Victor-Luke Odhiambo SJ — A life lived where few dare go

A tribute to Jesuit priest Victor-Luke Odhiambo who was slain while serving at a teachers’ training college in South Sudan. Francis Anyanzu SJ, a Ugandan-born Jesuit priest now living and studying in South Africa, reflects on his life of service in a remote place of great need. Continue reading “Victor-Luke Odhiambo SJ — A life lived where few dare go”

A new network in Ghana

Consecrated Persons against Human Trafficking

From March the 12th to the 16th 2018, took place the Training against Trafficking in Persons for ReligiousWomen and Men at the Divine Word Conference Centre Nsawam in Ghana. It was led by the worldwide organization Talitha Kum Arise. Many Religious Congregations, some already involved against slavery and human trafficking, were present. The Society of the Missionaries of Africa were represented by Haile Gazena M.Afr. and Amani BulamboDieudonné M.Afr.. The workshop aimed at training religious and lay persons on how to become active members of the counter-trafficking world-wide network. Talitha Kum works towards preventing human trafficking at its grass roots level and helpsvictims and survivors of that modern day phenomenon.

The training highlighted the menace of modern day human trafficking and its human cost.

The first part of the workshop provided good information about slavery and human trafficking, such as:

  • The global framework: roots, constitutive elements, dimensions of trafficking. The phenomenological and juridical framework of human trafficking. Special attention was given to the geopolitical and economic realities of the post-cold war era that led to the rise of human trafficking in destination countries.
  • The international law, its flaws and its inability in prosecuting the perpetrators of such heinous acts, due to the weakness of the very law which is meant toprotect the victims of trafficking.

The second part of the training was focused on:

  • How to prevent human trafficking and how to protect its victims and survivors through networking.
  • It also offered tools of empowerment, models of prevention, examples of good practices and a description of burn out signs of those committed against human trafficking.

Finally, the participants and the mother network “Talitha Kum Arise” founded a sister network which will be known as ConPAHT (Consecrated Persons Against Human Trafficking)/ Talitha KumGhana which will carry out anti-trafficking campaigns and prevention in Ghana; it will interact with the networks of other sister organizations and with the international network in Rome too.

The group vision and mission are as follows:

Vision Statement:

We, the members of Consecrated Life in Ghana,
moved by our faith in God,
respect for human dignity and freedom,
commit ourselves to counter human trafficking.


Mission Statement:

We, the members of Consecrated Life in Ghana,
are committed to address the menace
of human trafficking
through the following strategies:
massive awareness creation
towards prevention;
provision of support for survivors;
building knowledge and skills of practitioners
and collaboration with groups
of/with similar interests.


Haile GAZENA Demissie, M. Afr.
St. Monica’s Parish – Nyankpala

Inter-religious Dialogue Seeking Peace in Tanzania

In Tanzania, the office of Justice & Peace and Inter-religious Dialogue has had several activities with the Muslim fraternity. The main event was in February, 2018, when we held a two day conference on inter-religious dialogue and peacebuilding in Tanzania, with a special attention to the case of Dar es Salaam. It was a top level diplomacy approach. We invited several dignitaries from embassies and the European Union and the American cultural centre. The conference was graced by his H.E. Most Rev. Marek Solczynskinew, Apostolic Nuncio to Tanzania. The speakers and key players were university lecturers and researchers who presented very concise research findings. The Muslim leadership in Dar es Salaam was well represented and the leaders gave their views.

The main event of the conference was the launching of the book on “Religious extremism and violence in Tanzania – the case of Dar es Salaam”, by Dr. Elias Opongo SJ, and Dr. Felix Phiri (M.Afr.).

The conference on inter-religious dialogue in Tanzania was held at Atiman House of Missionaries of Africa. The Nuncio flanked by  two Sheikhs on either side with Br. Elvis standing right behind the Nuncio.

