Author: Missionaries of Africa - Southern Africa Province (SAP) Page 1 of 113

The world of our ideas, Coping with Covid-19

Value of global vaccination

In looking at what sense people are making, or not, of what is happening in the world today concerning the pandemic of Covid-19, despite their endeavour to fight against it, there are some who are affirming that life is ok in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic. Others are pessimists who state that; alas friends, things will continue to be bad, we are damned!   The nihilists go as far as taking the view that life is just suffering after all and is not worth living – life is fundamentally meaningless.

To begin with, allow me to refresh your philosophy, as a prelude to my reflection on Covid-19. The perspective I ‘am about to share concerns idealism which hold the view that there is no external reality to material objects but only ideas of them existing in our minds (Omnia Vinieris, 2002). This is opposed to those who believe in the materiality of things – things as they are in themselves.

The view of idealism surfaced among ancient philosophers and religions and emphasises mental and spiritual components of experience and renounces to concepts of material existence. Plato believed that the physical world around us is not real, it is constantly changing and you can never say what it really is. There is a world of our ideas which is a world of unchanging and absolute truth. But does such a world exist independent of our human minds? Plato thought it does and that whenever we see something with or mind’s eyes we are using our mind to conceive of something in the ideal world. For example, when we conceive of moral perfection, he said, it exists in our mind even if we know there are no people who are morally perfect around us. So their idea of moral perfection came from the ideal world.

George Berkeley a philosopher and Anglican Bishop from Ireland stated that ideas come from God and so all humans are merely ideas in the mind of God. He further asserted that all ideas hostile to God’s infiniteness, permanence, and goodness such as the conception of death, hell and evil are flawed and wicked hallucinations and are not real. For some even Covid-19 is not real but a phantasy or an idea (my emphasis). Another philosopher pointed out that all objects of our perception and all natural phenomena are representations but the world as it is in itself (noumena), it is a world of the will. Does that mean we create objects, or the phenomena we see, hear or experience, to suit our will and our mind? Is that true?

Certainly, due to the number of deaths from Covid-19 and the related sicknesses, the world is shaken and some people have lost hope and are disgusted and fearful, while others are positive and holding on, saying: ‘it will come to pass’. It is not only the attack of Covid-19, but also its variants too which are worrying and exacerbating pessimism and nihilism despite scientific progress to find a remedy. Long lasting Covid-19 which can take over a year before being cured has been has been detected in some patients. Then, there has appeared the ‘The Indian Variant’ publicized on June 14 in the journal Lacent digital health Vol. 3 June/July 2021. The journal examined also the impact of the ‘Delta Variant’ in Scotland, where it had become the dominant strain. Researchers found that the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19 has doubled more due to patients infected with the ‘Delta Variant’, than with people infected with the ‘Alpha Variant’.

As can be seen, after the appearance of the ‘Indian Variant’, there emerged the ‘Delta Variant’, as if that were not enough, then the ‘Alpha Variant’ was detected in Scotland, with its own mutations which they also dubbed variants of concern. The ‘Alpha Variant’ attacks the immune system and is more infectious and is more worrisome. The ‘Delta Variant’ itself, also known as the fourth wave, identified in India, which caused a rapid rise in cases of infection and is a highly transmissible strain in Uk, has put countries in Europe, North America and Africa on watch. According to WHO this fourth wave (the ‘Delta Variant’) resists antibodies in our blood (needs higher levels antibodies to overcome it and causes relentless itching of the eyes and toothache). But the good news is that all the vaccines developed thus far can prevent people from developing severe diseases, hospitalization and death. All the vaccines are not 100% efficient but can prevent from severe diseases and are good enough. There is a reminder though that even if you have been vaccinated you can get infected but the disease will be mild. So get a complete vaccination to protect yourself and avoid infecting other people.

In some developed countries though there are rapid rises cases of Covid-19, more than 25,000 a day, they are planning to remove face masks, stop social distancing and are advising people to go back to work because the vaccine roll out is working for those fully vaccinated. What a shift!  This is a talk of forward and backwards: “it’s look and see, take care of yourself”. The leaders of states are on one side and the people are on the other side.  Most people oppose it because they fear that there will be more hospitalizations as the number of cases will surge.

There has been also notable vaccine pessimism; this is a wonder and something curious. There have been ideas of disinformation and theories of conspiracy across the spectrum of people, even among scientists themselves who have developed the vaccines; ‘I will wait and see’, some say. As has been noted, among those first to be vaccinated were health workers such as doctors, nurses, and other health workers. Surely can the whole world afford to lose all these populations of health workers so that we are left bereft of them? It cannot be. If so then that would mean supporting pessimist and nihilist ideas.

Among the ideas and conspiracy theories prevailing these days are those claiming that there are dark forces that want to eliminate half of the world population, especially the Third World; Africans in particular. Others say all those who have been vaccinated will become impotent. This conspiracy is the most feared by the big population. Some people have suffered from Covid-19 and been fully vaccinated, but have there is no evidence that they become impotent. This is just an idea in the minds to discourage and frighten others. Then there is the issue of the blood clot and deaths also, but these are minimal in comparison to the benefits of being vaccinated.

