On-going Formation

Following this link, you will find on a daily basis new material to deepen your reflection on the main points of the Chapter

Petit Echo

For your convenience, the main articles written by our confreres in current the Petit Echo are available in a format easy to read, even on a smartphone or a tablet

150th Anniversary

In 2018, we will celebrate 150 years of existence of our Society. While we are waiting for some more material from the Preparation Committee, do enjoy the few videos we offer you

Homilies

Here, you will find some links to interesting websites for your personal meditation or the preparation of your homilies

Jean Deschildre R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Michel Girard Provincial Delegate of the sector of France,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

Jean Deschildre

on Sunday, 14th July 2024 in Billère (France)
at the age of 91 years, of which 64 years of missionary life
in Italy, Rwanda and France.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

Download here the announcement of Father Jean Deshildre’s death

(more…)

If you want peace, you need to be familiar with conflict

Conflicts are inevitable in any human relationship. They are omnipresent and part of everyday life. We live in a society where the temptation to conflict and the desire for peace are closely related. Since conflict is natural and there is hardly any such thing as a life without conflict, it is crucial to be conscious of conflict in everyday life. Conflict is, therefore, normal since human beings are relational beings. It can destroy, just as it can build the unity of individuals or a human community. This is why it is so important to study all the parameters of conflict to reach a mutually beneficial consensus.

Conflict as a destabilising factor

Conflict implies disputes, anger, confrontation, disagreement, violence, tension, disharmony, confrontation, crisis, etc. With all these derivatives, this destabilising element disturbs the peace of human beings, the people, the community, and the nation. Unfortunately, it can devastate the social fabric, interpersonal relationships and the individual when it is not well managed. One of the most obvious negative aspects is the destruction that can result from painful experiences. Above all, it can be a source of demotivation and harmful when suspicion and mistrust prevail.

Conflict as a constructive factor

While conflict is generally considered to have negative consequences, as mentioned above, some observers argue that it can also be beneficial. Conflict can serve as a forum for socialisation, where people learn to live together by recognising that others are different from themselves. It also encourages people to question themselves and each other. Thus, it becomes a source of personal development. It can be an opportunity to coexist more effectively and restore harmony and cohesion. In Niger, for example, in January 2015, we witnessed a conflict situation that we accepted in faith and hope for a better tomorrow. It was the anti-Christian attack on the Church of Niger. Outraged by a Charlie Hebdo publication that caricatured the prophet Mohammed, some Muslims decided to take revenge by burning down churches, hotels and pubs. We watched helplessly as some forty churches were looted and set on fire. This experience enabled us to renew our friendship and fraternity with the entire Muslim community of Niger. Even though our churches were burnt down, our faith remained intact and renewed. We have remained firm and united in prayer so that love prevails over hatred and violence.  

A few factors that trigger conflict

The sources of conflict are diverse and complex. Cultural and political differences, religion, ideology, socio-economic inequalities, and communication styles significantly escalate conflict. The divergence of cultural contexts means that the interpretation of an attitude, a behaviour, a gesture, etc., does not necessarily have the same connotation from one community to another or individual to another. An in-depth understanding of these dynamics is essential for conflict prevention and resolution.

The Church’s commitment to peaceful conflict resolution

In the case of Niger, the message from the Bishops sums up the role and place of the Church in the peaceful resolution of conflicts: “We, the Bishops of the Catholic Church, in deep communion with our communities that have been hit hard by the unexpected and tragic events that we have endured without knowing the reasons for them, have come to renew our friendship and fraternity with the entire Muslim community of our country. The powerful words of Jesus have always inspired us: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, wish good to those who curse you, pray for those who slander you’ (Lk 6, 27-28)”.

The Church has a vital role to play in mediation, reconciliation and the promotion of peace. Its leaders have often acted as neutral mediators in conflicts, facilitating dialogue between conflicting parties. Their moral authority and ability to transcend political and social divisions have, for the most part, helped create a safe negotiation space. These leaders must remind the faithful and invite them to follow the example of Jesus by forgiving others, even when this seems difficult or impossible. This entails the renunciation of anger, resentment and revenge. They will especially remember to invite them to be vigilant and responsible and not to give in to external influences that can weaken relationships and peaceful coexistence.

