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.