On the other hand, there are those who are not adhering to the warnings. They think that Covid-19 is just an idea, a myth. Others are going about their life mask-less, while others are wicked and comingling with others when they know they are sick and with little or no vaccines. They gather in groups to socialize with the others. The other day I saw the police with teargas dispersing a group of drunkards but they regrouped after the police have disappeared. I wonder whether this type of drinking in our country Zambia does not reflect a national or collective neurosis or a senseless and meaninglessness of life? How can people be drinking beer like this as if their lives depended on it?

To come back to the scenario of the pandemic, there are those who see in it the coming to the end of the world and nonchalantly pass comments such as “if Jesus Christ wants to come, let him just come now, this is the end of the world” (Yesu ngalefwaya ukwisa naesefye, uku ekupwa kwacalo; Ambuye Yesu ngati afuna kubwera angabwere, uku ndiye kutha kwa dziko).” This calls to mind of the sort of Christian sect idealist pessimists fond of foretelling the end of the world.  Without dwelling much on what went before, in recent times, they used to proclain that in 1980 the world will come to end, but it did not. They repeated the same thing in 2000, ‘the world will be over and everybody should stop amassing provisions for future use’. What was the origin of such ideas?

I do not know whether you have come across a book entitled, “Better not to have been born; the harm of coming into existence” 2006. The writer is a pure anti-natalist and nihilist philosopher and he is not only against reproducing for fate can befall on anyone but because life for him is permeated by badness. Therefore, reproducing is intrinsically cruel and irresponsible. He has produced another book called, Human Predicament 2017. He has argued in this book that human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. He provides an escalating list of woes, designed to prove that even the lives of happy people are worse than they think. He argues that: “we’re almost always hungry or thirsty, and when we’re not, we must go to the bathroom. We often experience ‘thermal discomfort’ – we are too hot or too cold – or are tired and unable to nap. We suffer from itches, allergies, and colds, menstrual pains or hot flashes” quote.

Life is a procession of “frustrations and irritations” – waiting in traffic, standing in line, filling out forms. We are forced to work, we often find our jobs exhausting; even “those who enjoy their work may have professional aspirations that remain unfulfilled” quote. Many lonely people remain single, while those who marry fight and divorce. “People want to be, look, and feel younger, and yet they age relentlessly. This idealism has earned him fame and has a lot of followers. Strangely enough he does not answer personal questions because people will analyse him psychologically and therefore does not want to be interviewed. He is a very isolated and withdrawn person.

This perspective seems to indicate that life would be meaningful only when there is no suffering on earth. Is this true? In other word, one thing which we quickly and already realise when we come into existence is that we are not going to live forever and we shall depart in different ways from this life. This is a fact and life’s meaning should not be based on or judged according to whether there is suffering or happiness.

All sentient things seem to have that kind of life-experience of pain suffering and happiness. And therefore the question to ask is what kind of creatures are we human beings? We are intelligent, creative, developmental, communal; interpersonal whether there is suffering death or happiness. If we have not been most of these, then we have failed. These are the values we have here on earth and should inculcate in others. A new philosophy of life and religion must reject all superstitious beliefs and ideas in their objective reality and be able to reason and realise that the others ideas are only mental pictures we paint to please our own souls or mentality (Jung 1964, p.159).

It is true that we do not like suffering or death though we can make sense of them. But the irony is that when you have had a good life and after that you experience pain and suffering you seem to reason and catastrophise that things will be bad. When in distress one’s thinking becomes rigid, distorted and over generalized and absolute (Weishar 1996, p.188). There are also some people who think and behave as though they have come into this world by accident. They are not productive and they want to manipulate others and make them work for them. St Paul advises such idle people and begs them to go on quietly working and earning the food they eat. Such idle people when they sit on the food to eat, eat as though they are eating for the last time or are going to prison.

Though I meandered this much, my point was really to comment on the prevailing scenario of Covid-19 and its ramification and the fear or pessimism it has engendered. People should not give up themselves because of the challenges brought by Covid-19, come what may we shall overcome; come rain, come storms. We are advised to put on the masks, observe social distancing and to be completely “jabbed up” where there is vaccine. Otherwise certain pieces of advice, even those given by certain developed countries, will just be a form of idealism.

By Fr Patrick Mumbi

Livingstonia Missionaries and White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa)

Kenneth David Kaunda during a working visit to President Reagan, 3/30/1983

Kenneth Kaunda was born on 28 April 1924 at Lubwa Mission in Chinsali, then part of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, and was the youngest of eight children. His father, the Reverend David Kaunda, was an ordained Church of Scotland missionary and teacher, who had been born in Nyasaland (now Malawi) and had moved to Chinsali, to work at Lubwa Mission. His mother was also a teacher and was the first African woman to teach in colonial Zambia.

Lusaka, Embassy Park: Here lies a gallant freedom fighter, the African Child, Kenneth Kaunda. He came from a missionary family from Malawi that had settled in Lubwa. Born on 28th April 1924 and died on 17th June 2021, at the age of 97.