The primary objective of the conference was to analyse the situation of religious extremism and violence emerging in Tanzania in close association with the current global situation whereby many parts of the world have become destabilized by religious intolerance. Although the Tanzanian situation could be a typical case, considering the country’s history, it could nonetheless contribute in some way not only to understanding the roots of religious extremism and violence but also in providing possible means of pre-emptying the occurrence of such incidents in the interest of a more constructive interreligious coexistence globally.

At the conference, it was reported that in coastal region of Tanzania like Tanga, radicalization of the youth was slowly gaining momentum. It is a known fact that Tanzania has suffered terror attacks in the recent past. However, there are some sections of the Tanzanian civil society who do not feel comfortable to say that there is a problem of religious extremism in Tanzania, fearing that it could paint a bad image of the country. The temptation therefore is to choose to keep silent about it. Unfortunately that would not be the right approach to eradicate religious extremism in Tanzania. We need to address the problem before it gets out of hand. Feeling bad about having fundamental extremists in one’s own country is normal but choosing to keep silent about the problem is very dangerous. There is need for a paradigm shift in the analysis, and strategic response to the problem of religious extremism and violence in Tanzania.

Our conference indicated that the problem of radicalization was gathering pace on the coastal area due to many factors such as perceived economic injustices, lack of employment among the youth, political power agenda, and foreign geopolitical strategic interests. In addition, it was observed that in regions like Tanga where the young population are very much exposed to wrong teaching and could easily fall victims of religious radicalisation. Another factor is the proximity between Tanga and Mombasa where the al-shabaab easily infiltrate in the local population. However, all these factors tend to hide under the guise of religious fundamentalism. We cannot deny that religion has been instrumentalized to justify these extreme acts of violence. Moreover, we need to dialogue as religious leaders of different religions and answer the question “what is our role and how can we help reduce the damage?” At the end of the conference, we all agreed that inter religious dialogue is vital in deconstructing the ideology behind religious extremism.

One can say we have hope for more collaboration between Muslims and Christians (i.e. Catholics) in Dar es Salaam. Our task is to coordinate with our muslim brothers in Dar es Salaam and see how we can reach out to other coastal regions such as Tanga and help the young people to stay away from wrong teaching.

The future research would look into the implementation of long term approach to addressing root-causes of religious extremism and violence; such as socio-economic and political marginalization, unemployment, victimization, uncoordinated response, and lack of effective strategy to addressing the problem.

Religious extremism and violence in Tanzania – the case of Dar es Salaam, by Dr. Elias Opongo SJ, and Dr. Felix Phiri (M.Afr.) – Here the cover of the book translated in German by Missio.

About the next conference, one of the researchers challenged us that most of these dialogues are conducted among elderly men. Often we exclude women and the youth. To the contrary the reports on radicalisation show a lot of young people as the major human capital. Recently, we have seen the number of women participating in radicalisation increasing too. Thus, we have to see how to engage young people and women in these dialogues. We hope to contact universities to see if we could hold round table discussions with the students at the campus and eventually hold the conference with the youth.

Bro. Elvis Ng’andwe, M.Afr.

PAO: The attacks in three countries of the sub-region

From “Baobab Echos” Nr 8 – January 2018

Successively Mali, then Burkina Faso and finally Niger have since January been the target of terrorist groups difficult to identify… Unlike other times, in Burkina Faso, before attacking the General Headquarters of the Faso Armies, a group attempted to penetrate, without success, into the premises of the French Embassy. Every time, not only did the assailants be slaughtered but soldiers and civilians paid a heavy tribe in dead and wounded, not to mention the enormous damages

It was on Saturday, February 24, 2018, in Northern Mali, that an attack caused the deaths of three civilians. Their car had exploded on a mine. Since January, the media has reported two distinct explosions in the North and central part of the country. Because armed groups are very dispersed in Northern Mali, it is difficult to identify and neutralise them. In addition, the Algerian Embassy in Bamako was the target, on Tuesday 13 March 2018, of acts of vandalism perpetrated by Malian nationals expelled from Algeria. Unhappy with their expulsion from Algeria, the latter organised a demonstration in front of the headquarters of the Algerian Embassy in Bamako, which ended with stone throwing and a fire in a garden outside the Diplomatic representation.

