Comboni Lay Missionaries

Economy, Land of Mission. CLM-Europe Meeting

Albanese
Albanese
Fr Giulio Albanese during his intervention at the meeting.

As Christians, as missionaries, we cannot watch calmly from our windows as the global economic system evolves, putting at risk food security and the effective rights of more and more populations. Faced with the complexity of this terrain, we need a minimum of training in these issues.

The Comboni Missionary Giulio Albanese, a journalist specializing in the field of economics, led the reflection on Economy: Land of Mission, at the meeting of the Comboni Lay Movement of Europe, which was attended last Saturday by participants from Poland, Germany, Portugal, Italy and Spain, as well as the CLM coordinator of Brazil, Flavio Schmidt. The anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers, which reshaped geopolitics, and the Time of Creation, in which the Christian confessions unite every year to pray, celebrate and act for the Common Home, were the framework for this initiative.

Albanese started from the recent historical process that has shaped the current landscape of the global economic system, initiated at the Breton Woods conference at the end of World War II. Along the way, the financial economy has progressively grown and distanced itself from the real economy. The latter is based on the fact that human labor creates wealth, while the financial economy is based on the fact that money itself generates wealth. The crisis that began in 2008 revealed the consequences of an economic system in which speculative financial products, such as derivatives, represent an economic flow of between 10 and 15 times the global GDP. Another worrying element is that the debt of the states, which is weighing down the economies of the southern communities in particular, is financialized and therefore subject to the uncertainties of the market. Government debt has become a financial product that is bought and sold, generating profits for other investors.

As a proposal to combat the flagrant issue of international debt, a legal document was launched from Italy at the end of the last century, within the framework of the Jubilee 2000, supported by the UN Commission on Human Rights, to argue that the international debt mechanism is contrary to human rights, so that its agreements could be denounced before the Court of the Hague.

The speaker shared from his missionary experience in Ethiopia how, while famine threatens the population, the state accumulates grain in warehouses to offer it to global agribusiness (which fixes its price on the Chicago Stock Exchange) and thus pay the interest on its debt. In another example, he denounced the risk of common goods, such as health, being controlled only by the market, which means that while in the North we are moving towards the third dose of the COVID19 vaccine, in Africa only 1% of the population has the second dose.

The Church has generated abundant reflection in the various social encyclicals, since Rerum Novarum at the end of the 19th century, and the magisterium of Pope Francis stands out for placing the poor and discarded person at the center, not as a pastoral object, but as a theological subject: God is incarnated in the poor. The concept of development, linked to technology and profit, must be replaced by that of progress, which refers to the person and his or her social aspect. In the face of a complex issue, such as the economic system, it is not possible to give a magic answer but, as Francis insists, to participate and initiate transformative processes.

In this context, Albanese proposed not to demonize the market, but to coexist with it and promote alternative economies from within, as the Vatican initiative of the Economy of Francis and Clare has been promoting. Not to promote a mystique of misery, which only promotes sharing the suffering of communities without taking another step. The Social Economy is a field with great development, in which companies arise whose objective is not to generate profits, but to solve people’s problems. The microcredits promoted by the Nobel Prize winner M. Yunus are a tool, as well as Ethical Banking (Fiare, Coop 57, Triodos…). We must also promote laws that can redirect business actions, because the deregulation promoted by liberalism leaves communities in the hands of unscrupulous companies. The European alliance of ecclesial entities CIDSE is working on this corporate regulation.

For religious congregations there is the task of responsibly reviewing in which initiatives they invest their resources. We currently have two divestment campaigns underway. The Laudato Si’ movement promotes divestment from companies that favor fossil fuels, while the Churches and Mining network, in which the CLM and the Comboni Missionaries of Brazil participate, seeks divestment from mega-mining companies, which threaten populations and the environment. And to bet on an integral evangelization in which the promotion of social transformation is present. The recent Map of Comboni social ministries presents examples of this type.