One notices the difference in evangelisation between White Fathers and the Livingstonia Mission who stressed the education of Africans in practical skills and in particular qualities which were consonant with the Calvinistic ethic as opposed with the Roman-Catholic, the White Fathers. For the Livingstonia Mission salvation was through individual faith in Christ; for the White Fathers the Sacraments, especially baptism, led to salvation. Lubwa Mission used literacy and intellectual agreement with the contents of the catechism as criteria for admission to church membership. For the Livingstonia Mission new members were incorporated into the structure of the Mission as teachers, evangelists, catechists, or paid employees of the Mission. The converts were initially mainly young men, exhibiting a westernized style of life. There emerged a competition between the White Fathers and the Livingstonia missionaries in the area of evangelisation. The phenomenon of evangelisation brought a rift between families and clans (Erie I, 1991).
In the 1940s Lubwa missionaries came under criticism by young mission teachers like Kaunda and Kapwepwe, who established a Chinsali Branch of the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress at Lubwa. There was opposition especially in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) to amalgamate or federate Northern and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
As orally narrated by some old White Fathers like Fr Robert Lavertu, in 1955 Lubwa was confronted with a break-away movement, the Lumpa Church, led by Alice Lenshina (See also Fr Hinfelaars 1985, 1989). There was a fierce clash in 1964 between the Lumpa Church and UNIP and by then the colonial British Government was still in power and in charge of security. Many people died (1000) and this ended in the dispersal of the Lumpa Church. According to Robert Lavertu, a Missionary of Africa who was there at the time, some members of the Lenshina group dispersed into Congo, while others remained in Chinsali and elsewhere in Zambia (Luwingu district).

By Fr Patrick Mumbi

Priestly Ordination of Dago do Rosário Estima in Dondo, Mozambique

On Saturday 26th June, the Southern African Province (SAP), most especially the Sector of Mozambique was blessed with the priestly ordination of our confrere Dago do Rosário Estima. The journey has been long but finally the light has shined, God made it possible. His time is always the best. Our joy has been complete. What we wished our brother on the day of his first mass, is to treasure, care and keep safe the great gift received in jars of clay (2 Cor 2:7) till the day he will go to return it to the Owner. Within the period of two years, Mozambique has given to the Society and the Church at large three priests.

The journey has been long for Mozambique as a sector, but also for our newly ordained confrere. However, God made it possible. Meant to be the second Mozambican confrere, Dago ended up being the fourth. During the fourth phase of formation, Dago paused for two years before going back to finish his theological studies. It was a special moment but when God calls, He knows how to guide, to strengthen and lead us through. Dago made good use of the two years of time out as a teacher in a private school, after which he went back for the last year of his formation in Nairobi. After his theological studies, Dago returned to Mozambique where he took his Missionary Oath and got ordained as a deacon.  The Oath took place in the Sector House of Inhamizua (Beira), while the ordination itself took place in his home parish (Dondo Parish), during the priestly ordination of Timóteo Cheiro, the first confrere from this new generation.

After his diaconate ordination, Dago was appointed to Nigeria which is part of Ghana-Nigeria Province where he rendered his diaconate service. After his diaconal service, he was Called for his priestly ordination which brought together all the confreres within the Sector. After which we negotiated with Archbishop Dom Cláudio Dalla Zuanna of Beira Archdiocese to fix the date of the long-awaited event. At the beginning, looking at the schedule in our communities and parishes, as well as the situation of covid-19 pandemic, the confreres agreed to have the ordination in July. However, the Archbishop suggested 26th June since his program for July was too tight.

We believed and trusted in God’s providence as we planned for Dago’s ordination, and surely, we witnessed His providence. With the covid-19 pandemic situation, the president of Mozambique announced a situation of calamity in the country, hence restricting the number of participants for any Eucharistic celebration to at most hundred and fifty (150). It is with this number in mind that we had prepared for the ceremony. However, on the 24th June, the president restricted the number further to forty (40) due to the worsening nature of the pandemic. How could we have managed a priestly ordination with only forty people? God has made it possible and we were lucky since the new directives were only effective from 26th June at midnight. The date suggested by the bishop, which at the beginning seemed not to satisfy the majority, ended up miraculously being something positive which solved our concerns. The confreres gathered together with their brother Dago, as he received the great gift of priesthood on Saturday. The following day, which was a Sunday, Dago presided over his first mass. For each of the two celebrations, we managed with the permission of the authorities to welcome about hundred-fifty people while respecting the covid-19 regulations and measures.

No matter how long the night might be, the daylight will always show up. Indeed, after twelve good years walking humbly with the Lord to discern His project and will, Dago was ordained priest Missionary of Africa, for and in the Church. At the end of the celebration, after thanking the ordaining Archbishop of Beira, Most Rev. Dom Cláudio, and the parishioners, the Provincial Delegate, Rev. Fr. Raphaël Gasimba (M.Afr.) announced that the newly ordained confrere has been appointed to Nigeria where he was as deacon to continue with the work he has already started. We pray that Dago may find joy and fulfilment in his ministry as priest in the footsteps of Christ.

By: Hervé Tougma, M.Afr.

Missionary life at St. Thomas Parish, Mzuzu, Malawi

Our Parish is named after St Thomas the Apostle and its Parish Priest happens to be Fr. Thomas. St Thomas the Apostle Parish is a semi-rural parish in the Diocese of Mzuzu in Northern Malawi. The Parish was created in October 2013. It currently has 17 prayer stations, 2 in town and 15 in the villages. The rural outstations are characterized by their distance from the Presbytery, the low number of their Christians and the poor or inexistent structures. One of the churches is not accessible by car. Most of these churches have very lively liturgies where all members participate in praying, singing and dancing. Our main Apostolate rotates around the ordinary administration of the sacraments, teaching/training of the Christians in the context of primary evangelization, Justice and Peace and Integrity of creation, and development works.

