The CLM María Augusta writes from Mongoumba, CAR, for her parish paper – The Astrolabio.
Dear Fr. Orlando,
How are you? I hope the new year started very well and so it will be to the end. A happy 2019 to all the parishioners and to your family.
Last week I had malaria, but, by God’s help, I already recovered. The rest of the community is well.
Fr. Samuel left today for his vacation. We ask God that it be a good one and that he may return full of pep and courage to continue the mission entrusted to him.
On December 17 and 18 the Cardinal came to visit. The people of the parish were delighted! A large crowd gathered when he arrived… many people of other denominations also came. For the Eucharist the church was full, and lots of people were gathered outside as well. It lasted five hours! He spoke very eloquently on the problem of likundu* (witchcraft) and other problems.
Ana and Cristina were in Bangui and Simone was in Italy, and I was with the priests to receive him. With God’s help all went well! I hope people will put into practice what they heard. He visited the 10 parishes of the diocese. Ours was the one before the last. He ended his visitation in the cathedral of St. Jeanne of Arc, in Mbaiki. I know that he ended up being very tired, but happy with the participation he saw.
Last time we were in Bangui, at the supermarket we met a policeman from Janeiro da Cima (a place in Portugal). He said that he had already heard that there was around a missionary woman from Janeiro de Baixo (a neighboring place). It was great! He told us that there were soldiers stationed around the airport and yesterday we went to visit. They gave us a great and happy reception! They also gave us medical supplies and invited us to lunch. God willing, we will go tomorrow.
The results of our students are not encouraging and we hope they will improve during this quarter.
I know that you have seen and listened to many reports, none of them pleasant, about our poor country. By God’s grace, here we are at peace, but we mourn with our brothers who are being massacred!
We don’t know yet when we will return to Mongoumba…
Let us continue united in prayer.
A great missionary hug from all of us, to you and to all the readers of Astrolabio.
CLM Maria Augusta in Astrolabio
Year 5 – #139 – February 3, 2019
Parishes of Cabril, Dornelas do Zêzere, Fajão, Janeiro de Baixo, Machio, Pampilhosa da Serra, Portela do Fôjo, Unhais-o-Velho e Vidual
* The problem of likundu is that people are falsely accused of witchcraft and then they are brutally murdered.
Perhaps the perception we have of ourselves down here has lessened due to the greatness of the world to which we feel we are called. Perhaps, a little at the time, we have let go off things to hold on to the world, the people, and love. Already we have nothing. Nothing is ours. There is nothing that cannot be given, shared with all those who walk side by side with us. It is a lot that we are not alone, and that all that we have is shared not only among ourselves, but with the world. We are part of a whole that only has meaning in the daily sharing and the life we have and we know is joined to others.
The scenery reflects the grandiosity of our interior, the grandiosity of the little miracles of which we are only spectators, as being the grain planted in fertile soil, we are channels of meaningful life. It is not just us, but we are more than the sum of the parts. We are from God. We are his instruments, his hands, his feet, and his embrace. We are imperfect and wounded, in a world full of sorrow and suffering where in love we dare to sow the paradise of God’s love.
Each morning we go out to meet the others, out of the comforts we have, of what is ours, we go to meet love. We go, hoping that on every street and at every corner we will always have two arms to help people grow with us. We are nothing, but in our humble state we are what is truly existing within ourselves. We cannot even count the lives that have already crossed ours, nor the number of smiles, tears and hugs we have shared in the simplicity of a home’s front steps. This is how it is, love deprived of superficiality, integral without color or race, simply being. And we are called daily to let it be and grow.
Each day we give our life without plans nor schedule. We offer ourselves. Many are the times when we feel that it is God himself who calls us at the door through many faces, many personal histories and people. We are available to the love aimed at us, which calls us at each moment. We are open to the call of Jesus who calls us daily.
We are soil open to care for others and to the possibility of growing hand in hand in Jesus’ journey. We are the cross carried on the shoulder and arms of others who are lost and cannot walk. It is not easy. We know by our own lives that it is not easy. But this is the only way it has a meaning for us.
Mission is life, our life, their life and the life we accept and give by proclaiming a Gospel living in each one of us. With each step we are witnesses of a Jesus who wants to live in the simplicity of our hearts. It is in recognizing ourselves as family that, in each day, in each visit we offer ourselves and grow.
