Comboni Lay Missionaries

GUARDIÕES: The fight for the land

LMC Brasil


Even today, after a morning of pouring sun, the rain visited us, half an hour of a powerful storm that dissolved in a few seconds, like the rapid passage of a plane. The rainy season has become this, a short cold shower, everyone wonders if it is a coincidence that it no longer rains for entire weeks as it happened in the past, but it is clear that climate change is screaming loudly here too.

You don’t reach these levels overnight, there is always a path and a story behind it, and the history of this land has very deep roots.

It all started a long time ago. In fact, from the time of the colonial invasion to today, Brazil has never implemented a popular agrarian reform. Consider that in a huge area like that of Brazil, only 1% of landowners own almost 50% of the total cultivable area in the country, and half of these large properties are totally unproductive and could therefore be expropriated for agrarian reform. Brazil is also the largest territory in the world in terms of possible arable land. It is for this reason that for decades the right to land has been conquered and not received by right, it is a fight against the system that has seen the birth of large movements such as that of the LANDLESS (MST), movements that fight to be able to live there where many, with roots in the land and fields, have always wanted and would like to continue to live.

Thus the idea of an occupation was born: hundreds of families reunited, organized themselves, occupying large plots of land to attract the attention of the federal government. Raimunda, waiting to receive this land, lived camped with her family for years, in tents made up of plastic sheets and 4 sticks, inside which there were pots and coal for cooking, clothes, hammocks to hook between a tree and the other, and then children born in the middle of the woods, raised far from life in the city. All in a true sense of community, of struggle, of life shared with little, waiting for the big day when we can finally receive a piece of land to build our own homes, surrounded by trees and fields to cultivate.

The inhabitants of the Francisco Romao Assentation have won the right to the land after 10 years of living in camp.

When they arrived in that territory they discovered that it was Government land, which had been occupied by a landowner illegally, the whole area had already been deforested to create an immense pasture of dairy cows, destroying the surrounding vegetation.

This phenomenon of illegitimate land appropriation is known as “Grillagem”, a practice of forced aging of false documents that are placed in a box with crickets, making them yellowed and gnawed, giving them an ancient and more credible appearance, a phenomenon of forgery to illegally take possession of vacant or third-party land. The families denounced this illegality to ask the government for the possibility of having part of that land and being able to cultivate and reforest it. After years of struggle and reclaiming the land, each family managed to have a property where they could do what they had always dreamed of: living off the land in a sustainable way. It’s an incredible story that of the assentamentos, places where life flows to the rhythm of the countryside.

You enter the settlement on dirt roads, a bright red earth, and you are immediately surrounded by houses and courtyards full of fruit trees and medicinal plants of all kinds, of which the families know every benefit and valorize them for purposes to the last sheet. When we go to visit them they tell us with great nostalgia about those times gone by: the times of precariousness, but also of union, happiness and sharing. The houses were initially made of mud and straw, people lived very little. Life in absence was a constant sharing of one’s possessions, the goal was for everyone to be able to live off that land and for issues to be resolved together, under the canopy in the center of the town, a space dedicated to community meetings. Together we decided what to grow (corn, beans, castanha), we decided where to build the school, together we fought to get tractors, we fought to have a public health building. These were the foundations for allowing a dignified life, and they were built together. A dignified life that allowed for at least 3 meals a day, with rice, beans and cassava, basic elements of Brazilian cuisine. Throughout this process, women were the true protagonists, taking care of the house, taking care of the children and helping the men in the fields, a true example of strength and leadership.

Community, solidarity and doing together, this is the common thread that has made it possible to win many battles and with which the assentamentos were built and still resist, places of life, struggle and defense of peasant life. Farming families have always had one great goal: to plant and harvest food, but also to reforest and protect native vegetation. This is why we called them Guardioes: the guardians. Guardians of nature, guardians of the well-being of the soil and of that piece of the Amazon that has been entrusted to them. Guardians of the community and of peasant life, of the fight against a system that wants to take away the life of the least and give strength to the powerful. Guardians of that land which has now been completely destroyed.

In the next episode you will know other stories of women who have chosen to fight in the face of all this. We wish you a good continuation and a happy and peaceful Easter and resurrection in the Lord.

