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Monday, November 25, 2013

Faith, Hope and School

Faith, Hope and School
We're in the end of November. RCA  begins to get some attention and finally some worries. 8 months since the coup d'état the situation is tense. Violence, killings, tortures, looting, refugees are now countless. As we wait for ONU, African Union and France for military intervention, all over there's tension and fear. Seleka rebels in Bozoum keep on going with threats and violence. On Monday morning a guy came in. They kept him prisoner for two weeks and horribly tortured him: he now has 3rd degree burning on his face, chest and arms. On Wednesday morning we heard few shots. They told me afterwards that the rebels shot a kid in the middle of the neighborhood, just because he tried to protect his grandma from a who wanted to beat her up sa another small kid was hiding there. Thankfully he got hit by one bullet only which didn't make too much damage and he managed to escape...
Boozum's schools are open, more than 10.000 students attend, refugees too. Thanks to the Czech Republic, we still bring in pens and pads for the students. A French TV also got interested, France 24, they published an article and they just did a program about us (
In order to encourage parents to send their kids to schools ONU also sent food and supplies that parents can distribute during break time....these days we celebrate the end of the year of the faith, since Tuesday every afternoon, more than 300 people gathered to meditate on faith, on our credo. It's quite astonishing to face words that are centuries old, representing our faith, the most beautiful one, the catholic faith
Chesterton said that "faith is too good to be true. But so true!"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the logbook

Some Caritas member came into my office. One of them, at midnight 3 Seleka rebels paid him a visit. He's a volunteer, one of those who help out with PAM food distribution to the refugees. They demanded food. he had none. they threatened him, set another time to meet and bring them 150000 CFA (225 euros)
I made some calls, then i went to see them...I met with their "colonel". Told him what happened, made names of those who threatened. He replied he didn't know them....Even if one of these two is THE famous Goni, the one who smacked me....We argued a bit, then i left. And the volunteer decided to leave Bozoum for a while......

5.30 I set off to Bozoum. I left early bcause at 8.30 I held a  meeting with the religious leaders in Bossemptele, 90 km far. We were about 15, Catholics and Protestants. Muslims didn't come, but we decided to go ahead anyway and to meet with them later on for an update. We meditated, as religious people, about the problems and the situation this country is going through. This crisis is a result of errors and mistakes, of a long journey. And, in order to solve it, it requires a huge conversion commitment, a path of reflection and development that will take time, but we as believers want to undertake! I left at noon. Barriers now have increased up to 13, but it wasn't too hard to pass through.

Wednesday until Saturday
the morning flew by in between meetings. Unicef wants to helps us out with Bozoum and Bossentele sector's schools that are still shut down. This would allow 8000 kids to go to school! I also met with people and friends who worry for my safety (well, that includes me!). Even a restaurant owner waved at me and invited me over (thanks F. !)
I stopped by the PAM and other organizations and in the afternoon i met with the Caritas trainers. the 9 RCA dioceses representative's trainers are gathering to think how to work best in such awful context. The whole country is knocked out! In Bossangoa there are still 41000 refugees (34000 in the Cathedral estate). Countless in Berberati. In other areas the rebels go from town to town and leave to the farmers empty bags, and demand them to be filled up.
These trainers come from several Caritas: Caritas Africa, Caritas Internationalis e Caritas UK (CAFOD): it's great to see the Church in its diversity and unity, they come from India, Switzerland, UK and Congo.
Caritas, here in RCA is one of the rare organization that never left. They stayed close to the people. more than ever we feel the truth in the Pope's words, that Caritas "is a caress from Mother Church to her people". on Saturday morning, the Archbishop Mons. Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Caritas' president, concluded these meetings. His action, within and outside the country is truly prophetic. I left at 1 pm. My car fully loaded of paint, 350 chicks cheeping for the whole trip. On km 12th a bit of tension: they asked me for the Order of Mission: I said I didn't have it. They demanded to see it, I said no! Then I told them I'm a minister, so they made a sign to pass. But the guy at the barrier said no. Eventually I made  it home in Bozoum at 8 pm. Finally.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

an embracing church

During these days, an UN commission has been investigating the human rights violations happened here. Since March, when the Seleka rebels arrived in Bozoum, there have been continuous violence against human rights: arbitrary arrests, illegal incarcerations, tortures, humiliations and killings. The ONU commission met with the victims, then with the rebels, who denied everything just in front this cells in which several people had been arrested during the UNvisit.....

Since last Saturday, the 27th of October, in Bouar, a grave crisis struck. Everything began with an attack against the Seleka rebels. They are called the "antibalaka" few hundred men, but we don't know the precise number. Probably there's little politics behind all this, and it's all down to the reaction of desperate people who saw their houses burnt, their family killed, robbed and their liberty taken away.
On Saturday morning these antibalaka tried to occupy the airport and the military camp, but the Seleka rebels won against this attack.
With all the shooting the Bouar population panicked and went asking for protection in the several churches nearby: Fatima, St.Laurent (1.400 people) and the cathedral (more than 6000 people)
Thankfully the MISCA was there, and protected the refugees.

On Wednesday morning I went there, in Bouar, which is 250km far from here. I got there about 3.30 pm. I met with local authorities (among them the prefect who left the city just before the attacks and came back just that moment) the FORMAC military, the Seleka representative and some from the local population. People are so frustrated because of lack of authorities during the attacks, and because of the tension all around: some Muslim carry knives with them, as the feel they might be under attack from the antibalaka. The people feel completely helpless.

After the meeting I went to the cathedral: so many people! It was really striking to see all those men, women, children. Everyone seemed quite calm now, and everyone was busy with preparing some lunch, or bathing a child or talking. Nevertheless it is obvious they are very worried to go back home. Thankfully the FORMAC military from Gabon are doing a great job protecting them. There are also volunteers from the local parish, from caritas, and justice and peace who try to mantain order, safety and hygiene. Most of all the tireless  abbé  Mirek, the episcopal bishop here. There's a team of nurses and a doctor who set up a small hospital in the old cathedral, there are the Claris nuns praying and a woman gave birth under their porch.
At 6pm more people came, they spent their day in the neighborhood, but prefer to spend the night here. All the parish rooms are full, the porches, the welcoming centre, the cathedral. On Thursday morning, people were still there, despite several invitation to go back home. It's understandable, they are afraid to leave a safe place. At 11 we set back home, but in Baoro our clutch gave in. My brothers borrowed me a car: a 21 years Suzuki!
Until Bossemptele everything went ok. Then 50km far from home it went off. Lucky chance a friend passed by, he cleaned the car's filter so I could set off again, but only for another 10 km. then same thing happened. I cleaned filter and tubes, car started again, pushed by two shepherd basing by.
I managed to get up to the mission, then 50 meters from the gate it eventually died. 
Today is all saints day. My eyes are still full of the images from Bouar, where the defenseless and the weak found protection and comfort. I'm so proud of that church!