Jesús Ruíz, Bishop of Mbaïki (Central African Republic) tells us how his communities of the Aka (Pygmies) people celebrated Laudato Si’ Week. Jesus, who inspired the CLM movement in Spain, is visiting Spain these days and we had the joy of sharing an afternoon with him, in which his love for his communities shines through.
The Congo Basin is the second lung of the planet, and sadly the scene of similar environmental crimes to those we usually hear about in the Amazon. Only fewer voices tell us about this scenario of massive destruction of the equatorial rainforest. Jesús Ruíz promotes the integral evangelization of the peoples, in which the Easter of the Lord translates into the Aka people standing up against centuries of discrimination not only from the colonizers but also from the rest of the majority peoples of Central Africa.
The Aka are used to taking blows and bowing their heads. That is why leading a march with the slogan We are the guardians of the forest is of great value. It is a clear sign of the Comboni charisma. Like the rest of the native peoples in America, Asia, Oceania… the Aka are aware that they have guarded the Common House for centuries, in invisibility, and now their testimony shines because their environment is at serious risk of disappearing. We are indebted to all these communities.
Comboni Sisters Lucia Font (Spanish) and Lucia Premoli (Brazilian) are currently working with Bishop Ruiz and the Aka peoples, the latter as the Episcopal leader of the Laudato Si’ Commission. The experience in Amazonia has prompted the latter to concretize in Africa all the work that has been developed in Latin America. In nearby Mongoumba, the CLM community has been accompanying this people for more than 20 years. Our CLM Tere Monzón, who participated in this mission for 10 years, returns to Spain on the 9th.
The momentum of the encyclical Laudato Si’ is mobilizing around the world for a change of system, because the current development model respects neither people nor the rest of Creation. “We need organizations to help us document everything that is happening in our territory, so that it becomes known.” The level of mercury pollution in the rivers, the loss of native species, the savage enrichment of a few minorities thanks to the national resources of this “poor country”. This is the direct request that Monsignor Ruiz makes to us.
On 22 May, the Forum of the Integral Ecology of the Comboni Family in America was held online on the theme “Towards a missionary ecological conversion”. More than 75 Comboni missionaries (brothers, priests, sisters and lay people) shared, for four hours, their pastoral activities in this field of integral ecology as part of the missionary call.
It was a day of sensitization and exchange of work, challenges, proposals and strategies to raise awareness of the planetary emergency and urgency of serious environmental degradation, as well as the great inequalities that affect the whole of humanity.
Encouraged by the Pact for the Common House made during the Synod of the Amazon 2019, the Comboni Family promotes the Comboni Pact for the Common House Común, which Father Dario Bossi (Comboni Missionary participant in the Amazon Synod) puts in context in this article. This pact invites us as missionaries to cultivate two complementary dimensions: reflection (study, prayer…) and concrete attitudes and gestures, and received a strong impetus during the Comboni Social Forum in Belém (Brazil) in 2022, which highlighted the resistance of indigenous people, women and youth to the harassment of the Common House in various forms.
During the meeting, Fr. Juan Armando Goicochea Calderón presented the work of the Laudato Si’ Center of Lima, as a center for formation, research and projects. A School of Formation in Integral Ecology is being organized for Comboni and diocesan pastoral workers. The publication of the book “This earth is in your hands” was an excellent initiative that has helped a lot, especially in the formation of young people. Two other sustainable production projects are underway: beekeeping (which protects biodiversity from industrial monoculture) and the export of organic coffee to Europe.
Mrs. Odile presented the Laudato Si’ Missionary Center of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which seeks to internalize the approaches of Laudato Si’ and to share initiatives to promote the Care of the Common Home. Among its activities are the annual meetings, which involve an exchange between civil institutions and the administration. Its members were present at the X Fospa (Pan-Amazonian Social Forum). In Brazil. Odile emphasized that this center is an opportunity to question the ecclesial pastoral and promote joint work between laity and religious, promoting critical ecological citizenship in defense of the common home. The Center is responsible for disseminating the contents of the encyclical in simple language, and for bringing ecological education to public and private educational centers.