Anna and Gabrielle, CLM in Brazil

Christmas Proclamation 2023

Navidad 2023

Christmas Message by Bishop Jesús Ruiz, Bishop of M’baiki, Central African Republic.

Every day in Africa is Christmas… Everything in Africa speaks of an eternal Christmas!

I have been asked to make the Christmas proclamation…; I do not know how to proclaim.

What is this proclamation, I asked myself…, if not to give voice to your inner life…? So, allow me to give free expression to my heart… I am going to proclaim to you.

My proclamation today wants to be a childhood memory in the parish market of Alfonso VI around Christmas time. It was the 1970s. With our parish priest Don Miguel, we used to go up the hill of San Juan to look for moss and decorate the crib full of cork houses, silver rivers and figures walking towards the portal… My memory goes to the rooster mass with the family followed by a glass and nougat…; my memory enjoys seeing the catechists dressed as the Three Wise Men during the children’s Mass handing out gifts…; always gifts, never coal.

I grew up… and I discovered that the real nativity scene is outside… As a seminarian, in the new parish church, every Christmas, with Ester, Mamen and other young people, visiting the houses of the neighborhood for the nativity scene contest… In each house a glass of sweet liquor and a piece of nougat was always waiting for us…; every year we rehearsed in the choir non-commercial Christmas carols that were all the rage: “uri, uri, ura…” and “in the stone doorway was Mary and Joseph, Mary was crying, Joseph was nervous…” Christmas visiting the poor of the parish with gifts and food in order to accompany their loneliness….;

36 years ago I went to Africa…, but I…, I don’t know how to proclaim…

There, in Africa, I discovered that Christmas is not colored lights, nor Christmas trees…; there, without Christmas carols or advertising claims for Christmas… without marzipan or nougat… but there is Christmas; in Africa it does not snow…, no; it is hot, very hot for Christmas. In my Africa it is not customary to have a Christmas Eve dinner and even less the reveillon…, nor is there a lottery for El Niño or the Christmas jackpot…. How I remember my first Christmas in Africa in a distant chapel where, after celebrating the mystery of a Child God born on the outskirts, I had dinner alone, with great emotion, with a tin of sardines that I carried in my bag…! No…, in Africa, our way of doing Christmas is not fashionable…// The only thing I miss in Africa are the Three Wise Men who never come…, and I am afraid they will never come… What a pity that my children in Africa do not dream of Three Wise Men… for Christmas…! I ask King Balthazar every year, you who are black, why do you forget my black children…, without passing? And I pray with strength, come, Three Kings, come… thousands of black and good children, with big white eyes, are waiting for you…!

And every year I realize that Christmas is not on the twenty-fifth of December… Every day in Africa is Christmas… Everything in Africa speaks of an eternal Christmas! The people, like a living nativity scene, on roads of red earth and dust, advance day by day, despite their sorrow… Some suffer…, others rejoice…, some cry… some scream… and others can’t take it anymore…; some dance… some mourn… and others laugh without stopping… All of them without knowing it, searching… Like living figures of mud they walk without stopping… There the woman with her cassava on her head, upright as she walks…, a young man from his kiosk contemplates the children dancing… There, men of tanned skin by the sun walk towards their orchard to work…, toothless old men sitting in front of their homes, watching the motorcycles pass by like cabs…, in each concession children playing at jumping…, a girl carrying her little brother behind… All, like living mud figures, even without knowing it…, all walk towards the portal… Each one their own way, each one their own song…, but all in the same direction without knowing it, they all go to adore. And they all give you a sincere smile if you greet them as you pass by… Each one with each one, each one with each one making their way as they walk… They all go looking for…, figures of rainbow without equal, in that great Bethlehem that is humanity… And when the evening falls, tired… at the feet of the newborn, their bodies rest, that is their way of worshipping. They have no gold, no silver, no gifts to give…, but their tiredness becomes an offering difficult to match. They hunger for food and thirst for truth… hunger for justice and peace…, hunger for love and also for dignity. No…, in my Africa the people do not put nativity scenes of clay and cardboard, nor ox or donkey in the portal… That is them, my people…, that great living Bethlehem, not decorated, that every day I meet as I pass by… I, figurine of that Nativity scene, I join them in adoration.