As a child I grew up in a village which was not even an outstation. The Catechist was the hero of the faith through his way of organizing the spiritual life of the people. The priest only came to the village once a year, under a special request on the feast of patron saint of the Christian Community, St. Andrew. Sisters and seminarians occasionally came during the Lenten Campaign for 2 to 3 days of teaching. I guess this has affected my missionary approach to remote areas. In a parish like St. Thomas, the temptation is to settle in town where life is softer and Christians are more capable intellectually and financially, while neglecting the rural outstations which are difficult to reach and have small numbers of Christians. Aware of this risk, we have adopted an old but efficient Missionary strategy of spending days at the outstations to maximize our presence among the Christians. We often go as a team, sometimes including Christians from town. The Christians of the outstations are always glad to receive us in their places and they are more than happy to have us in their midst. Materials such as drawings and movies are still relevant pastoral tools in such areas.

Such a Missionary approach goes with its requirement in personnel and finances. It is quite difficult to go to the distant outstations when there is only one priest at the presbytery. I happened to be alone for most part of the year 2020 and despite all the good will, I could only visit the distant outstations during week days. Finances are also crucial for one to reach out to such places. This has compelled us to reflect on ways to empower the parish financially so that it has enough to cover these expenses. Apart from the traditional ways of collecting funds such as tithe and offertory, we have explored ways of generating funds even in rural outstations where the livelihood of people is low, making it difficult to contribute meaningfully. Our Parish does a bit of farming on two farms: One for food crops where we are currently adding a piggery, and the other for tree farming where we have planted beyond 500 apple trees. In town we have small hostels which students of a nearby Technical College rent. Having seen the advantage of this, we have undertaken to build a proper hostel to receive around 100 students, though we are facing some financial difficulties to finish the works. Once completed, this will not only boost the income of the parish but also create a venue for retreats and trainings during holidays.

While some of the development works are for Income Generation, others are aimed at responding to the needs of the parish and the communities around us in areas of infrastructure: offices, school blocks, boreholes, making of bridges/roads in some rural places to enhance accessibility.

After 7 years of existence, St Thomas the Apostle Parish has managed to meet most of its basic needs including salaries of all the workers, upkeep of the confreres and stagiaires working in it, and also the cost of transportation for ministry.

Justice and Peace is part and parcel of our daily pastoral activities. It is very common for us to have to deal with cases where the lives and property of people accused of witchcraft are threatened. We also deal with early girl marriages mainly in the rural areas of the parish. It is fulfilling when after a long struggle a family finally understands that their young daughter is better at school than in a marriage. Also, we attempt to respond to the yearly struggle of the less privileged people during the transitory period before the maturity of their crops, when they are exposed to hunger and starvation. The Justice and Peace Commission of our Parish is also active. Luckily, an oncoming workshop in August 2021 on accompaniment of victims of various injustices will increase their capacities.

By: Thomas Delwende Pouya M.Afr.

Pastoral Experience during the Covid-19 Pandemic: “Jesus Visiting His Flock!”

The challenge that one encounters when writing an article about personal experience is the temptation to employ an academic and scientific approach. This means that the article has to acknowledge the source of any ideas that its scribe has not authored or created. The word ‘created’ reminds me of a Physics class in secondary school. When studying matter in relation to energy, I came across the reality that “energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed/converted from one form of energy to another.” This can still be true, in my opinion, if applied to the Word of God. I would say, therefore, the Word of God can neither be created nor destroyed by any human person. We, as pastoral agents, can only transform or convert the Word of God from one form to another to cause positive effects on human beings.

I would say, as many do, that the Covid-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard. Nonetheless, even if we were to be on-guard, our lived experiences remind us of the fact that, our survival depends on God’s mercy and providence. Indeed, this humbles you and me. Consequently, we begin realising that one’s tomorrow, like that of Noah in the Ark, totally relies on God’s protection and wisdom.

As I recall my physics class, I notice that, in the Law of Conservation of Energy, the amount of energy in any system is inevitably determined by the following combination:

  1. the total internal energy of a system
  2. the initial internal energy of a system
  3. the work done by or on the system
  4. the heat added to, or removed from, the system

The same combination can be equally applied to our pastoral activities if you agree with the formulation that “the Word of God can neither be created nor destroyed by any human person, it can only be transformed from one form to another to cause positive effect on human beings.” We can leave this thought for another time.

When narrating our personal experiences, we can easily forget the key people, in particular, those who are very close to us. In order to avoid this error of omission, I therefore thank Fr. Lamec Ciza and Claude Nsengiyumva (Stagiaire) for the role they played in Henley-KwaMpumuza Community during the first wave of Covid-19 infections in South Africa.

Tirelessly, Lamec and Claude have been ministering to God’s family in Henley-KwaMzimba and St. Vincent-KwaMpumuza Parishes in the Archdiocese of Durban. The two were on the frontline preparing the ground in view to re-opening of churches. The preparations included: training of church leaders on how to conduct liturgical celebrations and services in compliance with Covid-19 regulations, forming compliance officers who would take records of congregants (temperature, contacts, etc.) and getting all materials ready (temperature scanners, sanitizers, posters, etc) before the date of re-opening churches. This, of course, drained their energy, disturbing their welfare, and stressed their minds.