Flávio Schmidt, a Brazilian Comboni layman who has worked in recent years in Piquiá de Baixo (Maranhão) together with the Spanish layman Xoan Carlos Sánchez, participated in the organizing committee of this event. This community of Piquiá continues to suffer from mining contamination and is a symbol of resistance and defense of the Common Home and Human Rights. . CLM Spain
The Comboni Family in America, in continuity with the Comboni Pact for the Common Home and the Comboni Meeting on Integral Ecology in 2022, proposes a day of exchange of work, challenges, proposals and strategies to raise awareness of the emergency and planetary urgency for the serious environmental degradation as well as the great inequalities that affect all humanity, in the online Forum of Integral Ecology, on Monday, May 22nd, 11h-14h (Brazil).
The meeting will be in Spanish, with the possibility of translation for those who need it.
The book “Africa, Cradle of Social Transformation” written by Domenico Agasso, which reconstructs the missionary journey and vision of Fr. Francesco Pierli [right in photo], was presented in Verona on Saturday, April 1. The volume traces the stages of Fr. Francesco’s life highlighting his vital experiences and the historical processes from which his research and praxis of social transformation developed.
What emerges is a profoundly Combonian journey, reflecting the ideas, values and style of St. Daniel Comboni’s Plan for the Regeneration of Africa with Africa. Continuity and discontinuity at the same time, as often emerges in Fr. Pierli’s own reflection. Discontinuity in that times have changed a great deal, with a quite different mentality and socio-economic structures. We thus encounter a thought that critically confronts the great social and cultural transformations of our time and operates a discernment in order to respond to the epochal challenges that arise according to God’s dream.
It can be understood then how from his origins in post-World War I Umbria, marked by strong tensions and demands for social justice, Fr. Pierli developed a particular sensitivity and interest in the social doctrine of the Church and the vocation to social and “political” responsibility of Christians. He lived the season of the Second Vatican Council and put it to good use, inspired by the vision of Gaudium et spes and Lumen gentium. He becomes involved with both the magisterium and the social praxis of the Church, and when, at the end of his term as Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries, he landed in Kenya, he founded the Institute of Social Ministry in Mission (now the Institute for Social Transformation) at Tangaza College (in the Catholic University of East Africa). It was 1994, a year full of events: that of the first synod for Africa, in which he participated as an expert; the first democratic elections in South Africa, sanctioning the transition after apartheid; but also the genocide in Rwanda, a predominantly Catholic country. The African Synod called on the Church to embrace the social mission of the church in response to the major challenges on the continent. The Institute founded by Fr. Pierli was the first response to that invitation: to form social ministers equal to such great challenges.
A living testimony of the impact of the Institute’s work came from Dr. Judith Pete, a former student of Fr. Pierli’s, who now teaches at the same university and is in charge of the UNESCO Universities in Africa program, which promotes the synergy between learning and service on the ground. In addition to recounting how her encounter with Fr. Pierli profoundly marked her life, she emphasized the importance of the pedagogy used in the Institute, which harmonizes theory and practice, professional preparation and attitude of service and integrity. Most importantly, he emphasized how the Institute for Social Transformation’s programs contribute to the formation of leaders dedicated to social transformation in Africa.
Prof. Mario Molteni, from the Catholic University of Milan, spoke, recounting the fruitful collaboration with Fr. Pierli and the Institute he founded. A collaboration that launched a master’s program for the training of social entrepreneurs, with a direct slant on start-ups with social impact. A program that was only possible to start because of Fr. Pierli’s courage and vision that made it possible to have an effective, open and creative counterpart in Africa. Today that program has spread to 20 African countries and in the next few years it will come to 5 more. It is not just an academic program in partnership with African universities, but a network of entrepreneurs and local business services for significant social impact, organized under an organization called E4Impact. Recently, this initiative was visited by President Mattarella during his official visit to Kenya, selected for its innovation and significance. Indeed, to overcome the socio-economic injustices and environmental unsustainability that are leading the planet toward catastrophic scenarios, we need a new model of development, as Pope Francis also often insists, for example in Laudato si‘ and with the Economy of Francis movement.
At the end of the event, Fr. Pierli was asked what has been the most difficult challenge of all these years. Without hesitation, he emphasized the difficulty of changing mindsets and attitudes, and power relations, that induce dependence rather than autonomy and interdependence in Africa. We still have not overcome the heavy colonial legacy. The journey for social transformation continues.
A new video has been published where we can follow the current reality of the community of Piquiá de Baixo accompanied by our CLM in Brazil.
In it they show you how the exposure to pollution, gases and cement dust from the companies continues to make the inhabitants of the community sick.
The video is in Portuguese, but you can activate the subtitles and set the automatic translation to follow the news.
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