Erick Balderas Vega is originally from the State of Idalgo, close to Mexico City. He grew up there together with three brothers and two sisters. Erick is the third child of the family and his parents are still alive. After his High School, Erick did his philosophy at the diocesan seminary. Then he spent a year at home before coming to our formation house in Guadalajara in 2006. He first met our confrere Sergio Villaseñor Salinas and saw in him what he was looking for, someone committed to missionary work in Africa. What really attracted him to the Missionaries of Africa is our international community lifestyle where he feels really at home. Erick spent a few months in Washington DC to learn English before going to Lua-Luo in Kasama for his noviciate. At present he is a stagiaire at the parish of Kabwata in Lusaka. Erick has to make efforts to overcome his shyness. He does not rush into things but takes his time to reflect before making a decision. His family will surely see in him a new person when he goes back home at the end of his stage. Erick has been recommended for further studies at Merrivale by his community of Kabwata. He is still waiting for his official appointment.
Justice & Peace in Mozambique
Our vocation in the Church is linked with our fight for more justice in society. Already the Second Vatican Council said explicitly that “the joys and hopes, the grief and the fears of the people of today meet an echo in our hearts” (GS 1). The Church feels intimately linked with the cares and needs of all people. The Second Assembly of the Bishops likewise emphasised the necessity of working for justice: “The task of justice is an integral part of the mission of evangelisation of the Church” (Justice in the world, 1971). Engagement in justice and peace is part of the missionary’s action in all Christian communities as it is prayed in the fourth Eucharistic prayer for various needs: may your Church stand as a living witness to truth and freedom, to peace and justice, that all people be raised up to a new hope.
In Sena Parish (diocese of Beira, Mozambique), the people managed to organise themselves for the protection of their land against a multinational that wanted 18 000 hectares of their land in order to grow sugar cane and produce ethanol for the european market. This multinational intended to expel the inhabitants to other areas lacking basic infrastructures like schools, hospitals, proper roads and stores. The person in charge of promoting justice and peace issues distributed documents explaining the Law of the Land to all churches and beyond. He was threatened at the Local Court, but people who don’t belong to our Church protected him. Then, with their Paramount Chief, people started to get involved. They finally succeeded to protect their land with the help of the Diocesan Commission of Justice & Peace. A lawyer assisted them too to be officially recognised as an Association. As a result, the multinational had to withdraw from the area. Sadness and fear were transformed into joy and hope for a better world. Seeing this success story other communities want to do the same. Together with prayer and worship in church the work of evangelisation means helping people to overcome powerlessness, ignorance and submission to the powerful. It is the will of Jesus to work against injustices and all inhuman conditions including slavery.
Norbert Angibaud, M.Afr
The Antislavery Campaign was officially launched in Rome on 9th November 2012. Each Province/Sector was asked to organize its own calendar of events already at the time of Richard Nnyombi’s visit which took place about a year ago. Though we got off to a somehow slow start, it doesn’t mean that nothing has been done yet.
In South Africa Michel Meunier had a calendar and a book mark printed for the occasion, gave an interview on Radio Veritas and a talk in Pretoria. In Malawi, as Bill Turnbull told us, “at the 8th December celebrations in Balaka, our students presented two excellent plays and a poem. The topic of the plays was human trafficking. They were lively, humorous, educative and straight to the point”. There is now a plan to repeat the performance in Lilongwe in front of a wider audience. In Zambia, on 26th November, our confreres in Kasama combined our Founder’s Day with their own little opening of the year of anniversary for the Antislavery Campaign. As part of their celebrations, they had an input on the Antislavery campaign of Lavigerie and its place within the history or our Society by Paul Johnston. FENZA centre is planning a conference on the topic in the next few months. At the moment we are also preparing a leaflet explaining a few basic facts about the campaign. It should be distributed in parishes at the beginning of Lent. I am sure that more initiatives were taken by others which I am not aware of. Please let me know directly or use this forum to share them.
Maybe this is the time to set aside a few commitments and concentrate more on this strong appeal that is coming from the Society. All of us are asked, as individuals and in our communities, to continue praying, sharing, reading and being up-to-date on the event.
For those in parish work is just a question of using the various means already at their disposal: talking about the campaign and its meaning in homilies, talks, Parish councils meetings and newsletters. Lent is coming soon: we received from Rome the Stations of the Cross adapted to what we are celebrating; if we are not happy with them let’s come up with something new but let’s make the most of this opportunity!
On a different level, in our countries we can easily go into schools, give interviews on the radio and have articles printed in the local newspapers. Our candidates in the different houses of formation are also warmly invited to give their creative contribution. Balaka has shown us the way, let others follow the example!
Following in the footsteps of the Cardinal who was capable of dropping everything and started touring the capitals of Europe to deliver his message, we are also asked to show some enthusiasm and determination in order to make known the slogan of the campaign: Let’s break the chains!
Finally, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the way we will close this year’s celebrations which should happen in September or thereabouts. The grand finale with the bus tour seems to be losing support by the day and surely it will not make sense if there isn’t an adequate preparation in the months leading up to it. Maybe the project was not properly presented and/or understood but it is becoming increasingly evident that it will be difficult to pull it off. Malawi has already withdrawn and Zambia will take a decision in the next few days. But even if this particular project does not get off the ground it does not mean that we should give up all.
In February, March and April I will be visiting the communities in South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi and I hope that such occasion will present us with an excellent opportunity to find out where we are at, to clarify some issues and to share ideas and plans for the coming months.
Best wishes in all your endeavours, Claudio Zuccala, M.Afr