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Friday, September 29, 2017

San Michele and warning signs of war

Gauthier con la carrozzina nuova

San Michele and warning signs of war
On Sunday we celebrated, with a few days in advance, the patron saint of the Parish of Bozoum, Saint Michael Archangel.  We got ready for the celebration by a couple of days of preparation. The feast of Saint Michael is a strong moment for our parish, which finds itself reflecting on its origins, and reaffirming God's authority and protection.
On Saturday afternoon we went in procession through the Mission area with the statue of St. Michael followed by a very large crowd of people praying and singing. On Sunday at 8.30am we celebrate the solemn Mass. Once more large number of people, intense prayer and songs and dances. Right after Mass there were the finals of some football and basketball games. At 12.30 we have had lunch (matanga) with the catechists, the responsible of the various Groups and all those who in one way or another are committed to help the parish.
The celebration day somehow was disturbed by a serious concern: the day before, on Saturday 23rd , the city of Bocaranga was again attacked by rebels from the 3R group (Seleka area), forcing people to flee. The rebels' intention is to occupy the city, and they do not seem to have any intention of leaving soon. Their arrival has triggered general panic and escape fugitives. There were dead, killed by the rebels, and everything happened under the eyes of the UN Peace Keepers, doing just nothing to stop the rebels.
Many of the fleeing people arrived here at Bozoum: 125 km of road, and for many on foot! The concern of the nearby war, so close to our Mission, goes together with the suffering of seeing thousands of people who have lost everything. These days we need to organize their presence.
Tomorrow morning, Saturday, we will start a census, family by family, so we have a better idea how to intervene. We are in need of homes, food, medicine, school, cooking utensils ... But most of all we need PEACE! It’s an urgent and almost desperate need.


Osso di elefante
Un os d'éléphant

Riunione rifugiati
Réunion déplacés

Rifugiati di Bocaranga a Bozoum
Déplacés de Bocarnga à Bozoum

Sunday, September 24, 2017

25 YEARS (+ ONE)

25 YEARS (+ ONE)
Twenty five years ago on 22nd September 1992, I arrived in Central Africa. I had already lived in Bozoum for a year, in 1982-83 just for a pastoral  experience. But in 1992 it was for real, and for a long time. It does not even seem true to me, and I can only thank God, my people, my Carmelite family and my own family for all that I have received in these years. 25 years are a breath, and they go so fast. As for now I simply look ahead.
On Saturday, I was still in Bouar with our Communities committed to the formation of our young people. Early that day, during di morning Liturgy of the Hours, 7 young people received the religious habit, and they started their Novitiate year. A little later, three young guys completed the Novitiate year by declaring their vows, promising God to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience. September, here in Central Africa, is the period of resuming all pastoral and educational activities.
On Sunday 17th, the twenty Ecclesiastical Movements of the Parish were present at 8.30 am Mass, in which we began the pastoral activities. Catechism is also being resumed in these days: around 300 children, young people and adults are preparing to receive Baptism during a four years journey.
Monday is the opening day of schools across the Country. And finally, after a couple of months of vacation, the streets, the square and the classrooms of the Mission are filled with the voices of hundreds of kids, from the Maternal School to the High School, passing through Elementary and other grades. They are all happy: teachers, parents and children: even among the youngest, no one is crying. I have to say: the contrary!
On Tuesday morning I’m on my way back to Bangui. Here we have two working days with Giovanni, architect, who came to help us in reviewing the construction project of the Bangui Carmel Convent. I come back to Bozoum on Friday morning.
I feel satisfied for the work done, but also worried because these same days we received a letter in which the MINUSCA (UN Peace Keepers) accuses the Catholic Church of supporting antibalaka militias, and of being against Muslims. While instead our Missions welcome and defend Muslims, take care and protect them. The truth is that some Fathers are threatened because they publicly denounce what is happening (and for this reason a Polish Capuchin friar was beaten for long 4 hours)... And this happened while we were meeting just with religious leaders (Catholics, Protestants and Muslims). It’s really sad to receive this kind of letters with these unfair accusations, from those who should defend the civilians. Instead they didn’t show the courage to go and help the tortured Father while they were just 15 meters away. They simply went on without stopping.