Claude was supposed to have left the country for his holidays immediately after Easter (2020) and prepare himself to join the fourth phase of initial formation in Tangaza University College, Nairobi. Lamec was due for home-leave and yet he was still to handover the parish and join Lenasia parish in Johannesburg. Things turned out not to happen as planned. What a stressful situation! With these reasons among many, I sincerely thank both of them for their perseverance and missionary zeal. I pray that the Loving God may continue to bless and give them joy.

Henley Community of the Missionaries of Africa is situated in KwaZulu-Natal Province. It serves two parishes as mentioned above. During this time of pandemic as in other times, of course, we tried our best to draw our energy and wisdom as we allowed ourselves to be nourished and revitalised by the Eucharist. Everything began and ended in the community – we planned and evaluated together. This was so significant to my growth as a Sector leader. Our living together in community increased transparency, sharing and collaboration. Our community life radiated joy and hope to all those who surround us, especially leaders of Small Christian Communities, Eucharistic Ministers and families.

Despite the pandemic, the Small Christian Communities (SCCs) have proven themselves to be indispensable and the heart of Christian life. It was in SCCs that the first stage of re-opening of the churches was first experimented. It was here that the number of congregants, when celebrating the Eucharist, was ensured not to go beyond 50, including a priest and altar servers. The human mind is endowed with creativity and it excels even when hit hard by a pandemic. Creatively and thoughtfully, the Archdiocese of Durban allowed the parishes to celebrate the Sunday Mass during weekdays. Those who could not come to church on Sunday because the number was limited, had an opportunity to attend the same Mass in their Small Christian Communities. We managed to reach out to all the 35 Small Christian Communities.

The second stage in our plan included visiting the elderly and the sick who were unable to congregate on Sundays for obvious reasons. It took us five weeks to complete the first round of visitation in all the 35 Small Christian Communities. The elderly and the sick are categorised as vulnerable groups that are at high risk and exposed to Covid-19 infections. We needed to be very careful when visiting these groups. Indeed, it was a great moment in my life. I could see the face of each radiating joy because their priest ‘ubaba’ has finally visited them. My greetings, INkosi ayibe nani” (The Lord be with you), was met with a joyful response. This reminded me of a joyful encounter between the Blessed Virgin Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56). How joyful Elizabeth was and how the unborn baby, John the Baptist leapt in her womb when they both heard the greetings of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:41-42). It was the salutation of joy and peace. Visiting the elderly and the sick, means bringing them peace as we greet them with the words of the Lord ‘Peace be with you’ (John 20:21). This experience when shared at home left each of us energised and motivated. Based on this pastoral experience, I have learnt that when we allow God to lead us, nothing can stop us from doing his will.

Through these encounters which I name ‘Jesus visiting His flock’ my faith and desire to serve God’s people is being strengthened and rejuvenated. However, this has been possible because everything was planned and organised at the level of community. It was not the fruit of personal enterprise, but rather an outcome of community discernment. Indeed, fraternal spirit at its best!

I also noticed that coming together as a community for recreation plays an important role in strengthening our informal and fraternal interaction. Sometimes Claude and I could simply remain seated enjoying beautiful melodies manufactured by Lamec’s competence of playing a piano. It was as well so fascinating to gather as community to offer prayers and petitions and to celebrate the Eucharist. This was also a moment of carrying into our prayers and Eucharistic celebrations, news and events that seemed to touch the lives of many parishioners including covid-19 related death cases. It is in prayers that one finds God’s presence, and in deep silence that one hears the voice of God saying: ‘Peace be with you!’ (John 20:21) and ‘Do not be afraid, I am with you!’ (Isaiah 41:10). One old lady in tears said, that she thought she would die before meeting a priest again. She was now happy to go in peace, if that was the will of God, she said, after having received the Eucharist. Other sick people also felt a great relief after being visited by their priests.

Through such encounters and experiences, despite the covid-19 pandemic, joy overwhelmed each of us. We felt that we were able to serve God’s people despite the worries and anxieties caused by the current pandemic. We also used such visits to encourage and urge people to always remain in compliance with the covid-19 restrictions and regulations. It was pleasing to see that each house we entered we found sanitizers on the table and everyone had put on his/her facemask. Social distancing was as well observed. Together we also reminded ourselves of the importance of continuing to pray so that God may accord us health and healing. In fact, our unity in prayers is the weapon to win the battle against fear and loss of hope.

We remain grateful to God for his presence among us and for the solidarity, fraternity and mutual support lived during this time of pandemic.

By Konrad Simon Millanzi, M.Afr.

A letter to Cardinal Lavigerie

Dear Father Founder,

I am very glad to write to you again on a piece of a paper after such a long time. Indeed, by God’s grace and mercy I am still alive and more zealous than ever to commit myself for the service of the African World. It is almost a year now since we went into the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If I were to use the words from the letter to His Holiness Pope Francis from our Superior Generals, by then, the outgoing Richard Baawobr and the incoming Stanley Lubungo, it has been for me the time ‘to look at the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to look at the future with hope.’ The aim of this letter Dear Father Founder is mainly to greet you. Moreover, I would ask you continue to pray for your beloved societies and their mission in the contemporary African World. I believe that your intercessions may help us to receive God’s blessings and graces to fulfil our duties and responsibilities as “apostles nothing but apostles”.