The soil is barren and the mountains around us are often the way home for many. Protected by the imposing presence of the Misti and the Chachani, holding to our walking sticks, we cross the limits of what we can see and off we go looking for the face of God among those farthest away. We climb and descend mountains, following contorted paths. We go beyond the physical limitations of our bodies that often demand rest. We have gone beyond our limits, in the certainty that He is our strength and our life. With the certainty that ours is the mission of carrying him and of announcing him where He already is, where His seed is already there, where God already exists, where the only thing missing is that he be remembered, named and proclaimed. We go beyond our peripheries to the peripheries of the world to be the symbol of life, of love, of Him.
We do not have much. We live simply and humbly among the people of God. In the simplicity and poverty of the life we lead is the treasure in vessels of clay of our hearts: the love of God.
It is good, very good, to allow ourselves to be moved by all who have become part of our history. It is good to be a shoulder of support, to be a place of refuge, to be Neuza and Paula just as we are, and share in simplicity this gift of our life. And to help others to discover the gift of their own. We belong to what is brought to us, to those who go off, and to those who come and to all those we leave along the way. Step by step we discover mission, we are mission. We belong to a mission which is not ours, but belongs to the One who daily sends us to love more.
We are part of the Comboni’s thousand lives for the mission. Together, we rediscover new Africas, new peripheries. Ours is not a little bit, the flatlands of comfort. We go. Together we go beyond the mountains, beyond even ourselves. Together we go to meet new peripheries, where we have not yet been and have not yet reached. If you only knew, if we knew how many Africas are left to discover, how many peripheries are there thirsting for God, for his love and for the miracle of love, which is the Eucharist. This is why we are here. For this we go to this meeting of love turning our lives into mission.
In our daily prayer we discover the path to be followed, the beauty of an unending mission, without borders, without limits. He is the limit. Actually, he does not have any. We move forward in the certitude that we are not alone because we find his arms at every dawn and at the end of day. We walk knowing that we always arrive where he is waiting for us. No matter how long the day will be and the life histories we meet and involve us, often including the tears we share. Yes, Lord, here we are, takes us where you want us to be. And even if life takes us far from here, we are Peru in the same love that brought us here and binds us as sisters and brothers to the end.
We are writing today from this violated community, which we know well and which we visit again today, after having celebrated with it several times in the walk, life and resistance to the expansion of mining.
We also write from the many Latin American communities affected by the arrogant violence of extractivism, today silently embraced the little Brumadinho, in tears.
We are in solidarity with the families of the victims and the communities of faith, who will have the hard challenge of rebuilding hope. We also join the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte, which with the words of the Gospel defined the tragedy as “abomination of desolation”, referring to the “absurdities born of the gains and contempt for the other, the truth and the good of all ”
We continue accompanying and advising the churches involved in the territories injured by mining and in all open conflicts between extractive companies and communities (Only in Brazil there are more than 70 Dioceses where these conflicts were mapped).
Impunity consolidates crime
The company VALE SA, together with BHP Billiton, is responsible for 19 deaths and pollution of the entire Doce River basin, on November 5, 2015. The same damage was repeated three years later, with a trace of much more serious deaths, is the confirmation of the incapacity of management and prevention of damages, disinterest and criminal behavior.
This responsibility also involves the State, which grants licenses to extractive projects and should monitor them to guarantee the safety and dignified life of the communities and the environment.
The State’s responsibility is twofold, because impunity and the lack of complete and enough reparations for the victims of the Navy crime was one of the main conditions that allowed the new crime of Brumadinho.
Embraced, the capital of mining companies and political power, facilitate the installation or expansion of large extractive projects, minimizing the conditions and licensing rules thereof. The “Córrego do Feijão” itself, whose deposit of toxic waste was broken, obtained in December 2018 an environmental license for the expansion of 88% of its activities. In the Council of Environmental Policies of the State of Minas. Only the National Civil Society Forum on the Management of Hydrographic Basins (FONASC) voted against the expansion, denouncing “insane” mechanisms to reduce the demands in the licensing of large mining projects.
Disasters caused by irresponsible behavior of companies allied to the public power can not be called “environmental accidents”.
Organized civil society but not listened
Since 2011, the population of Brumadinho and the region are demonstrating in an organized way against the mine, its impacts and threats. The FONASC, in December 2018, wrote an official communication to the State Secretary of the Environment, requesting the suspension of the licensing of the “Córrego do Feijão” mine. The International articulation of those Affected by the Vale denounced in the Shareholders’ General Assembly of the Vale, in April 2018, “the dangers of the repeated process of reducing expenses and costs in its operations”, making explicit mention of the various waste deposits.
Those responsible for these crimes cannot claim justifications for ignorance. On the contrary, in the name of progress and the profit of the few, there is a systematic disqualification of different voices.
