Comboni Lay Missionaries

Light and darkness

Etiopia

Sharing God’s love with others, receiving and giving, have determined our missionary vocation (Vicenta Llorca, Comboni Missionary Sister in Ethiopia for more than 40 years and Pedro Nascimento, Comboni Lay Missionary, two years in Ethiopia). As he did with Abraham, also to us, through prayer and personal discernment, God said: “Leave your country and go to the land that I will show you” (Gn 12:1). Our destination was Ethiopia, a country full of sunshine and hospitality. Ethiopia is a beautiful country, rich in history and culture, full of traditions and many peoples, with great linguistic diversity.

Ethiopia

Benishangul-Gumuz is part of one of the regions of Ethiopia and one of the tribes present here is the Gumuz, a people of strong character, ready to fight to defend themselves in many ways. Our missionary work is especially among the Gumuz.

Our first impression was very good, as we always wanted to share our life with such a simple people. The community of the Comboni Sisters, located in Mandura, offers education, health care and catechetical pastoral care. The community of Comboni Lay Missionaries (David Aguilera and Pedro Nascimento) lives with the Comboni religious in Guilguel Beles, ten kilometers from Mandura, and tries to help both communities in the areas of education and catechetical ministry, as well as in the care of some of the sick.

Ethiopia

Vicenta and Pedro work in pastoral and social service, since the person is complete with the development of the soul and body. One of the activities we carry out together is the accompaniment of the catechesis of women in their spiritual, human and material development. We know that women have an important role in the transformation of society and here they need to be aware of this. Gumuz women work very hard and are often left behind in opportunities such as education, where educational attainment is not a priority, especially for women and girls. Above all, they have to work in the fields, collect firewood for cooking, carry water from the spring or river, carry heavy sacks of cereals (the fruit of their work in the fields), take care of their children, cook…. The life of the Gumuz woman is difficult and full of sacrifices and hard work.

We meet every week with a group of women who have chosen a name for the group: “Peace Builders”, a name due to the war situation that we have been living for more than two years in our area. In this group we share the Word of God, pray for peace and have coffee together with the economic collaboration of all, and we become close in our experiences of pain and suffering, strengthen our friendship, share dreams and aspirations for the future. These meetings give us the possibility to get to know each other and to be closer to each other. It is our desire, according to our possibilities, to develop activities that can help women in the economic part, since they have an important role in the maintenance of the family.

All this is very beautiful and attractive, but human life is made of happy moments and painful moments, days of light and days of darkness.

Due to ethnic clashes, especially over land ownership, social stability has worsened, many have been killed, villages have been burned, some crops have been stolen by opportunists, many innocent people have been imprisoned without knowing the reasons, schools and medical posts have been closed due to insecurity, for fear of students being attacked by rebels and teachers and nurses attacked and kidnapped, as most of them belong to another ethnic group. Unfortunately, this has been our reality for the past two years, with times of peace and times of conflict and insecurity. However, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Rom 14:8) and He is always with us and accompanies us.

Ethiopia

In the Sisters’ mission, some women asked for protection for few weeks, staying there to sleep. The situation worsened and they decided to escape to the forest, where they were able to hide. When the situation calmed down, little by little, the families returned to their huts. As we have already said, this situation has been repeated for two years and together we have experienced pain, insecurity, but also God’s protection. The works of God are born and grow at the foot of the Cross, as St. Daniel Comboni used to say.

None of this was foreseen when, full of illusions, we came to this mission, but we decided to make common cause with this people, to share the good and the bad moments, we decided to stay here and abandon ourselves in God’s hands. We have lived through many difficult moments and our presence here, in the midst of difficulties, is intended to be a testimony of fidelity to God manifested in fidelity to the people with whom we share our lives. It was Jesus who told us: “Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

In the midst of pain, of seeing the suffering of those who escape, of those who mourn for their loved ones, either because they have died or because they are deprived of their freedom, all this has become a time of grace that helps us to strengthen our faith and fidelity to a people who live in times of suffering. Making the pain of others my own shows us how important they are to us, how much we love them. St. Daniel Comboni taught us: I make common cause with you and the happiest day of my life will be the one when I give my life for you.

Right now peace talks are taking place between the government and rebel groups, schools and medical posts (some) are beginning to open. We are hopeful for times of peace, happiness and prosperity.

Pray for us and for the people of Ethiopia, because we cannot lose hope; pray that we will find support to develop economic activities with women and help families in need; pray for peace and fraternal communion.

Ethiopia

Vicenta Llorca, Comboni Missionary Sister and Pedro Nascimento, Comboni Lay Missionary.

Hope School

Colegio Gumuz
Gumuz school

Our school time, especially infant and primary school, usually marks our lives in one way or another. Great memories pile up: friends who are a big part of who we were, teachers who touched our hearts and opened paths we had not even imagined until then… In general, a shared life that filled us with passion and joy and that we will almost always consider as the best stage.

However, in Ethiopia, school can have a more complete meaning.