Dear Father Founder, we ended the year 2020 and entered the year 2021 under the lockdown. There were no gatherings to celebrate and offer thanksgiving masses to the Almighty God to end and welcome a new year. Actually, I found it quite strange and contrary to my experience that, instead of people coming together to give a hand for each other in time of either joy or difficulty, the call now is to isolate in order to protect and help the other to live. Nevertheless, the life during the lockdown has proved that community life plays a big part in the ability to adapt to changing environment and nature of our pastoral activities. Besides, this ability to adapt has a deep root in a prayer life and unity of the community. Undoubtedly, ‘How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!’ (Ps. 133:1)

Dear Father Founder, in such a situation whereby coming together increases the risk of the Covid-19 infections, the world has to change its theories and ways things have to be done from the joy and rituals at the beginning of life to the cry and rituals at the end of life. In such an isolating situation one joins the Psalmist cry that “My soul yearns for your salvation; I hope in your word. My eyes yearn to see your promise. I ask, ‘When will you comfort me?’” (119:81-82)

Dear Father Founder, the Covid-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard and has tested greatly our way of life and believing. This automatically touches as well our spirituality. And here we see the important of the invitation from the 2016 Chapter. The Chapter ‘invites us to base our spirituality on the Word and openness to the Spirit so as to live fully the joy of the Gospel with all its challenges’ (pg.19). The life experience during the lockdown made us to re-actualize and contextualize our Missionaries of Africa charism. Based on our core-values, different communities lived our charism in their humble services to God’s people. It can be argued that through personal and community prayer, our spirituality has been sustained more profoundly during this time of pandemic. Even so, community life was very much challenged. Our communities never remained the same from the beginning of the lockdown. At least a member was either self-isolated or stranded out of the community. Consequently, the one or two who remained in the community could find it difficult to recite the psalm 133.

Dear Father Founder, I won’t exhaust you with many things today. I know our deceased confreres who worked or passed through South Africa would love to hear more. I promise to do so next time. However, there is one recent experience which I would not leave it for another time. During this period, we developed our skills in cooking. There was a time we had to cook for ourselves all the meals. Yet, you have to conduct funeral services and to attend to the needs of God’s flock. This is the time I came to understand more your insistence on a community of three confreres.

Dear Father Founder, the pandemic has taught us to be diligent, vigilant, patient, humble and depend totally to God’s Word and providence. It tested our faith, unity, vision and mission. How can one keep the lockdown regulations and teach others to do so yet going out to pasture God’s flock? We have many to talk about next time.

Please, dear Father Founder, send my regards to all confreres who are with you in heaven. Their brothers here on earth are continuing with the mission where they left it. Their prayers are needed. We appreciate their writings. We draw knowledge, skills and joy from them for the Mission.

Your beloved son,

By: Fr. Konrad Simon Millanzi, M.Afr.

Labour Day Celebration at CfSC

On the 6th of May 2021, the Staff members of the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) were honoured with the presence of the Minister of Civic Education and National Unity, Honourable Timothy Pagonachi Simbega Mtambo, as they were celebrating Workers’ Day.

The event which brought together not only the workers of the Centre, but also representatives of the Board of Trustees, Missionaries of Africa Parishes and Institutions in Malawi, was held in the premises of CfSC in Area 25, Lilongwe.

After the opening prayer by Rev. Bro. Vitus Danaa Abobo (M.Afr), the MC, Mr. Tobias Jere, welcomed all the guests to the Centre, followed by a self-introduction during which each person shared what work he or she loves doing. Remarkably, most of those present love farming and rearing of animals.

During his opening remarks, the Executive Director, Rev. Fr. Dr. James Ngahy (M.Afr), emphasized that ‘May Day’ or Labour Day “is a celebration of labourers and the working classes which is promoted by the International Labour Movement which occurs every year on the first of May”.

He gave a historical overview of labour day, recounting that it is an ancient European spring festival. He emphasized on the importance of valuing our labour, describing how countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Switzerland pulled up their socks after World War II, and hence, moved from ‘rags to riches’.

He lamented that ‘while most of these countries have excelled, we in the third world countries or South-pole are still complaining and lamenting of colonial exploitation’. “The ‘Dependency syndrome’ is still on our shoulders!”, the Executive Director added.

Besides, he also lamented that many African countries, even some churches and organizations such as CfSC are still at a ‘baby seater level’, though grown-up but not yet grown.

He believes that ‘we need to work hard and creatively if we are to liberate ourselves from the chains of dependency. He added that, when we continue blaming the government for not doing its best and yet we ourselves do less than the minimum at our end, it contradicts the principles of social justice, distributive justice as well as commutative justice.

He challenged all those present to re-look at themselves inside-out and not outside-in. He questioned, “When we hammer the issues of ‘Transparency and accountability’ outside there, how do we live them ourselves from the grass-root level? How do we react when we are challenged ourselves on the same? Are we able to bring these values or aspects and internalize them in our own Families, in our own Communities, in our own Parishes, in our own Organisations or even in our Media profession?”

The Minister of Civic Education and National Unity, who was also the guest of honour, Honorable Timothy Mtambo during his presentation appreciated the great work that the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) has done and continue to do here in Malawi. He expressed his joy of being part of this great family, adding that “I love everything this family does for the society in Malawi.”