For the Comboni lay movement there would be the task of deepening how our lifestyles contribute to underpinning the global financial system or to come up with alternatives. The CLM in Italy has been working in this direction with an important prophetic component. In Spain, the platform Connected Yourself for Justice, in which the Comboni NGO AMANI participates, has also proposed to reflect in this sense. It is also necessary that we feel that we can influence the policies that can control the economic-financial system, from our closest family and parish environments, to the decision-making bodies, participating in actions together with organized platforms. In this sense, last year several CLM participated in a training on political advocacy promoted by the REDES platform.

The meeting concluded with a dialogue among the participants to advance in our formation as CLM and to strengthen ties with the rest of the Comboni Family in this area.

You can see the complete video of the meeting.

Gonzalo Violero, CLM Spain

Economy, land of mission (conference)

P Albanese

On the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York, Comboni missionary and journalist Fr. Giulio Albanese MCCJ addresses the theme of the civil economy in the webinar “Economy, land of mission”, promoted by the European Coordination of Comboni Lay Missionaries. Albanese reveals the mechanisms of the “shadow banking” system, one of the main culprits of the increasingly insurmountable gap between the North and the South of the world, further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We apologize for the technical problems inherent to a live broadcast to several countries and different internet connection speeds.

ECONOMY, LAND OF MISSION

P Albanese

A new perspective on Europe and the world for the Comboni Lay Missionaries

Saturday 11 September 2021, 10h am – 1h pm (central Europe)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-_1UzNojFeGAiUMch1wFJQ

P Albanese

On the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the Comboni missionary and journalist Fr. Giulio Albanese MCCJ will talk about civil economy in the webinar “Economy, land of mission “, promoted by the European Coordination of Comboni Lay Missionaries. The meeting, in line with the “The Economy of Francesco” project, will be broadcast in live streaming, with simultaneous translations in English and Spanish, on Saturday 11 September from 10 am to 1 pm on the youtube channel of the Comboni Missionaries:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-_1UzNojFeGAiUMch1wFJQ

The recording of the meeting will later be available on the same channel.

Starting from a geopolitical analysis of the European continent, Fr. Albanese will reveal the mechanisms of the shadow banking system, one of the main causes of the increasingly unbridgeable gap between the North and the South of the world, further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The missionary will then reflect on the theme of solidarity, understood as the co-responsibility of citizens, believers and non-believers, in combating social exclusion and in taking care of the “res publica”, or the “common home” of humanity. The reference to the words of Pope Francis is clear, “ours is not an era of changes, but a change of era”.

Hence the crucial question: is it possible to reconcile business with the demands of the common good for a more equitable, just and supportive society?

The answer is yes and this is the key message of the webinar: appeal to citizenship, and in particular to the Comboni Lay Missionaries, so that we take care of the common goods together with local administrations, an invitation already sanctioned by the Italian Constitution in the last paragraph of the art. 118, based on the “principle of subsidiarity”.

“What to do then in practice, thinking above all of the needs for development and progress in the peripheries of the planet?” – asks Fr. Albanese – “It is clear that the missionary world must take the field, evangelizing even in the economic area. We need consecrated persons and lay people who are able to study new strategies as hoped for by Pope Francis in the historic summit of young economists in 2020 in Assisi ”.

Hence the really concrete proposal, from the point of view of the real economy, of an innovative model that involves civil society, the so-called “social business”. The objective of the model, conceived by the Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus (1940), Bengali economist and creator of modern microcredit, is the creation of enterprises with social purposes to be conceived and run as real companies, but with the imperative of social advantage instead of profit maximization. Keywords? Sustainability and the concept of shared wellbeing, never exclusive.

The meeting will continue in private form the afternoon, from 5 to 7 pm, as a laboratory for the European and extra-European Comboni Lay Missionaries, invited to reflect on the teachings of Fr. Albanese and the real opportunities to put the Yunus model into practice.