They go looking for the one who has been born, they are hungry for bread and truth… / They grope their way, many times in the dark… / I grope my way with them, sometimes improvising a song… / The joy in their heart is the star that guides them… and tells us where to go / Joy because they go to adore the King of the heavens… / Like little shepherds…, they go with chickens, cassava, peanuts, bananas… and firewood… / They always advance because they want to adore the Child… Like the Three Wise Men they will bring their gifts; not gold, nor incense, nor myrrh… No… Their gifts are their simple and hard lives, all of them they will offer to the heavenly King. And each life is precious offering that to the Child God will please… And seeing them Mary and Joseph adore… from their lips a pleased smile will escape.

Oh, when I am out of Africa, how I miss this my other Christmas…, without lights, decorations or advertising claims of ephemeral happiness… Now I understand that Christmas is the life of my people who seek the Light in the midst of so much darkness… Today, lost in the city that saw me grow up, I also search and search for that little Child to adore, while lights, shop windows and loudspeakers insinuate me… Here there is no Child to adore!

When I was a child, every Christmas, there was always some hooligan who stole the Child from Antonio Machado’s park for Christmas… Today that I am grown up, I would like to shout: They have stolen the Child once again…! They have changed him for a colorful pine tree with artificial lights…, they have replaced him with Santa Claus… They want to sell us all kinds of products to fill our happiness… But who will give us the tenderness of the Child…, the love of the Child God, who can replace it…; his marvelous light, not artificial, who can illuminate…?

Friends, be alert, they are stealing the Child from us with this unbridled consumption where the poor -like the child of Bethlehem- are always left on the outskirts of the city… “Friends, wake up…, they are stealing the Child from us… for Christmas…” Friends, wake up, they are stealing the Child… for Christmas…

Friends, it is urgent to react because they are killing the Child…, for Christmas; they are killing thousands of them in the Gaza strip…; they let tens of thousands of them die of hunger in Africa…; they allow them to drown with their parents in the open sea… They do not know that God becomes a Child in the migrant, in the refugee, in the poor and in the one who can no more… As in old times in Bethlehem, today they say: “there is no place for you… go elsewhere for with us you cannot dwell…” Friends, brothers… what a tragedy! Like Herod in another time, today in 2023, they are…; we are… killing the Child… for Christmas.

It is as if this crazy world of ephemeral colored lights and spinning drunkenly full of itself were saying: No, do not come Child to earth for you have nothing to give…! We are so full of ourselves…, so satisfied… what can a Child give us? No, do not come for Christmas.

Friends, brothers… let us wake up, let us unite, let us save the Child… let us revive Christmas!

Saint d’Exuperi, the author of “The Little Prince”, said that “all old people were children at the beginning, although few of us remember it”. Brothers, friends, let us recover the Child within us… now that it is Christmas.

Yes, Christmas is God’s tenderness towards humanity.

Christmas is an embrace to the grandfather… Christmas is a caress to the child…

Christmas is an open smile…

Christmas is to look with love into the eyes of the stranger and of the poor…, without judging…

Christmas is to visit the sick and the lonely….

Christmas is to ask forgiveness…; and to embrace one’s brother….

Christmas is to contemplate the newborn and raise our eyes to heaven….

Christmas is to accompany a piece of the path of the one who cannot go on any longer…

Christmas is to leave the comfort of your home to accompany the family that is having a hard time…

Christmas is to denounce this unjust world and to commit oneself for a more equal one…

Christmas is to enter the temple of your heart… and there to adore God…

Christmas is a gift… ALL A GOD WHO GIVES HIMSELF.

Allow me to tell you a Christmas story to end:

“It was getting close to Christmas in our town….

One of the big toy stores had stocked up generously in order to satisfy all the requirements of its customers… On the shelves you could see everything. Plastic and tin armaments with strange flags to defend against the enemy, they said…; there were also monsters in terrible television taste. Of course, there were also many other nice and gift-worthy things in the Christmas cheer.

Among these was a beautiful, oversized teddy bear. It really was cute. It seemed to convey affection, and its beady little eyes gave it a strange life that captivated those who would look at it with interest. It was a valuable toy, and therefore not cheap. And Teddy knew it. Without delusions of grandeur, he felt he was among the best that could be obtained in that place.