How can we, as witnesses to the Gospel, help to prevent and resolve conflicts?

In his fight against slavery, our founder Cardinal Charles Lavigerie said: “I am a man and injustice towards other men revolts my heart. I am a man, oppression is alien to my nature…”. As Missionaries of Africa and witnesses to the Gospel, we cannot remain indifferent to conflicts or run away from them. We must develop initiatives to preserve the peaceful coexistence, mutual respect for our convictions and conviviality that have always characterised our Society. It is up to us to engage in dialogue to understand more fully that our religious and ethnic diversities are riches that could contribute to consolidating our unity because “what brings us together is stronger than what divides us”.

By: Innocent Habimana, M.Afr.

Conflicts: challenges and opportunities for prophetic witness

Who among us hasn’t experienced conflict in our communities? We are far from a paradisiacal state of absolute peace. From my experience, the theme of conflict easily provokes a feeling of malaise. It brings us back to the day-to-day realities that we experience. Ignoring conflicts, not wanting to see them, not talking about them, ignoring them or rushing back to a state of apparent tranquillity without managing them constructively are attitudes and habits that we observe, particularly in our religious circles. It is therefore not surprising that this has consequences on our community life, and confreres continue to brood with frustration and discontent.

Latent conflicts

My sensitivity to community conflicts has gradually developed, shaped, and intensified over the last 20 years due to the interactive and participative programmes on conflict management, prevention, resolution, and transformation I have organised with religious men and women from different institutes. I discover a keen, alert eye that spots latent, hidden, underlying conflicts quickly. Several confreres have already remarked to me that I ‘create’ conflicts. Create is not the right word because it is more a question of revealing what is hidden. It’s a shame that we don’t talk, or don’t talk enough, about these latent conflicts. We do not use these opportunities to strengthen and consolidate our community life. We need to create the right conditions within the community to talk about them before the situation festers, becomes too explosive, and sometimes erupts violently. Naming a conflict, tackling it as a community, listening to each other, taking care not to confuse the object of the conflict with the confrere opposite, looking for solutions together and agreeing to transform the situation constructively – this is not a dream. It’s a practice that we don’t learn enough to live out continually in our communities.

Interculturality

I wonder if some of the uneasiness stems from our representations of conflict. Personally, I see conflict as an opportunity for change, a possibility for ongoing transformation. A community that maintains tranquillity and the status quo at all costs deprives itself of the opportunity to grow and move forward as one. According to Georg Simmel, conflict, divergence, and disputes always go hand in hand with some relationships, such as an encounter with the other. We experience moments of conflict because we are not indifferent to each other. When we want to build intercultural communities with a view to prophetic witness, we inevitably come up against many intercultural misunderstandings. So, I ask myself: are we, the Missionaries of Africa, putting enough effort into learning and acquiring intercultural skills? The challenge is for each of us to be well-equipped to manage, resolve, and even constructively transform our conflicts. Going through this transformation process together consolidates mutual trust and motivates, stimulates and encourages full involvement in community life and projects. The process of conflict transformation, therefore, strengthens relations between confreres and reinforces the spirit of belonging and shared identity.

In Brussels

I recently found an interesting poster while walking in the Etterbeek district of Brussels. The commune offers an interpersonal mediation service to residents. When neighbours come into conflict, for example, over noise, pollution or different habits and lifestyles, they can call on the services of mediators. Mediators are neutral third parties who offer their expertise and help to find a solution that best suits the parties in conflict. The Church and religious institutes have not yet developed mediation to any great extent. This is a pity because these mediators can provide an interesting alternative in our communities, especially when the conflict between confreres worsens and risks blocking relations. When this happens, the Provincial himself or his delegate is called upon to intervene forcefully.

In our missionary commitments

I want to expand the theme of mediation beyond our Missionaries of Africa communities and focus more on our missionary commitments.

At the last General Chapter, we set ourselves some missionary priorities: “to be sent to areas of fracture, to the peripheries of the world and of the Church”, especially among migrants, and to bear witness in “an increasingly polarised world where tribalism, racism, religious fundamentalism and greed divide people” (Chapter Acts 2022, p.21). These priorities inevitably lead us into conflicting contexts and situations.