P Albanese

Father Giulio Albanese MCCJ (Rome, 1959) is a member of the Congregation of Comboni Missionaries and a journalist. He directed the New People Media Center in Nairobi and founded the Missionary Service News Agency (MISNA) in 1997. Author of 15 books published by houses such as Feltrinelli, Einaudi, EMI Editrice Missionaria Italiana, Messaggero di Padova, he collaborates with numerous newspapers and radios, including L’Osservatore Romano, Avvenire, Radio Vaticana, Giornale Radio Rai, apart from previous collaborations with BBC, CCN, Radio Svizzera Italiana. He has taught Missionary Journalism and Alternative Journalism at the Pontificia Università Gregoriana in Rome and has directed the missionary magazines of the Pontifical Mission Societies (Popoli e Missione and Il Ponte d’Oro). In 2003 the Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi awarded him the title of Grand Officer of the Italian Republic for journalistic merits in the South of the world. Since January 2018 he is also editor-in-chief of the Amici di Follereau magazine. He is a member of the Committee for charitable interventions in favor of Third World countries of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) and host of broadcasts and forums on issues related to Africa and the South of the world. He carries out his pastoral ministry in the Regina Pacis parish of Fiuggi.

Comboni Lay Missionaries (CLM)

They are men and women of all ages – individuals, couples and families – inspired by the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth and the charism of his disciple St. Daniel Comboni (Limone sul Garda, 1831 – Khartoum, 1881). They live off their work and set up choices and lifestyles at the service of justice and peace and respecting the environment. They are part of the Comboni Family together with the Comboni Missionary Sisters, the Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Secular Missionaries. Along with them, they are committed to carry out the Comboni project “Regenerating Africa with Africa” (1864) through periods of voluntary service in the South of the world (“missio ad gentes”) or where they live and work every day (“missio intra gentes”). CLM are present in Europe (Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain), in Africa (Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo, Uganda) and in the North, Central and South America (Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, United States).

The heart of a Portuguese

Bartek

This is the third time I have come to Portugal. But a pilgrimage to Fatima and a city break in Porto was a completely different experience than the three months I have spent learning the language, volunteering and living with a local family.

Bartek

I have been a Lay Comboni Missionary since last October. On September 12th I will be officially sent on a two-year mission to Mozambique. One of the most important stages of preparation is a language course. From May 20, I lived in the village of Duas Igrejas (the name means literally “Two Churches”, although there is only one temple there) together with Gloria and António, a married couple cooperating with the Comboni Lay Missionary movement.

Initially, I compared the Portuguese reality to the Polish one. Portugal is a country with a standard of living similar to Poland, where in the past, due to poverty and joblessness, also many people decided to emigrate. A country where many people still practice their faith; they have a figure of Lord Jesus of Our Lady of Fatima in theirs gardens. Many catholic holidays are celebrated very solemnly there; among others non-working days are Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Fr. João Pedro Martins Ribeiro, local pastor of the three parishes (due to the small number of vocations, parishes are very often combined) presents a more pessimistic picture of religiosity in the country. He says that only a small fraction of the faithful goes to confession, is aware of what they believe and adheres to moral principles. Football is a religion for many Portuguese. Then the most important for them is to eat well and their favorite team to win the game. They go to church for the most important opportunities during holidays or at a funeral, when one of your friends dies – Padre João complains.

People in Portugal are very calm and conflict-free. I have witnessed many times like someone forced right-of-way, cut the road or blocked the passage. It is never used on this occasion horn or profanity. It just slows down or waits. Someone will make a mistake on the road, but I can also forget myself or not notice someone. Why should I react nervously to the mistakes of others? Better to be calm and understanding about everything – says Augusto, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and the working driver in the house of the daily stay, when I was a volunteer. Only once did I hear someone speaking a raised voice, I did not notice anyone drunk, I did not encounter any manifestation malice or aggression. The Portuguese are very helpful too. Repeatedly they let me leave mine a backpack in a cafe or ticket office at the station, they bought a beer or dinner when they heard that I had arrived to learn a language. It happened that when I ran to a train station late, the driver heard mine calling and waited for me to jump on the train.

I also experienced a lot of care and love from Gloria and António, who hosted me for three months at home. They took me to lessons and volunteering every day, cooked meals, took me to trips and bought a couple of language study books and two pairs of pants (after I destroyed my own, by unskillfully disinfecting the soles of shoes when entering the house). We joked that I was like them fourth, adopted, child.