In the region where I live, Gumuz, the Comboni family has 5 kindergartens (3 run by the Comboni Fathers, 2 by the Comboni Sisters) and an elementary school (run by the Comboni Sisters). All these centers were requested by the local government itself, more than 20 years ago, which understood that this underdeveloped region needed educational spaces that would fulfill two objectives: on the one hand, to promote education in order to be able to guarantee an autonomous and dignified future; on the other hand, to create spaces where boys and girls of all the ethnic groups present in the area could coexist, in equality and friendship, so that the division (so present and so deep in the region) would disappear from the pillars of life (childhood and adolescence) and the idea of complete fraternity would be fostered.

Gumuz school

This has been the objective of the Comboni Family all these years, from the general educational plans to the daily work: to create a place where living together is as important as the acquisition of knowledge and skills.

However, the social reality has changed a lot in the last two years. When I arrived in Ethiopia, this region was in the midst of an ethnic conflict between ethnic groups (with killings, displaced people, burning of houses, etc.). When the situation was normalizing, Covid-19 appeared to break the normality, close everything and spread panic (which had already become a regular “visitor” in this area). And, without having managed to stop this problem, a new ethnic conflict, even more serious than the previous one, struck the life of the inhabitants of the region. The problems that we found in the first conflict multiplied, expanded and knew no religion, age or sex to have a little mercy. The day to day life was dominated by a panic already known, but that reached unsuspected limits. EVERYTHING was locked again with the key of fear, violence and discouragement.

The situation demanded a response, and the school of the Comboni Sisters, which is the one I am writing about, became more than a center for living together, it became the ” Hope School”.

Gumuz school

Facing the reality of violence, many people, mainly women, children and the elderly, chose to leave their homes. Many went to hide in the forest, but the vast majority of those who lived around the school, almost instinctively, and out of enormous trust in the sisters, chose to take refuge in masse in the school. It was amazing to see how they entered by dozens, or hundreds, with the few things they could grab before escaping, in an improvised diaspora, carrying belongings, children, babies, grain, animals, etc. The school opened its doors, and became, more than their home, their refuge, since, more than comfort, they sought security. The classrooms were emptied and transformed into places to sleep, cook, eat and receive care; as well as other spaces and common areas, even the courtyards and fountains.

As the weeks passed, the situation gave some respite; people returned to their homes, but not to normality. Fearing that their belongings might be looted, they feared mainly for the grain they had collected throughout the year. They again placed their hope in the school, which once again opened its doors so that they could take the grain, in hundred-kilo sacks, to be stored in the only place they trusted at the time.

This situation was especially serious for the boys and girls, who were living in fear and feeling unprotected. The sisters, aware of this, put the school back at the service of the children, creating a space of trust. Despite the fact that officially all the schools in the area were closed, the doors of our center were opened almost daily to give tutoring and review classes, to welcome anyone who came and allow them to paint, draw, read or write; and, what was most successful, to organize (or rather, to improvise) games and sports activities. At that time, the most important thing was not that the children and young people learned or were evaluated, but that they could arrive to a place where they felt safe, excited, with the joy that should reign at this stage of life. That they could play, interact in peace and tranquility and feel embraced and comforted was the priority; in short, that they could be what they are, boys and girls, forced to grow up by a harsher reality than they should have known.

Gumuz school

Throughout this process, my missionary mate (Pedro) and I wanted to be involved to the maximum (even though sometimes it was impossible for us to move because of the danger of the ten kilometers of road that separated our house from the school, due to attacks, raids, shootings, etc.). Our daily work, our illusion and our strength were mainly focused on accompanying and helping to carry out the daily activities for boys and girls; as improvised teachers, sports coaches, monitors, chaperones, and everything else we could imagine, we tried to offer a space of welcome and hope to everyone who crossed the doors of the street.

Gumuz school

Tomorrow, February 23rd, and after having stabilized the situation, the school officially opens its doors for the new school year (having lost almost half a year). The students, from 3 years old to the end of primary school, will return to their classes. In this return, the nightmare will be behind them; and I doubt that any of them will cry at the doors of the school. On the contrary, they will be eager to return to the place from which they never felt apart; the place that was for them the only space of tranquility and carefree. Parents, for their part, will feel more relieved than ever, since, if in the moments of greatest torment they trusted blindly to protect their sons and daughters (the most precious gift they have), the return to teaching will fill them with renewed enthusiasm.

That is why, although it has another name, I have preferred to baptize it as “Hope School”.

Gumuz school

David Aguilera Perez, Comboni Lay Missionary in Ethiopia

Research Report: Carajás Dossier, Corruption and carelessness (2)

Piquiá

The research report team shows in the report how the passing of the trains compromises the communities living on their margins and how the iron dust from the steel mills infiltrates the houses and threatens the health of an entire village.

Piquiá

In it we can see the village of Piquiá de Baixo (from minute 35) where our Comboni family closely accompanies this reality and the struggle for a resettlement in the neighborhood of Piquiá de la Conquista.

We leave this second video (in Portuguese) from the Justice of the Roads channel of JnT*

* Justiça nos Trilhos works to strengthen communities in the Carajás Corridor in North Eastern Amazonian Brazil and denounce violations of human and environmental rights, holding the state and corporations accountable and preventing new human rights violations.