The Minister highlighted the importance of labour in any economy saying, “A country, a community, a society cannot progress without a strong labour force.” He underscored the intrinsic value inherent in every human being saying ‘all of us are born with an inherent value, which is being human. Hence, no one is more important than the other.’ He, however, regretted that sometimes we look down on each other. Adding that we need to apply the golden rule of ‘doing unto others what we would have them do unto us,’ in our daily lives.

He emphasised that ‘For a country like Malawi or an institution like CfSC to move forward, there is the need to appreciate each other and to realise that everyone has a role to play and everyone is important.’ To illustrate his point, the Minister alluded to Plato’s view of the society as expressed in the Republic, where the society is looked at like the human body composed of different parts (Head, Chest and stomach), with each part having a vital role to play in the overall wellbeing of the whole body. “We are interdependent of each other; we are so important in so many ways.” He added. He also challenged all employers to treat their employees with dignity.

The Minister also said that, ‘to ensure that all workers live a dignified life, the Tonse Alliance government upon assumption of office did not only increase the minimum wage from Mk35,000.00 to Mk50,000.00, it also increased the free tax-band to MK100,000.00.’ Adding that these measures are not enough, hence they will continue to work at ensuring that everyone is appreciated for the work they do.

However, the Minister regretted that sometimes we give a lot of pressure to our employers to uphold our rights, while forgetting to do our own responsibilities. He encouraged all workers to work with passion and conviction no matter the work they do, because at the end of the day they are accountable to God. Besides, it is in so doing that we can build our country, he added.

The former Executive Director, Fr. Jos Kuppens (M.Afr) during his speech thanked the Centre for organizing such an event, and also thanked everyone for gracing the occasion and making the day worthwhile. He challenged everyone to work together to build up Malawi, adding that for Malawi to move forward we all need to come on board either as individuals, institutions or government. He, however, regretted that the kind of ‘big man’ syndrome which people are used to undermines people from taking their responsibilities, since through it they shelve their responsibilities unto others. ‘If we want to make people into real patriots, we need to help them to reach the point of realizing that “we can do it” not simply as praise singers but real patriots,’ Fr. Jos Kuppens emphasised. He ended his speech by reminding all that, “A better Malawi is possible but it needs all of us.”

The day was indeed a very reflective and joyful one on which the Centre for Social Concern appreciated the hard work and dedication of all its staff, which enables CfSC to continue impacting the lives of the poor and less privileged in the Malawian society.

By: Vitus Danaa Abobo (M.Afr)

JPIC-ED: A SAFARI WITH ‘LAUDATO SI’

Justice and Peace and the Integrity of Creation and Encounter and Dialogue (JPIC-ED) of South African Province (SAP) in its entirety has been up to date in living and journeying with the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis, Laudato Si. Most, if not all of our confreres or communities, do understand and take to heart that our Mother Earth, who contains us, does also sustain us and govern us accordingly (cf. Laudato Si’ no. 1). At the same time, she expects us to be responsible of taking care of her according to God’s command. “God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth.’ God also said, ‘Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food. And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food … God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:28-31). Pope Francis, in his wisdom and on behalf of the Church, emerged with the Encyclical Laudato Si‘ (LS) in response to such God’s command, while looking at the signs of the times. A timely moment of publishing it when human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God himself begin to abuse the Mother Earth; hence, endanger human species and all that she inhabits.

Most of our communities in the different Sectors of our Province have embraced this Encyclical not just from a ‘sermon point of view’ but also from a ‘pragmatic point of view.’ Many of our communities are engaged in different activities to making this exhortation a reality. A good and authentic reference can be found in our last JPIC-ED report to the Provincial Council, whereby it was clearly stated that most of our Communities/Parishes are engaged in planting pine trees, eucalyptus and cyprus trees, some fruit plants as well as up-grading mission compounds ecologically to a good standard while curtailing soil erosion. All this has not been done in isolation, but rather working hand in hand with the local or Parish Justice and Peace Committees or Commissions. This explicates clearly that Missionaries of Africa are not working in isolation but rather in collaboration with the local Church. The spirit of ‘I am because we are’ is very much integrated in implementing Laudato Si! This is very encouraging, and the larger communities in which we work are very appreciative of our approach.

Laudato Si‘ is a prophetic Encyclical as conflict in the future may be mainly caused by the exploitation of natural resources. In fact, the document has become highly influential and widely shared document of the Church as it urges humanity to have an attitudinal change towards the Mother Earth. It is for this reason that LS embraces three key words namely, respect, responsibility and relationship. Respect for each other as human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God; responsibility for what is entrusted to us, human beings, by the Creator; and positive relationship between the earth and human beings, among human beings themselves as well as between human beings and their Creator. “As Christians, we are also called ‘to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet’” (LS, no. 9).

It is clear that this document as we try to implement it in our own context as Missionaries of Africa within the communities we serve, needs to be understood not as a scientific document. It is a justice document applied to the Ecology. In other words, this document, can only be appreciated and understood if engaged as a social justice document as an expression of Catholic Social Teaching in its practical sense of the word. It follows Pope Francis’ prism based on encounter, dialogue and solidarity. It is realistic and pragmatic. It envisages “A word of paradigm shifts leading to centrality of justice, empowerment from below, a dynamic interaction between deductive and inductive method, interplay between the contextual and the universal” (Peter-John Pearson, Reflection on LS, p. 1). In a sense, LS follows a katabatic approach. It is justice document as it is the constituent of the mission of the Church. It is critical not only to Church’s life, but also to all who value and care for our common home just like us Missionaries of Africa who have taken it to heart. It provokes the sense of redeploying social power and the transformation of the social system. As a justice document, it is not a paracetamol pill or a tranquilliser document as W. Brueggemann states: “Justice is not some romantic social ideal for another world. It is the hard work of redeploying social power and the transformation of the social system. Those of us who benefit from inequality in the world are susceptible to blind spots and generally we struggle to keep those spots blind. But one must conclude from Micah and the whole prophetic tradition that the redistribution of social power is a crucial element of the Gospel, and that is a summons to justice.” Justice demands not only the avoidance of unnecessary pain, but fostering care and responsibility for the other, for the ‘Mother Earth’.