Bartek

Soon, as a child who still has a lot to learn, I will go to my new home in Mozambique.

I will get to know a new culture, have a new job and build new relationships. Just like in Portugal and before in Uganda, I will leave a piece of my heart there and come back gifted with pieces of hearts people that I will met there.

Bartek

Bartek, Polish CLM

About the mission among the Gumuz

Gumuz situation
Gumuz situation

When, in November 2020, I returned from Portugal, I never thought I would live the moments I have lived in these last months.

I live in Guilguel Beles, Benishangul-Gumuz region, Ethiopia, and in the mission we work essentially with the Gumuz people (we Comboni Lay Missionaries live with the Comboni religious in the same mission). We do not close our doors to anyone, but this is one of the most forgotten and abandoned people in Ethiopia and in the world.

Several people of other ethnic groups also live here, such as the Amara, Agaw and Chinacha. The soil is fertile and that makes it a desirable area. And therefore, many times, the Gumuz have lost land that belonged to them.

But even then, the people lived in peace, without major problems. In 2019, I was already in Ethiopia, a Gumuz village was attacked, people were killed, houses burned…. Our mission was a pioneer in providing aid to displaced people.

When I come back, in November 2020, Gumuz rebels started attacking some non-Gumuz. With great pain I learned of the death of many innocent people. Human life is precious.

However, I also witnessed the persecution of the Gumuz. People fled to the forest, houses were burned, dozens of young people were arrested without any justification.

I remember going with David, CLM, my mission colleague, to Debre Markos, in the Amara region, with two Gumuz because they were afraid of being killed. Several times we went to assist the detainees at the police station.

In the meantime, the government started to negotiate with the Gumuz rebels and for almost two months we managed to open schools, the clinic and the library.

However, the negotiations failed and the Gumuz rebels killed more people. It is not always easy to conclude negotiations when the proposals demanded are impossible to achieve.

In response, rebels from Amara and Agaw attacked villages, killed people and burned houses. The young men I share life with, the women in the group I followed, the children in the school and kindergarten had to flee into the forest: with no food, no clothes, nothing. People I knew were killed: innocent people!

Many people came to our mission to ask for food, money to buy food, medical assistance….

At first we prepared food for all the needy who came to us [“give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16)]; then, with the help of the Diocese, we offered pasta and every morning we offered a meal to more than 200 children. On Sundays we offer a meal after Mass.

David takes care of the meals every day and Sister Nives (a Comboni Sister) provides medical care to dozens of people each day.

I alternate between helping with the work with the children and going to Mandura, to the mission of the Comboni Sisters (who had to leave the mission, due to this guerrilla situation, living for now in our mission. But during the day they try to stay in the mission where they were, Mandura, to welcome the people who come) where I help in the domestic chores, like fetching water for the animals, for the house (as the sisters have no water at home), etc. and I welcome (me and the Comboni Sisters Vicenta and Cristiane) the people who come to greet or ask for help. Many of them risk coming to the mission, after walking three or four hours, to fetch the cereals they have stored in the sisters’ house or to ask for help.

It has been very hard to listen to so much suffering: people who are suffering, malnutrition, seriously ill children, people who have lost their relatives, who have lost their grain. How many times I find it hard to fall asleep thinking about this reality.

Gumuz situation

Mission consists of faces… and I see so many suffering faces. When I pray in Church and look at the cross of Jesus, I see many faces, I contemplate this suffering reality and I realize that Jesus is on that cross for us and that He continues to suffer daily for us. But at the same time I feel these words in my mind: do not be afraid, I am with you!

It is not easy to live these moments of suffering, but the experience of faith in Jesus, who spent His life doing good, who suffered, who was killed but was resurrected helps us to be witnesses of God’s Love among people.

Thank you to all of you who have contributed to the mission at different levels of prayer, friendship, affection and help. Without your participation we would not be able to help. Thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts!

There is no lack of tribulations, but be assured that your prayer sustains us. The mission is God’s and in Him we must put our trust.

Fraternal embrace,

Pedro Nascimento, LMC in Ethiopia