That was just his drama. Because those who had enough money to buy it had no children to give it to. And those who had many children lacked money.

Being valuable was the cause of their problems. Because as Christmas Eve approached, Teddy saw how the shelves were emptying of toys, while he continued to be admired, but no one decided to buy him for the joy of a child.

The anxiety that had been growing over the hours turned into anguish when he saw the owner of the toy store slowly lowering the heavy metal curtains of the toy store. Then the lights went out and silence reigned inside. From outside, on the other hand, came all the bustling Christmas festivities.

In the darkness, Teddy felt like crying. He realized that he would spend the first Christmas of his life in the saddest way imaginable. Alone and with no one to share all the precious things he felt he possessed. What hurt him the most was knowing that he had been left alone precisely because he was valuable. If he had been cheap, he would already be in someone’s hands, sharing the party, if only for a few hours.

Suddenly he was startled. Thinking he was dreaming, he saw the room lit up with a soft, beautiful light. And his little eyes sparkled with astonishment when he saw Jesus himself, who had entered the toy store with a big bag in his hand. He had come to get toys in order to distribute them himself. Because you have to know that here, it is their parents who bring gifts to the rich kids. While to the poor ones, God sends them.

Teddy was certain that this time someone would take him with him to be the joy of a child. This Lord had many children, and he was rich enough to pay his price and buy him. He waited, therefore, anxiously, to be approached.

When he stood before him, the Lord looked at him – as no one had ever looked at him before – and addressed him quite naturally:

Teddy, will you join me this Christmas Eve to distribute gifts to the poor children of the neighborhood?

And since the word of the Lord is powerful and gives life to all to whom it is addressed, Teddy felt a strange trembling come over his whole body. He jumped off the shelf and, doing four ram turns on the floor, he began to dance full of joy. If he hadn’t been stuffed, he would have made an infernal noise. But nobody felt anything. Mostly because everyone was so busy celebrating Christmas. They were so busy that they didn’t even see Jesus with his bag over his shoulder and Teddy by the hand, walking through the streets on his way out. There were those who, upon seeing him from behind, thought he was a homeless man, accompanied by his little dog. It is so easy to mistake the Lord with a poor man… and even more so at Christmas time!

When they gained the outskirts of the village, Teddy was astonished. He saw for the first time the night of the fields. The sky was boiling with stars. In the distance, dogs and roosters were pointing out where the poor people lived.

“How beautiful the night is”, exclaimed Teddy.

“Especially if you hold my hand”, said Jesus.

And so they visited the houses on the outskirts. When they approached a poor house, the dogs met them. The dogs of the poor do not bark. They go straight for the lump. But when they discovered that it was Jesus who was coming, they would immediately jump up and down.

And while the Lord was caressing them to entertain them, Teddy would take a gift out of his bag and sneak in through the open window and leave it next to the sleeping children.

And he would still stay a little while to watch them smile in their sleep. As it happens at Christmas.

And so the night went on. When the day was about to dawn, Jesus said to Teddy:

Look, now we are still going to visit Mrs. Matilde’s house. The best of the gifts must be for her granddaughter, who is sick.

And again, while the Lord amused himself with Mrs. Matilde’s dogs, Teddy looked in the bag for the best gift. But he discovered to his surprise that there were no more gifts. It was completely empty. And perplexed, he told Jesus. But the latter, winking at him, as if he already knew the matter, told him:

“Do like me: Give yourself as a present!

Note: It was never known in the neighborhood how Mrs. Matilde managed to get her granddaughter such a beautiful gift. And there were even malicious people who suspected of her… They are such thieves, the poor… If you get close, they steal your heart.

Brother…, sister… Christmas is you… be teddy bear… give yourself as a present.

Christmas is me…

No, I’m not a herald, I don’t know how to proclaim…, just a clay and cardboard figure looking for the Child on his way to the portal…

I have found the Child; rather, I have let myself be found… This is my proclamation to give: Let’s go together to adore!

