A pilgrimage for strengthening Peace

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of the Youth from Goma – Bukavu – Kigali

at the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine in Namugongo 
and at the Sharing Youth Centre in Kampala (Uganda).
December 2017

The week between November 29 and December 05, 2017 will remain deeply engraved in the hearts of the young people of our three parishes, namely: Our Lady of Africa in Katoy (Goma-DRCongo), St Trinidad (Buholo, Bukavu-DR Congo) and St Pierre (Cyahafi, Kigali-Rwanda). In order to provide better supervision to the youth of our province (PAC) on the one hand, and to strengthen the peaceful coexistence between the young people of these three countries on the other hand, Lowrent Kamwaza, John Ssekweyama, and Edison Akatuhurira, commonly known as’ AKA, all three being Missionaries of Africa Priests, jointly organized a Youth Twinning Pilgrimage for Peace, at the Uganda Martyrs’ Sanctuary in Namugongo Kampala.

This initiative for the youth in the Province of Central Africa, which was the first of its kind, proved to be a successful meeting experience for our youth. More than one pilgrims will describe it as a great success. We can say with certainty that this experience of twinning young people has opened the doors for new initiatives in the future for the Youth ministry in our beloved Province (PAC).

More than eighty-three (83) youth from our three parishes were the first beneficiaries of this initiative. Our young people were welcomed and accommodated fraternally by the confreres, the staff and the youth of Sharing Youth Center. The latter is a center that supervises young people in different trades: carpentry, electricity, cutting and sewing etc. This center was founded and is run by the Missionaries of Africa in the heart of Kampala City. May we express our gratitude to our colleagues Hillaire Guinko and Joseph Bakuri of Sharing Youth Center for hosting our youth. We can not forget Otto Kato, Elias Mwebembezi and Richard Nyombi as well as all the confreres of the Uganda Sector who were able to give us a warm welcome. This shows that youth leadership is not just about two or three people, but rather all our parishes, institutions, sectors, provinces, and indeed the whole of our Society.

The theme of this first pilgrimage of young people was “Pacific Cohabitation between the young people of Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda”. The objective that inspired us in choosing this theme was the desire to promote fraternal exchanges and peace between the young people of these three “Great Lakes” countries which have often known, in their history, ethnic conflicts (wars, massacres, kidnappings, child soldiers, tribalism etc). In his address on the closing day of our stay in Kampala, Fr. John Sekweyama did not mince his words to make young people understand that it was time to put an end to war and hatred between us because we all want peace, nothing but peace. He also insisted that what we had just experienced was a way to put into practice our theme of “peaceful coexistence among young people”. That is why this experience must be prolonged and take flesh in the concrete lives of everyone.

Indeed, this experience had begun on November 29, 2017, when our youth from Buholo parish (Bukavu) accompanied by Father John and stagiaire Arsene and those from Katoy (Goma) accompanied by Father Lowrent Kamwaza and stagiaire Nazaire Bonkoungou had been hosted by Christian families in our parish of Kimisagara (Rwanda). Already at this stage of our trip, we were experiencing the beginning of new encounters and new friendships with these hosting families. The next day, the Kigali-Kampala journey, during which the young people exchanged, prayed, and sang songs of praise, was quite long. Two large buses were rented to cover the 513 kilometers. Most young people, being their first time to make such a trip, were amazed by the good landscapes of neighboring countries, and discovered a whole new world outside of Congo and Rwanda. … “Traveling is an education in itself”, said a few young people. On December 01, 2017, our youth were among the special guests at the Sharing Youth Center Youth Graduation Ceremony for those who completed their training in sewing, mechanical, and so on. Madam the Minister of Youth and Gender who was attending the ceremony impressed many of our young people with the desire to achieve excellence in their own lives. This ceremony encouraged our young people to deepen the sense of entrepreneurship and put their talents and potentialities into practice to build a better future for themselves.

The summit of this pilgrimage was the day of prayer and visits to the Namugongo and Munyonyo Shrines. For the first time, our young people have seen their dreams come true when they set foot on the holy land where our Ugandan Martyrs rest in peace. The prayer, the meditation, the visit of these sacred places and the Eucharistic celebration in the basilica of Namugongo are experiences that will never fade away from their memories and that has laid for good the foundation for the spiritual life of these young pilgrims. Our thanks to our confreres Vincent Lubega and Mateus, the two confreres in charge of the Namugongo Sanctuary who gave us the chance to celebrate Mass in the Basilica. “We have come here to implore the blessings of God on us, on our families and on our Great Lakes countries, we have come to be part of the millions and millions of pilgrims who came to these sacred places where the young martyrs have given, on this African land, a testimony of their unconditional faith in Jesus.”, said our young people in their prayers.

To conclude this day of reflections and visits, we went to the beach of Kisubi Major Seminary in Entebbe. The young people enjoyed themselves through sports activities, swimming, volleyball, football, dance and sharing the meal in a fraternal atmosphere. To see them together playing and exchanging in the five different languages: Swahili, English, French, Kinyarwanda and Luganda, was for us, their 3 Chaplains, a true sign of missionary seeding in the hearts of our young people where the differences of origins, languages and ethnicities were no longer a point of division but rather a sign of wealth and unity in diversity lived in fullness. May the name of God be praised !!

It must be recognized that this pilgrimage was a good experience and a success for our young people: it not only allowed them to cross the physical borders of our 3 Great Lakes countries, but also and above all it has just broken the borders and barriers of prejudice and hatred that our youths used to have against each other. We owe the success of this experience of Youth Ministry to the support, at all levels, of our province the PAC and especially the words of wisdom and encouragement of our dear Provincial, Father Emmanuel Ngona, who never ceased to assure us that “similar initiatives in pastoral care are to be encouraged and promoted”. We also say thank you to our Superior General, Father Stanley Lubungo, for his words of encouragement to the youth of Katoy (Goma) and Bukavu during his canonical visit, which coincided with the preparations for this pilgrimage of young people during the month of November. Our sincere thanks to our confreres in our sectors, for the support they showed us in preparing this activity. We warmly thank the fellow priests of our 3 parishes and the bishops of our 3 dioceses, parents and leaders of
our Basic Communities (CEVB) for having supported us, and trusting us by giving us permission to leave with a large number of young people to this beautiful spiritual, moral, social and missionary adventure. In order to embark our youth in our 150th anniversary of our foundation, we are planning, with the grace of God, to make an experiment like this next year at the same time, together with the young people of Buyenzi (Burundi) too, in the diocese of Mwanza in collaboration with our confreres from Nyakato parish (Tanzania)! Long live the Missionaries of Africa! Long live the Youth, Long live the Province of Central Africa and Long live the Society of Missionaries of Africa!

Father Lowrent Kamwaza M.afr.,
Chaplain of the Youth in Our Lady of Africa Parish
in Katoy – Goma – RD Congo
December 13, 2017 – Feast of St Lucy

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