Research Report: Carajás Dossier, Corruption and carelessness

tren

Divided into four chapters, the first episode shows some of the impacts that one of the largest freight trains in the world leaves in the 28 cities and more than 100 towns it passes through. The large research report reveals how the wealth of mining contrasts with the misery and suffering of the residents of the Carajás railroad, how the lack of pedestrian bridges exposes residents to routine accidents at crossings, and how corruption scandals drain the public coffers of municipalities cut off by the CFE.

train

In this report we can see the reality of the communities affected by the problems of mining in the northeast of Brazil where the Comboni Family accompanies the communities. Our CLM community has been present for more than 25 years.

We leave this video (in Portuguese) from the Justice of the Roads channel of JnT*

* Justiça nos Trilhos works to strengthen communities in the Carajás Corridor in North Eastern Amazonian Brazil and denounce violations of human and environmental rights, holding the state and corporations accountable and preventing new human rights violations.

Towards the Comboni Social Forum on Social Ministeriality 2021

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COMBONI FAMILY COMMISSION ON SOCIAL MINISTERIALITY

TOWARDS THE COMBONI SOCIAL FORUM 2021

ROME (EUR) 3 – 7 JULY 2021

Dear brothers, sisters, secular and lay Combonians! Peace to you!

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We have known for some time that you have been waiting for the green light to indicate the names of the representatives of your provinces who were to participate in the Social Ministry Forum. We thank you for your patience and availability.

Unfortunately, in view of the stalemate created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not possible to convene the Comboni Social Forum in July 2020 as planned, and even the hypothesis of meeting again in December 2020 has been lost in view of a second wave in recent times. We are sorry once again to have to postpone this important event as a Comboni family, but the situation wisely asks us to reorganize ourselves for better times.

The event is therefore postponed to 3-7 July 2021.

However, in order to enhance this time that will bring us to the Forum in presence, we can animate the Comboni Family and prepare it for the event.

We are focusing on two 2-day webinar events: a first one in December 2020, and another one in March 2021.

FOR PREPARATION:

Circulate the article published in Nigrizia in September 2020 to present the book WE ARE MISSION. The MCCJs will find it directly in the COMBONIAN FAMILY of November 2020. This action is intended to help participants to focus on the work and arrive prepared for the December 2020 event.

DECEMBER 2020:

2-day Webinar, Friday 4th and Saturday 5th December, from 3.00 p.m. TO 5.00 p.m. Rome Time

Contents:

= A change of epoch: the prophetic path of the Church (speaker to be confirmed). The aim is to offer a broader framework for the Comboni Social Forum, in the context of Evangelii Gaudium (EG), Laudato Si (LS), Fratres omnes (FO) Tutti Fratelli.

= The Comboni Social Forum in relation to the prophetic path of the Church (speaker to be confirmed). A theological reflection on the path of the FSC.

Format:

Two 2-hour webinars, including one interaction space (max 30 min). The webinar would be broadcast from Rome, with a following group in attendance. In other places, where possible, participants would be invited to meet and follow the talks together (and then share and reflect together), but the conferences would still be broadcast live to make it possible for anyone to participate. The recording of the conferences can be uploaded on the YouTube channel to make them accessible even to those who cannot connect live.

There should be simultaneous translation into several languages of the two conferences. Guiding questions will emerge from the conferences for group sharing / reflection (individual participants on Zoom can do it in the break out rooms) and a homework assignment in preparation for the March 2021 event.

Homework: in the months between the two events, participants will have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the issues and put them in dialogue with their ministerial practice. Among the in-depth study tools, we strongly recommend reading the book: We are mission sent to the various provinces and communities via soft copy and also as a book.

MARZO 2021: 2-day Webinar, 5th and 6th March 2021 (Friday and Saturday)

Contents: = Presentation of the social and ministerial mapping of the Comboni family and first data analysis (in relation to the contributions of the December webinar) – group work from the results of the analysis.

= Sharing by working groups (on Zoom, with translation into several languages).

Format: Similar to the December event.

On the first day there would be a conference to be organised, followed by group work. On the second day there would be a sharing of the work of the groups (with simultaneous translation) and the launch of the Comboni Social Forum in July 2021.

Homework: In preparation for the FSC, the selected participants will prepare the presentation of their most regenerative ministerial experience.

July 2021: 5-day in Rome (Curia MCCJ) 3 – 7 LUGLIO 2021

The format of the forum in Rome would remain the one already elaborated by the organizers, with adaptations of the programme that will be carried out in the two events of December 2020 and March 2021. The advantage will be that it will be possible to deepen further and that the participants will arrive much more prepared and involved in the dynamics of the Forum.

Next November 2020 we will give you more details about the first webinar on 4-5 December 2020. We ask you to inform your members from the various provinces and communities so that they can be present on those dates and in those particular 2 hours to actively participate in the event.

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On behalf of the Commission of the Comboni Family on Social Ministries, I greet you fraternally and we remain united in prayer in this difficult time but also full of new opportunities. May God accompany us and bless us!

P. Daniele Moschetti, MCCJ
Coordinator of the Commission
Rome, October 16, 2020