Navidad 2023


Miranda de Ebro (Spain), December 18, 2023

Our third trip to Ethiopia

LMC Polonia

On October 27, we flew to Ethiopia. This is our third trip. The journey was smooth and we arrived in Addis Ababa on time. We were picked up from the airport by Sister Janina – a Franciscan nun who has been in Ethiopia for over a dozen years.

The next day we continued our journey to our place of stay, to Awassa, to Magda Soboka, who founded and runs the Ethiopian Children’s Foundation “Barkot”, to help her in her work in the Foundation.

Magda’s Ethiopian husband received us at the bus station and welcomed us very warmly.

A surprise was waiting for us, prepared by Sister Franciscan Missionary of Mary, a Pole, Kamila from Łódź, who works at the hospital in Bushulo as a midwife and nurse. Her parents came from Poland to visit her for the first time (and she has been here for 8 years). The surprise was a five-day trip deep into Ethiopia to various tribes and missions led by the Spiritan Fathers.

The trip lasted 5 days. It started on October 30 and ended on November 3.

On the first day we stopped in Arba Minch at the Spiritan fathers’ house. On the way we visited the Park of 40 Springs.

On the first day we went on a boat trip on Lake Chamo, where we saw crocodiles. Then we went to the Dorze tribe, where we were dressed up in their tribal, festive costumes, and they treated us with a cake made of banana leaf flour, alcohol and home-made honey. It was a great experience. Their houses are shaped like a crocodile’s snout. Returning to the mission for the night, we stopped at a factory for hand-made silk and silkworm breeding. We learned about the process of manual production of fabrics, which were also used to sew finished products (scarves, bags, blouses, etc.). It was a very fruitful day.

At dawn after Holy Mass on November 1, we said goodbye to the fathers and continued our journey. We visit the land of the Mursi tribe in Konso. This tribe has been in Ethiopia since the 15th century. They began to build their houses on the mountain, and the entrance to the village and houses leads through small stone corridors, so that no unauthorized person can get in, and forms three circles around the mountain. This tribe cultivates its traditions and customs, creates a community,

We reach Jimma in the evening for an overnight stay at a guesthouse and dinner.

Very early in the morning we leave the guesthouse and set off in the rain to the village of the Turmi tribe. The rain stopped, and we, with a guide and security, visited the village of the tribe which according to the old tradition, places plates on the lower lip of the mouth, and the warriors paint themselves. This tribe changes its place of residence every 3-4 months, looking for food for its flock – it is a pastoral tribe. The inhabitants of this tribe go naked, sometimes covering themselves with a blanket. An interesting fact for tourists is that in the evening there is the “ewangadi” ceremony, there are various shows, bull jumping, dances, etc. When a man from this tribe wants to get married, he must show courage and strength, jump over 6 bulls, and a woman whips herself. The Ethiopian government wants this tribe to dress and send their children to school, but they do not want to and destroy the clothes because it is not their culture. During the day, the men are out hunting. In the village we only saw women and children.

We go to Yabello to spend the night with the Spiritan missionaries. The Missionary Fathers run a boarding house for older boys and girls studying. They encounter great difficulties in employing teachers because teachers want very high salaries that fathers cannot afford. Right now, they would love to see a volunteer who would teach English and computer science. Of course, there are problems with work permits, so such a volunteer could only work for three months.

Unfortunately, the trip ends quickly and we return to Awassa, visit a bamboo hotel along the way, eat at the Inka restaurant and go home in the evening. It was a wonderful trip, full of new information about the life of some Ethiopian tribes and the activities of the mission. It introduced us to the culture and customs of the Ethiopian tribes.

However, we did not come here to rest, we need to start doing something for others. We visit the Center of the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa and Andrzej was offered few tasks: in the emergency room and in carpentry work. The sister superior, a Belgian, welcomes him very warmly. I will try to help Magda, and there is plenty of work.

Bogusia and Andrzej.

André the boy who likes to dream…!!!


His eyes shine crystal clear with desire.

Eyes that seek the horizon in the dense forest.

With the same intensity as yesterday, his smile is full of hope and joy.

Today school days are part of a near but long past.

He plays at survival with his family

He dreams of one day being a passenger, a driver or simply an observer of the beautiful car that passes by his house.

He dreams of clean clothes, whenever the white man shines.