Based on the Social Catholic Teaching, while reading and interpreting the signs of the times, Laudato Si expresses a deep sense of the communitarian vision. This emanates from the Trinitarian principle which begins with the sign of the cross, expressing God who is Trinity. And of course, the Trinity is relational, is love; three in one, making part of the systematic theology. Surely, LS coheres around a theologically inspired communitarian ethic. Thus, it decries “… the classical liberal model where society is understood as an artificial contract between autonomous individuals undertaken for self-interest rather than fraternal reasons” (Schuck, p. 187). Its approach, therefore, takes a wider scope compared to other documents of the Church. Pope Francis quotes not only other Popes but also other different documents as well as individuals who compliment the care of our common home. This shows that the Church is not an isolated entity. She is part and parcel of the planet entity. This fits perfectly well with Charles Cardinal Lavigerie’s principle of Community Life.

The concern of Pope Francis to bringing out LS is a provocative challenge to us Missionaries of Africa. It is a serious call or invitation to us to look at all the signs of the times and find out not only short-term solutions but also long-term solutions to our ‘Mother Earth Crisis’ such as global warming and climate change, for which the future generations of Missionaries of Africa will appreciate us, and not condemn us. This implies that individuals alone cannot do much, the communitarian aspect of it at both local and global levels (i.e., Sectors, Provinces, Society and the Church at large) have necessarily to be engaged. Care for the common home is, indeed, our business as Missionaries of Africa!

By: Fr. James Ngahy, M.Afr.

Locust Outbreaks Threaten Food Security in Southern Africa

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Rome)

Accra, 4 September 2020

Immediate action can prevent disaster in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

Outbreaks of African Migratory Locust (AML) are threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned today at the launch of an emergency response effort to control the swarms.

Around 7 million people in the four affected countries who are still recovering from the impact of the 2019 drought, and grappling with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, could experience further food and nutrition insecurity.

FAO is working with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA) to support the governments of the affected countries to control the locusts.

“Even with the control measures already taken, the locusts are still a threat. Some of the worst-affected areas are very difficult to reach. We need to support the four governments, SADC and partner organisations like IRLCO-CSA to control this pest and protect people’s livelihoods,” Patrice Talla, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa said.

Threatening food security

The AML outbreaks in southern Africa are separate to the Desert Locust emergency in eastern Africa. Locusts are among the most destructive pests in the world. One swarm can contain tens of millions of adults – there are currently multiple swarms in the southern region. A single swarm can eat as much in one day as 2,500 people, demolishing crops and livestock pasture in a matter of hours.

In Botswana, some smallholder farmers lost their entire crop at the start of the African Migratory Locust outbreak. As the next planting season approaches, the pest threatens the country’s breadbasket region of Pandamatenga, where most of the country’s sorghum staple is grown, unless control efforts are urgently stepped up.

In Namibia, initial outbreaks began in the Zambezi plains and hopper bands and swarms have now spread to key farming regions. Similarly, in Zambia, the locust has spread rapidly and is affecting both crop and grazing lands.

In Zimbabwe, swarms and hoppers initially infested two sites in the Chiredzi District and have now moved into Manicaland Province. Locust damage to crops will compound existing food insecurity in communities already affected by floods, drought and the impacts of COVID-19.

A united effort

FAO today launched the Southern Africa Emergency Locust Response and Preparedness Project which is funded by FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme. The project will increase the emergency capacity of SADC and IRLCO-CSA to support the four affected member states in their bid to prevent the pest from causing more damage.

The US$0.5 million project will focus on emergency response in the locust hotspots and strengthen coordination and information exchange among the affected countries. It will also enable aerial surveillance and mapping activities in hard-to-reach areas, and provide technical support for national locust surveillance and control units to be established.

FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme allows FAO to draw from its own regular programme resources to respond to countries’ most pressing needs for technical assistance.

Links:

Locusts threaten parts of southern Africa, UN says

New Locusts Swarms Threaten Food Security in East Africa

In Memoriam Gotthard Rosner

Father Rudi Pint, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Germany, informs you of the return to the Lord of Father Gotthard Rosner on Wednesday September 2nd, 2020 in Munich (Germany) at the age of 79 years, of which 53 years of missionary life in Uganda, Switzerland, France, Italy, USA, Zambia UK and Germany.

Every now and then, there is a little controversy about the photo of an elderly confrere who died. Should we publish a recent photograph, which reflects the physical appearance of the confrere during the last years, or should we post an older picture, which will be acknowledged by the people he worked with when he was in Africa? Father Gotthard died on the second of September. He was a formator for many years and a superior general for 6 years. Many younger confreres have known him… with a beard, which he let go for the last few years.

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