With energy, we echo the words of Pope Francis in the Encyclical Laudato Si ‘: “in the debate, local inhabitants must have a privileged place, those who question themselves as to what they want for themselves and their children and can take into consideration the purposes that transcend the immediate economic interest “(LS 183).
Make it flexible until it breaks
The newly elected President of Brazil, in response to the pressure of the person who financed his campaign, expressed the plan to make environmental control and licensing as flexible as possible. He criticized the alleged “environmental fine industry”; his government stripped powers from the Environment portfolio, suspended contracts with NGOs committed to defending the environment, extinguished secretariats that worked for public policies against global warming.
Also the previous governments facilitated the uncontrolled expansion of mining in the country, promoting the National Mining Plan and reformulating, by decree, the Legal Framework of Mining.
Recent events demonstrate, violently, that these policies are a collective suicide and a threat to the lives of future generations.
This growth model is unsustainable and lethal; You cannot blackmail people who need jobs to survive in regions controlled by mining, without guaranteeing safety, health and social welfare at the same time. The problems are not solved “only with the growth of the profits of the companies and of the individuals”. “It is not enough to conciliate, in a medium term, the care of nature with financial income, or the preservation of the environment with progress. In this issue the average terms are only a small delay in the collapse. It’s simply about redefining progress. ” (LS190,194)
Frequently, companies and governments appeal to the mediation of conflicts with communities through “dialogue”. They seek, even, the intermediation of the churches, to offer these processes greater credibility.
Also, institutionally they have invested in extrajudicial mediations and terms of behavior adjustments to make more effective and quicker the repair of damages and environmental violations.
The lack of implementation of mitigations and reparations, the neglect to prevent new disasters and the repetition of irresponsible and criminal practices confirm that: this type of proposal is not a true dialogue. It is a strategy of companies to seduce public opinion, guaranteeing a kind of social license to pollute, reduce popular resistance and avoid big capital can be converted to the values of sustainability and the common good.
More than this “dialogue”, asymmetric and disrespectful, we trust in the democratic rules of environmental protection and the rights of the populations, as well as in authorities that effectively monitor their respect and punish those who violate them. We support a Binding Treaty for Business and Human Rights, at the international level, and a responsible, effective and prompt judicial response for those who bet on impunity or, at the most, a slight financial incidence of rare fines applied.
Socio-environmental crime is not an accident!
From Brumadinho and from Latin America, January 26, 2019
This is the day to thank the Lord for what we have accomplished as Comboni Lay Missionaries. Today we celebrate 21 years of history and mission, 21 years from that January 25, 1998 when we started this journey of discernment and formation for lay people in Maia, animated by the Holy Spirit and by St. Daniel Comboni.
It has been a very beautiful journey done at the foot of the Cross, before the Lord. And it is from this journey that mission is born – the one made of God’s works that “are born and grow at the foot of the Cross.” It consists in walking as a family, inspired by St. Daniel Comboni who leads us to “Save Africa with Africa” – this marvelous Africa that today no longer has borders and stands at our peripheries.
Many journeyed with us. Some left, others continue their commitment as CLM, but all, one way or the other, left swirls and drops that today make up this ocean of love we have become and binds continents together. We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts to all those who accompanied us and who keep on doing it.
During these 21 years, many were the CLM who lived their missionary vocation in places beyond our borders: in Mozambique, Brazil, the Central African Republic and Peru. Today, we continue to share our missionary spirit in these same countries: Marisa in Mozambique; Liliana in Brazil; Maria Augusta and Cristina in the Central African Republic; Paula y Neuza in Peru. Not to mention all those who remain committed in Portugal, in the peripheries, in their families, in daily life, attempting to live the mission God has given them, plus all the candidates trying to discern God’s call for them in Comboni’s charism.
Missionaries in Christ and through our baptism, we move forward as St. Daniel Comboni inspired us: “Keep your eyes always fixed in Christ, loving him tenderly and trying to understand always better what it means to have a God dead on the cross for the salvation of souls.” (Writings 2721)
And this saving of souls in Comboni was going well beyond simple evangelization: the salvation of humankind through the passion and death of Christ, which is born and lives through the identification of the missionary with this paschal mystery, in this dying in order to be born and live. “If the grain of wheat falling in the ground does not die, it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces abundant fruit.” (John 12:24)
With great enthusiasm let us continue our journey, following the footsteps of St. Daniel Comboni, hand in hand so that his work will not die, a journey of a difficult and enthusing mission among the people and the countries thirsting for Christ.
Love has a meaning only when it is shared. During this past year we have learned, lived and experienced this love with the smallest. The Project “My School, My Family and me” is not a project for children, but families.
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