AFRICA-MADAGASCARThe Oblate Mission in an adverse context: our “New Aix”!
Fr. Emmanuel YOUNGTEN, a 34 year-old Oblate from Nigeria, who lives in the Republic of South Africa and serves as Executive Secretary of the Africa-Madagascar Region, recently visited his homeland for the holidays. While he was there, he reflected on the disarray and the violence perpetrated in Nigeria by a militant Islamist group called Boko Haram. He considered it in the context of violence occurring against Christians and other religious minorities at the same time in places such as Syria and Iraq. What follows are some of his reflections:
What is happening to the world? What is Nigeria becoming? Sons and daughters of a generation we commonly call “civilised”, we still agonize in the darkest days that have ever greeted human existence. Around the world, and precisely in Syria and in Iraq, the current onslaught against the Christians and the “Yazidi” sect continues unabated. Human beings are massacred with less dignity than is demanded for the slaughter of animals.
Just like ISIS in Syria and Iraq are on a slaughtering, genocidal and jihadist mission, so also the Islamic sect commonly called Boko Haram is on almost the same mission.
It’s not a year since this dreaded sect sacked many parishes and burnt schools amongst which a Minor Seminary in Maiduguri. Many Christian communities in Borno State have been sacked and completely destroyed. People have been made refugees in their own country. This act did not seem to serve as a wakeup call to the government about the seriousness of the sect. Shortly afterwards, 200 school girls were abducted. Again the government ranted and panted with its usual official condemnation of the act. And after the condemnation? From the glass houses where these condemnations are pronounced, there isn’t often a concrete act to accompany the words.
What becomes of a country where a whole generation has grown in the context of gunshots, unceasingly haunted by the images of their slaughtered parents, brothers and sisters? What is left of a country where both hatred and famine created by that unnecessary conflict have seen most of its production units destroyed? Is everything doomed? Are we finished? Is it the end of Nigeria? Is it the ultimate victory of evil over good?
I believe this is exactly where the Oblates come in. This is exactly where, as agents of hope and revival, our people need us to be. Remembering the situation in France in the days of our founding, we need to bring to life within us the spirit of St. Eugene de Mazenod in our time: this is a time for the renewal of Christianity in Nigeria. Given the current reality there, we need the audacity of the gospel in order to be one with those who need us most. We must talk to them in their language, be one with them in their persecution, address them as “most respectable”, recognize their sublime sacrifice as guarantors of the faith in an adverse situation and give them renewed hope for the advent of a peaceful era.
Surely, there has never been a time like this when we are so challenged as individuals and as a community of faith. As Oblates, I would like to think that we have an enormous task of leading in this mission which has now become a hostile terrain. Wherever the Oblates are present in conflicted societies, they are often confronted with the challenge of adjusting in order to adequately guide and nourish their faithful in a spirit of solidarity with other brethren.
Of the four dioceses in Lesotho, three of them are led by Oblates of Mary Immaculate: Archbishop Gerard LEROTHOLI (Maseru); Bishop Augustinus BANE (Leribe); Bishop Joseph SEPHAMOLA (Qacha’s Nek). Bishop John Tlohomola, S.C.P., is Bishop of Mohale’s Hoek.
Fides News Agency published this news concerning a country so important to Oblate history and so dear to Blessed Joseph GERARD.
The situation in Lesotho remains tense after the failure of an attempted coup on 30 August led by rebel general Tlali Kamoli, now in hiding in the hills with a few faithful heavily armed military. On Sunday 7 September, after the midday Angelus prayer, Pope Francis endorsed an appeal launched by the Bishops of that African country: “I join my voice to the voices of the Bishops of Lesotho, who appeal for peace in that country. I condemn all acts of violence and pray that the Lord will restore to the Kingdom of Lesotho peace that is in justice and fraternity”.
In their appeal, the Bishops of Lesotho said they were “dismayed and shocked to hear in the early hours of the morning on 30 August of a ‘military operation’ which led to the occupation of several police stations in Maseru, during which one policeman was brutally murdered and several others wounded”.
“While we firmly condemn such inhuman actions - a statement sent to Fides reads – we wish to offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of the officer who lost his life during this sad incident”.
In their appeal the Bishops recall that “lasting peace is only possible if the legitimate interests and concerns of all the parties involved are taken into consideration. This is why dialogue is so important in the process of peace building”.
Lesotho is a small country with about 2 million inhabitants. It forms an enclave within South Africa, although from the political point of view it is formally independent from its powerful neighbor. The country has a catholic population of about 1,280,000.