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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Together for Peace

This week I went away for few days, to Bouar, to build glass walls for St.Elie’s chapel and to meet with representative of 3 religious communities
(Catholics, Protestants and Muslims).

Trip was ok, usual gags with rebels. In Baoro they stopped me and asked me the same formalities….I played dumb, told them to get pen and paper and write down my details. They said that’s not what they needed. They wanted money. I replied formalities are just writing down personal details. Then I asked if they actually had a notepad and if they could actually write? They got annoyed and let me go.

The work on the glass walls went ok, just a couple of cuts, and the meeting was amazing.  Here’s the recap and final message: on the 19th of July 2013, as per Bouar’s Vicar Abbe Mirek, representatives from Protestant, Muslim and Catholic communities met in the Maison de Jeunes. 31 presents.  Several topics: pray together, exchange or point of view and our thoughts on the current situation, create a common platform amongst religious leaders and cast a common message to people, authorities and rebels. Meeting started at 8.30 am with a moment of prayer held by a Protestant, a Catholic and a Muslim. After that everyone introduced themselves and Father Aurelio, as facilitator, began with meeting. He said when there’s a fire in a village, everyone comes to help out. Even those who just had a fight. So in the same way with this crisis it’s important that faithful men and women join together for peace.
Every situation, even the ugliest, brings some positive elements, in this case the possibility to gather despite our differences. This crisis will help us be united!  Father Aurelio draw the attention to shared points amongst Christians and Muslims. Both believe in a god that want us to take care of each other and to pay attention to suffering. God’s law is against violence. Finally he highlighted that the risk of tension between religious community has sensibly increased with the rebel’s arrival (majority speak Arabic and are Muslim)  After a short break, allowing people to get to know one another, we divided in 3 groups and discussed about religious figures, the situation in this country, justice, education , rebels Seleka, lack of authority figures and tension between different faiths.  After 45 minutes each group presented their outcome.  Finally, around 11.30 we created a small commission made of 2 representative for each community: Father Bassala Ferdinand and Dakabo-Kette Jeovin (Protestants) Sister Felicité Saidou and Bayere Jacques (Catholics) Abdourahmane Goni and Oumarou Sanda (Muslims)  The meeting was over, but the commission will plan more. At 3 pm they introduce the Religious Leader Platform to  the Republic District Attorney in Bouar (he’s at the moment the highest state figure)  On Saturday morning, 20th of July they edited a message that will be red out to all churches and mosques. They organised a prayer day on the 12th of august ( Independence Eve ) Protestants, Catholics and Muslims will merge in the Stadium and pray together. Also in the afternoon of the 20th the commission brought a message to Seleka Rebels:  * * MESSAGE E ye gui Siriri we want for nothing but Peace! Bouar’s Religious Leaders Message   We, Bouar’s men and women  of faith, Protestants, Catholics and Muslims, met on the 19th of July 2013 to answer to our conscience plea about the country’s situation and Bouar in particular. Our faith in God, either if Christians or Muslims, demands to pay attention to sufferings of our brothers and sisters, surrounded by war since many months. No creed, either Christian or Muslim allows violence, murder, theft, robbery, rape. We firmly condemn all of those.  We ask forgiveness for all our devoted either Christians or Muslims that did wrong. For those who stole, looted, killed, intimidated. For those who took advantage to get rich or to vindicate themselves.  this country has peacefully coexisted for a long time, we do not want it to fall in the nightmare of ethnic or religious war.  We therefore make a plea: 
*To our brothers and sister in faith:*  ·        
We invite you all to God’s faith and His law and to coherence. If all believers follow His law there wouldn’t be any war!   We remind you that God entrusted us the Creation and every one of us needs to take responsibility for this country and for our brothers and sisters who suffer. We ask to all our communities to open and commit to a heart conversion, prerequisite of any external change.  For all of us, Christians and Muslims, we exhort you to work towards forgiveness and reconciliation, in order to keep Ethnic or Religious tension faraway.  
*To the Authority*  ·        
 We invite you to rapidly regain your role and purpose! Ruling of law is a prerequisite for Peace. We remind to all civil authorities your duty to listen to your conscience, everyone has to answer directly to God not only for the wrong they did but also for the good they didn’t want to do.  We remind that every woman and every man who believes in God and who has public responsibilities needs to respect their faith and God’s law.  Civil servants or military personnel we exhort you to pay respect to the oath you solemnly sworn, to be honest and to be of service and to have a respectful attitude towards all people, whatever their ethnicity, religion, sex, political view.  Some national matters are more sensitive than others: Education and Healthcare in particular. The State has a specific duty to pay its employees. Also employees must go back to work, so trust and respect will be restored!         
**  *To Seleka  Individuals (Rebels)*  ·        
As religious authorities we pray for your conversion to stop this endless series of crimes, murders, rapes and plunders.  ·         Please respect God’s law, an through good will, this violence and hatred will transform in love, justice and peace.  ·         We ask to armed men to respect every person, to respect the State and its functionaries. Respect for all, especially women, children and sick people!  ·         We remind Seleka rebels that the State must get back to work and needs resources both financial and human. The development of a country is never through weapons, theft or plunder! 
*To all Women:* 
All of us, either Christians or Muslims recognize women did often suffering the most throughout the population. As daughters, mothers, wives you carry an enormous burden. We wish for all of you a dignified life, we pray that your sons, brothers, husbands will find the joy for a dignified life, helped by your prayers and your faith in God’s law.
**  *To our young generation:* 
 In order to live in CAR, today, you need a lot of courage! After the recent events this country sunk into misery. It is hard to keep up the hope! We give forth once more the believers hope, so you don’t get disheartened, but you’ll commit to rebuild this country!  Do not go after violence, vendetta, easy money, theft, rape, drugs, weapons! These are paths to death.  Follow wholeheartedly education, that will give you a chance for a better future. Find passion about work!
 Finally to all parents we say: think about your children’s future, send them off to school. It is in their right and also a duty!  God bless these efforts to reinstate Peace, Justice and social cohesion in this continent, especially in CAR. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

a few postcards from Bozoum

this week, I let the pictures speak: a few postcards of the Mission of Bozoum: the courtyard, the veranda, the Church ...

and the passing of time from the veranda of Bozoum: from 5 am to 20 pm ... (and to 20 pm ... the lights you see are only those 2 or 3 spots ...)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

God help us….however let’s give Him an hand!