Riunione a Bangui con p.Federico, p.Arland, p.Mesmin, p.Dieudonné e l'arch. Giovanni (a dx)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Getting ready for the school

Getting ready for the school
Schools in Central Africa, open, more theoretically that in real, on Monday September 18th. At Bozoum Mission, between Kindergarten, Literacy, Women's Training Center, Elementary, Middle and High School, there are more than 1,500 boys and girls who will reach the Mission every day.
Reopening schools after holidays means a lot of work, like cleaning, painting where necessary, repairing of benches and windows and the making of the uniforms for the students and also much training!   These days, elementary teachers worked on the first class program, adding the national language, the Sango, and using the "Learn by Playing" method. From Wednesday to Friday, teachers of our “St.Augustin” Media and High School have worked on some aspects of teaching, such as programming, preparing report cards, interaction with teachers and students.
The situation in the Country is increasingly worrying. Our entire area is affected by violence and attacks, against villages, people, and families. On Sunday, September 10th some villages on the road between Bouar and Bocaranga have been attacked by some Peul (nomadic breeders) and burned. In the following days some NGOs were threatened by antibalaka in the Bocaranga area. In Bouar, a young Muslim was killed, for revenge, because after being robbed, he had denounced the offender. The thief, after being arrested, had been released by the local Gendarmerie, and immediately he wanted the revenge. So yesterday, Thursday, the whole city was in agitation, with barriers erected by antibalaka on several streets. The Government is completely absent, and there is no real reaction. Even the UN Peace Keepers are accused of immobility, of low efficiency and, often, of accordance with some of the rebels.
On Thursday I was planning to go to Bocaranga to organize the school year (German Caritas will help us to encourage some 150 teachers). But at last minute I need to change my program, because there is too much tension, and I decide to go towards Bouar.
The trip is quiet, though the roads are getting worse. I’m bringing here the sanitary supplies (gloves, syringes, gauze) donated by the Czech firm Schubert. I give it to the Sisters who run the dispensary of Wantigera, and the hospitals of Maigaro and Niem.
Their beautiful smile repays for driving such a long distances, and for so bad experience of such great violence!


Sr Giulia, a Maigaro

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The beauty and the scaring

The beauty and the scaring
Sunday, September 3rd (this is the scaring part) a group of Seleka rebels were present in Ndim area, a village 160 km from Bozoum. The region has been under tension for months, and rebel groups go, come and stay, controlling the border with Cameroon and Chad. They carry on their everyday life trough theft, looting, violence, and "taxing" the few merchants taking courage to go to supply cities and country sides with basic essentials. On Sunday they came to Ndim, and they took the mayor, a very smart woman, and the parish priest, the polish capuchin Father Robert. The Father was insulted because he defended people and denounced what is going on in that area. He was also beaten and brutally tortured. The people took courage managing to obtain his freedom.
It is very worrying what happened, because they were clearly intent on scaring and silencing the few people who denounce criminals. They scare not only them, but also everyone who, by incompetence and lack of real good will, keep silent, such as the Government and the UN Peace Keepers.
The beauty part ... is the last work done in church: the two pillars supporting the Tabernacle and the statue of Saint Michael, the Church's Saint Patron, needed to be restored. I had planned to make a wooden sculpture, but the artist, after receiving a down payment, disappeared! So we changed the idea switching into a painting instead. The artist is the same who last year painted the Apostles and all the decorations. The artistic work is just finished: are very simple decorations, but looking brilliant because of the bright colors. And above all, they draw attention to the Tabernacle, where there is the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus. And St. Michael too catches the attention: four angels look like flying around cheerfully.
It is important, especially when the scary moments seem to prevail, bring and create Beauty, which, by the way, is one of God's names.

P.S.: Last Sunday's chicken, the one that travelled 50km, is fine. As for now!