On Friday, 2 March 2018, in broad daylight, at 10:00 a.m., Burkina Faso was the scene of a new attack, the third in Ouagadougou for two years. It was initially the buildings of the French Embassy and the consulate that were targeted, in the immediate vicinity of the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso’s office, and then it was the explosion of a car packed with explosives in the Staff court, right in the city centre. In our guest house, 300 meters from there, the windows of the living room and of the television room were blown away. The assailants were all slaughtered, but the armed forces lost eight soldiers in these attacks, the youngest had just turned 21. In addition to this terrible record, there were more than 85 wounded, some seriously. In the city, panic was general, people fled thinking it was a new “coup d’état”. The calm is back now but we notice that in the evening there is less traffic. The roads, ordinarily full of businesses and full of life, have become very quiet. In the photo, above, we notice the huge cloud of smoke that followed the explosion at the general staff.

A week later, on Monday, 12 March 2018, it was the turn of Niger to be the target of new attacks. Around 21:40 that evening, the Police Post of Goubé, 40 km from Niamey, in the region of Tillabéri, was attacked by terrorist elements. There we deplored three dead and one wounded among the policemen.

While these attacks in the major centres were carried out, there were also many assaults in the periphery and in the province, often close to the borders.

All the media, from Burkina and elsewhere, commented on these events.The populations, for their part, measure not only the losses of life, the wounded and the material damage, but also the future of peace in all the countries of the subregion. The security measures are slow to be put in place, especially the G5 Sahel, which lacks financial resources at the moment.

On the other hand, the situation of the hostages is equally disturbing.Mali marked the sad anniversary (one year) of the hostage-taking in Karangasso, a parish in the Diocese of Sikasso. Sister Gloria, a Colombian sister of the Franciscans of Mary Immaculate, is still retained. Throughout Mali, on 7 February, the anniversary of the hostage-taking, prayers were held to request the release of Sister Gloria and all the hostages held in the Sahel.

Stagiaires meeting in Bujumbura

Extracts from the 25th March 2018 report of the meeting by Célestin Sarambe and André Sawadogo, first year stagiaires

standing from left to right : Gérard Niyongabo, Lucien Some, Nazaire Bonkoungou, Allan Kawenda, Francis Umoh, Peter Bwire, Jean-Luc Compaore, Julius Rweyemamu, Célestin Sarambe, Hugo Leinz, Martin Ndiritu, Jean-Bosco – brother of Gérard Niyongabo -, Ludwig Peschen, Emmanuel Kavishe, seated in front : Jean-Bosco Ntihebuwayo, Arsène Somda, Joseph Odhiambo, Isac Kinda, André Sawadogo, Dennis Pam

The meeting of stagiaires from the province of Central Africa (PAC) was held in Bujumbura, Burundi from 19 to 25 March 2018 in the Emmaus Spiritual Center of the Jesuits on Kiriri Hill. This meeting was preceded by a week’s retreat held in Gitega from March 10th to 17th, 2018, at the spiritual center of the Carmelites and preached by Father Gérard NIYONGABO. It saw the participation of 16 stagiaires including 8 in the second year who renewed their declaration of intention on Sunday, March 18 at St. Augustine parish of Buyenzi. This meeting was moderated by the vice-provincial, Father Dennis PAM. After setting up and installing, he gave a general orientation and the steps to follow in the sharings. He mentioned that sharing is about all the aspects of the mission. It is about appreciative discernment in optimism while looking at the good that Christ has done to us in our journey. Father Dennis PAM opened these sharing sessions beginning with himself, where he shared his family life, his curriculum with the missionaries of Africa and his missionary experience since his perpetual oath, but also his joys, perspectives and challenges, which he meets in his mission. It should also be noted that this meeting saw the presence as co-facilitator of Father Bosco, superior of the sector of Burundi who also shared his missionary experiences undermined with joys and difficulties.(…)

In the end, what will be remembered of the stagiaires meeting is that it went well in a fraternal atmosphere. Each stagiaire was able to share his experiences in his community and in his stage environment while mentioning the joys and difficulties encountered. We live all this in love, trusting God who sent us for this mission. This meeting ended with a visit to the New Hope Center and a relaxing outing on the beach. Saturday was dedicated to the discovery of the city and on Sunday, March 25 each one of us returned to his community.

