to do such, one may remain in confusion.

Another challenge is the balance between prayer, study and work. All these three are to be given suitable space and time, considering their vital roles in the life of a religious. The challenge arises when one aspect is given more time at the expense of the other. For example, it is not healthy when more time is given to study while prayer and work are suppressed; or more time is given to prayer without studying and working. What is needed is a balanced undertaking of one’s prayer life, time for work and studies.

Secondly, a religious ought to make peace with one’s past and the present so as to build a better foundation for the future. Not only that but also to attend workshops where challenges are shared and discussed so as to gain skills of conducting oneself. Reflections, recollections and retreats are also of great importance. The workshop helped us to know the foundations and importance of a vocation and how to nurture a faithful, meaningful and life-giving vocation.

Let us pray that Givemore and his fellow novices may persevere in their vocations and find the Franciscan way life-giving.

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29 January: From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe, I.

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We haven’t heard much from Brother Chris Dyczek for a while. After leaving the Franciscan International Study Centre, he’s been busy studying and working in Oxford, but is now off to teach in Zimbabwe. The friars have had a custody there for sixty years; this picture shows them all (bar Brother Chris!) in a boat, reminiscent of the one on the L’Arche emblem.

Chris hopes to send us some reflections from Zimbabwe, but in the meantime he has sent us their house journal from which we’ll share a few extracts.

This passage sets out their philosophy and vision.

The Franciscan Friars of the Custody of The Good Shepherd- Zimbabwe are called by Christ, in the footsteps of St. Francis. We are a Missionary and Contemplative Fraternity, striving towards a Self-Sustaining life, in Minority and Simplicity, in continual Formation, and being adaptive to the needs of our times.

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (Psalm 133:1)

The challenge for anyone wanting to follow Francis set out very clearly! Let us pray for the grace of minority (or an attitude of deep humility and brother- or sisterhood), and simplicity, wherever we are called to meet the needs of our times.

 

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What happened next? The Franciscan spirit after FISC.

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20 May: About an Icon.

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This is my last blog of the week and I would like to write a little about an icon I have written.

This Croix Rousse was written as a gift for Bishop Chad in Harare, in response to a talk I heard on the persecution of the Christian church there. It took a good eight months to complete and I had never written an icon of the crucifixion before.

There are elements to working with icons that are unexpected – insights; deep feelings; new ways of seeing and in one case, a continual stream of quantum physics (when writing an icon of Elijah!)

Christ’s emaciated body hangs on the cross in a pose of absolute peace and composure. He bears the wounds of the nails and the spear. The vinegar dipped sponge is being hoisted to his lips. Jerusalem is in the background by the bar at his feet and the cross rests on ground where Adam was purported to have been buried. Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.

Mary, Mother of God, weeps by his right hand and John, his favourite, stands at his left. Above his head is the inscription INRI and above that an empty throne with an open Bible and angels around it, awaiting his Resurrection. The Sun and Moon are symbols of the Old and New Testaments and the circle of the cosmos is at the very top. The power of Almighty God.

Iconographers work form dark to light and each pass of the icon is a level of refinement from rough to smooth and more exquisite detail.

During one profound moment before I parted with this gift I looked at the holes in Christ’s hands and for a nanosecond I seemed to be able to travel across the whole of space through a deep black pinprick of emptiness. The holes in his hands have now become a symbol for me as a gateway leading to Christ. Our Franciscan habit of adoring Christ Crucified has taken on a deeper meaning.

CW.

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12 April, Relics X: Blood Money.

judasSpy Wednesday we used to call this day, when Judas sold the Lord for a few silver coins, though he probably told himself another story to justify his betrayal.

The politicians were putting the nation first, they said, but even so they recognised that it was blood money when Judas returned the coins. It could not go back into the Temple.

Mammon had won.

But Mammon brings its own destruction with it – as Chaucer tells us in The Pardoner’s Tale, when Death claims the young men who find, but will not share, a treasure.

After the Great War, Mammon tried to rule Germany in order to obtain reparation for the death and destruction caused by the Kaiser’s war-making. The result was hyperinflation. The mark lost value, another war loomed.

A relic of that time was given to me by my c0-writer,
Fr Tom Herbst: tokens-germanythese thin, base metal tokens issued by town councils when the mint could not cope.

Pray for the people of Zimbabwe and Venezuela who have seen their money become worthless, their savings lost, their wages useless. May they not lose hope, as Judas did.

(In this carving from Strasbourg Cathedral the Lamb of God is untying Judas from the Tree and rescuing him from Hell’s mouth.)

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