This was a relatively calm week. In Bangui, the Capital they finally began to disarm the rebels. Whom, as out of magic, have disappeared from the streets.
Disarming is quite seriously done…however who’s preventing them to hide? Our fear is that once this storm is over they will get back with the hidden weapons and start with shooting and violence again….
On Friday I went to Ndim, 165 km far from Bozoum, passing by Bocaranga, three rebels on a motorbike followed us, overtook us honking. They let us go.
…were they expecting someone else? At the end of Bocaranga there was a barrier. We stopped. They told me to wait, someone from Bocaranga had to come. “whom?” I asked . “don’t you know???!! Another rebel”, he said grumpily, i must wait for my turn when they give me the right.
“Which right” I said, “the right you talk about is given from the rifle you hold. Nothing else”
He got angry: “why did you stopped then”   “because you placed a branch across the way and I couldn’t pass” I replied.
In the end he gave up and let us go.
Sometimes i get the impression my 3-4 guardian angels (some are borrowed) are there with hair standing on end and as I get back home they sigh in relief!!!
Once I got in Ndim I visited with the kids from our middle and secondary schools. Several are from Ndim and Bossentele, and now they are on holiday. We met also with the parents to discuss and plan ahead the new school year.

This year we have a novelty! We’re building a FOYER, a small dormitory with kitchen and despite the war, construction works carry on!
There will also be a basin to collect rain for the green garden…
After the meeting we went to another one with the Mutual saving coops. Other than Bozoum there are 3 more branches Koui, Ngaundaye and  Ndim, that was plundered in March. Thanks to the generousity of some friends from Italy and Prague and other places we managed to reset the saving funds and we want to pay them back.
Trip back to Bozoum was ok, no rain but roads and bridges are getting worse…
These days I red a lovely piece by Joan D’Arc. The judges were trying to trick her, and this 17 year old girl had an outstanding simplicity and true force in her. They asked her why did she do battle if she believed in god. Couldn’t god win just with his will? And Joan said one needs to do battle so that god could give victory.
It’s a perfect phrase, with man’s work, there’s a condition for God’s will!
We hope and we pray so CAR can get back on its feet. Often we say  “Nzapa a yeke” (God exist)
However, we cannot sit with idle hands waiting for Him to do what we should do….in the meantime. Those who want to help can sign this petition here
and may God help us….however let’s give Him an hand!



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Weird noises, Awkward silences

Saturday. A bit too quiet for my taste. Ok, there’s still a hundred kids from the Catholic Action (called here Aita Kwe, all brothers),however something is missing: our school’s children! With crèche, primary school, secondary school, Women Centre it’s more than 1300 students coming over every day.
Between Saturday and Sunday the school year was over so we held the closing ceremonial, with choir and hold out of record cards. There was a special atmosphere this year, as we all are aware we’re the only ones who kept schools open and that we kept on going despite the war. Pride and pleasure were well visible on parents and kids faces!

Awkward silence…something else is missing. Nuns! this week they took off to Italy, for a bit of a rest. And as it happens….it’s when one’s missing that you notice their absence! And you appreciate their value even more. Especially theirs, a discreet one, but always very tangible…
Sister Sira, managing the healthcare cabinet, the kitchen and her nature a bit edgy, however capable of endless attention.
 Sister Graziana, taking care of the poor, the sick people in the neighborhood, always on foot to give medical attention….and her wandering in our green garden, looking for veggies to nick…
Sister Solange, working with children at the Orphan Center, always carrying her Mate around (she’s from Uruguay)
Sister Chiara, working with kids and young girls, often in the Orphan Centre’s kitchen or the animators. Since middle of March she went back to Italy with Sister Rosalie, the novice
Awkward silence, on Thursday afternoon, when I got the news that Giorgio Grandicelli passed away. He was a male nurse from Genova, he started coming over here in 2006
To help us out. I remember his endless patience with sores, that here tend to never heal. His helpfulness with everyone, especially children. Under his moustache often hid irony and good mood, and a bit of a chunter, as good Genovese man. As soon as I spread the news, many reacted as if a close relative had died. Last year they told him he had lung cancer, he had surgery and chemio. Two weeks after he was here in Bozoum….he was supposed to be back again, sadly cancer started again. Until the very last moment Giorgio dreamed of Africa. Ciao Giorgio, go in peace!
Weird noises. These past weeks it felt like things were kinda going back to normal…..unfortunately we’re far from it! I went to Bouar and Bangui these couple of days.
1200 km of tension, from barrier to barrier, there is no control over rebels, they do as they please, no authority over them at all.
Yesterday, Friday the 28th in Bangui, they started shootings, thefts and violence again, at least 6 people died.
When is this going to end?
Last Sunday CAR’s bishops published a very interesting letter concerning this country’s you can read it:
and here the one for the president
subject is DU JAMAIS VU! (never seen situation as this)

Between Weird noises and awkward silences may peace come back again