Taken from Info-Pac nr 75 of March 2018

Some news of the situation in Ituri

By Father Manolo Fernandez in Bunia (Email of 16th March 2018)

“(…) We spoke with the leader of the first camp or site of the displaced people. I spoke with the MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) head of mission when signing the contract for the “cheap” parcel. In principle, the displaced are well assisted, except for the WFP (World Food Program) who do not do their job, supposedly they expect “statistics” … Following the MSF advise, we will wait for the displaced to go home to help them rebuild their homes and give them an emergency kit to start life in the village (…)


As for the situation, here in Bunia town, we are relatively fit and secure. Yesterday, thanks to the mediocrity and futility of a politician and minister in the government of Mr. Abdullah, there was a death, a police captain who accompanied the politician because of the revolt of the displaced. We do not know what happened next. The captain was from Bukavu. We continue to work for peace. This requires us all to have good discernment when writing anything or even sharing some ideas about the situation. Because it takes very little to cause a fire. The leaders of the different ethnic groups come together and organise big meetings to contain and properly inform their youth to avoid a situation similar to that of 2002. At the moment they manage to contain them and we continue our prayers and homilies to push people in the same direction of concord and peace between the inhabitants of this beautiful Province of Ituri. These are my thoughts that engage no one but myself, because in this organized disorder nobody will give you a clear idea of what is happening. May God forgive us and finally give us the much desired peace. Greetings to the confreres”


Taken from INFO-PAC nr 75 of March 2018

Restructuring the Lavigerie House in Goma

When the renovation of the Lavigerie House in Goma was successfully completed, the Provincial team, with the collaboration of the Goma Sector, decided to proceed with its blessing on 8/2/2018. This date corresponded to the end of the second retreat of the confreres of the Province at Keshero Goma. Not only that, but it was also the day we celebrated Saint BAKHITA Joséphine and the fight against modern slavery in all its ramifications.

The mass was celebrated in the living room of the new house (because the chapel was held for consecration by the Bishop of the Diocese of Goma, at his request). It was presided over by our Provincial Assistant, Father PAM Dennis, concelebrated by the Provincial, Father NGONA Emmanuel, the Delegate of the Provincial of the Goma Sector, Father MINANI Albéric, and almost all the retreatants and confreres from the Goma Sector were present. The mass was well animated by our propedeutes. At the end of Mass, the Provincial spoke to remind us that this “procure” was not a hotel but a community of Missionaries of Africa. Therefore, it is governed by a life of prayer and a community life to which all confreres who go there are obliged to take part. Because “a missionary who does not pray is a monster”. The celebration was crowned by sharing a festive meal !!!

Taken from INFO-PAC nr 75 of March 2018

The project of the “Pope Francis” village to remember his visit in 2015

Bangui (Agenzia Fides) – A village called Pope Francis as a meeting place for the various religious communities of the Central African Republic. This is the project that is being studied by the Vatican delegation of experts for Central Africa, in collaboration with the Center for Religious Confessions of Central Africa (PCRC).

“The Pope declared Bangui the spiritual capital of humanity. He opened a holy door in Bangui. It was the first time in the history of the Church that a holy door was opened outside the Vatican”, said Martin Nkafo Nkamitia, Director of the Department of Studies for the Promotion of Central African Cultures and head of the Vatican delegation of experts for Central Africa. “These are insights that cannot be ignored. That is why we have thought of creating a permanent memory of Pope Francis’ visit to Central Africa, a village that will be the meeting point of all the religious communities in Central Africa. It is a big project but we will succeed”, he said.

Read the News on the website of Agenzia Fides