He dreams of the simple touch of his hand, of the lingering greeting

This barefoot boy with his easy smile wants one day to be like “You”.

Inside his house made of green paper and red glue is the small fire that insists on warming the cold that is felt.

The red mantle of this land consumed by the sun, is now painted with the incandescent heat of the bodies that curl up with each other forming a large canvas, made of human paint

This boy wants one day to be like “You”.

He dreams of one day being able to have a tree all to himself full of fruits to eat and share

He dreams of being able to understand what books say.

The sun is peeking through the morning mist, it’s time to get up and listen to what the wind says.

The day is marked by the laziness of the daily and repetitive routine.

Today little André is leaving for the deep forest

He is going to meet the majestic and ancient trees, they are the masters of his world.

At this time of year, they are dressed in their most beautiful and delicious butterflies.


The family is happy, the scent of the flowers speaks of abundance.

In a little act everything is ready for the journey

Mama with a baby tied to her chest, with a basket on her back and on her head whatever was forgotten, winds her way along the path already traced by time.

Papa, machete in hand, makes way, for the trees insist on covering what is theirs.

André imitates his father with the small knife without a handle, tears the dense leaves like a true boy of the forest, makes life with his joy, he can dream of things that are not his, but his sweaty skin shines with pride and honor of being pygmy.

Cristina Sousa, Comboni Lay Missionary

Bangui, Central African Republic

Janett, an active Comboni lay missionary

LMC Colombia

Janett Rocio Escobar Angulo, born in Tumaco Colombia in 1974, like many other people, arrived displaced to the city of Bogotá, only burdened with the hope of finding better opportunities that would give her and her family the security and stability that was taken away from them in their homeland.

The arrival to the city was not the most difficult thing, what really required temperance and resilience, was to learn and unlearn new trades that would allow her to earn enough income to be able to send it to her family in Tumaco; not to mention what she had always heard on television, but had never had to live … “DISCRIMINATION“; being treated in the most offensive, grotesque, demeaning and humiliating way in every daily situation, from taking public transportation to the offensive orders in each of her jobs. But “Defeat is only defeat if you don’t learn something from it”, today she thanks God for each of those moments, because those sad situations have opened the doors to live opportunities of joy and prosperity, besides finding people who helped her to be formed, to be today leading her beloved Afro processes.

The lack of opportunities for the Afro population and the issue of discrimination and violation of rights, made Janet, Carlina, Maria Angelica and Angela Preciado, in 2016, as part of the association Renacer Afrocolombiana, give life to the training program on rights, self-recognition and empowerment for Afro children, youth and adults. On their first opening Saturday, Janett and her three musketeers decided to occupy the Villa Gladys park with their first 10 children and begin the task that no one had wanted to take on; that of teaching the Afro community the voice, the mechanisms and the strength to shout, claim and assert their rights. With the passing of time and being part of the Afro pastoral, they found an ally in the process and the cause, the International Comboni Brothers Formation Center (CIFH), they began to support training in English and French since they had foreign brothers who were in the country, teaching their native language to children and young people who were part of the program.

In this way Janett and the Comboni Missionaries began to know each other and it was not long before they decided to strengthen this bond and become Comboni Lay Missionaries. Her knowledge, her personality and her dedication to the mission made her a valuable member of the lay team.

Currently the program is made up of more than 100 children, youth and adults in the Engativá district; the Comboni Lay Missionaries support the activities that are carried out with a monthly contribution to sustain the program; every Saturday they meet at the Antonio Villavicencio school from 10 am to 3 pm, where they receive training from different professionals; as part of the strategies taken to achieve its objectives, the trainings have been opened to mestizo children; this so that they can socialize the Afro traditions, their culture and their stories, generating empathy to reduce prejudice and discrimination from these early stages of life. This program also includes a snack and lunch.

After working in restaurants and family homes, Janett is now a member of the Afro pastoral, leader of the district and national programs on empowerment and promotion of the rights of Afro-descendant communities.

Janett and the Comboni Lay Comboni Missionaries of Colombia have an active mission process, thanks to the presence and the need to support a project that every day becomes more visible and benefits a more significant population of a sector of Bogota.

Prepared By Alexandra García