Let’s take migration as an example. Several elections are coming up in Europe, including those of the European Union. There is no doubt that the issue of migration and asylum is being used to polarise, stir up resentment, propagate racist and xenophobic stereotypes, provoke negative emotions and anger against migrants, and escalate conflicts, including through violence. The following comment by Klaus Kraemer is revealing. According to him, distributional conflicts caused by economic inequality within a nation are not directed against the “top” (the rich, the privileged) but against foreigners and immigrants, i.e. towards the ” bottom” and the “outside”.

What do we do about these latent and open conflicts? How do we react? The Catholic Church calls on us to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees (Francis, World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2018). Concerning integration, let us note that the practice of social mediation, particularly intercultural mediation, has enormous potential to contribute to building social cohesion and social peace. Besides, we are called upon to foster the mutual enrichment of cultures (John Paul II, World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2005), to mutually recognise the richness, possibilities and limits of cultures (Fratelli Tutti, 147), and to live the culture of encounter (Fratelli Tutti, 215). Through our intercultural commitments, we live the Mission Inter Gentes fully and authentically, contributing to peace, social cohesion and universal brotherhood.

At the same time, we are called to ensure that a political framework exists within which decision-makers guarantee the welcome and protection of migrants. Consequently, our votes are crucial in elections, particularly in societies with a tendency towards tribalism and desperate recourse to an authoritarian public regime in the form of a nationalist state that defends the tribe’s interests, according to Gaël Giraud’s analysis.

I want to conclude with a wise saying by Vinicius De Moraes: “Life is the art of encounter, even if there are so many disagreements in life” (Fratelli  Tutti, 215). May our differences coexist, complementing, enriching and enlightening each other; that is our wish for all of us (Fratelli Tutti, 215).

By: Andreas Göpfert, M.Afr.

André Fransen R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Yvo Wellens, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Belgium,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

André Fransen

on Wednesday, 3rd July 2024 in Varsenare (Belgium)
at the age of 93 years, of which 70 years of missionary life
in Italy, DR Congo, Rwanda and Belgium.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

Download here the announcement of Father André Fransen’s death

(more…)

Mission and conflict: daily choices to make

The expression ‘si vis pacem para bellum’ (If you want peace, prepare for war) comes to my mind whenever I think about ‘peaceful resolution of conflicts’. In fact, living is itself a fight and existing implies will, freedom, and choices. These three essentials battle constantly in a human in existence, being in conflict with himself and his social milieu. This, however, can be objectively evaluated by a soul striving to the good. That is why, guided by Scripture, church doctrine and African morality, one can study, assess and propose what is good in case of a conflict in us, in our community and outside of us…and in mission.

Third goat in the compound

We live in a partly renovated old Emmaus Centre, Nakpanduri. We have a night guard to watch over our property and to keep an eye on domestic roaming animals of our neighbors. Often, sheep and goats come into our compound for water, green leaves or herbs.

One evening, a goat entered during supper. I went out, chased it and asked our watchman to be vigilant. The second one came in when we were about to go to sleep. Around 3 a.m., a third goat entered and the watchman started stoning it. The blast of stones, his own bawling and the bleat woke me up. That night, I struggled to catch up with sleep before the morning Mass. Later, I asked him ‘what is more complicated’: ‘stoning a goat’ that is struggling for survival, or ‘keeping the gate closed.’ He looked at me and left in silence.

The question to me has always been: “Should we relentlessly be fire-fighters or preventers?” This same question came in a session on advocacy and lobbying for Community Peace Actors organized by our Diocesan Justice and Peace commission. Are we prophets enough to speak, warn and try to prevent, before a conflict breaks out?  

Some observations

The event described above is not a typical case of conflict-confrontation, because we have more complex issues in our parish (especially on chieftaincy and land dispute). All the same, this can lead to a serious conflict if not tackled in its roots. In the case of the watchman, the immediate consequences would be: sacking him, a conflict in our family-community (depriving the sleep of confreres who passed the whole day under the sun doing apostolate), a conflict in the surroundings since roaming animals are not seen as a problem. If it degenerates, we will be summoned to the chief’s palace, which is not good for our reputation. So, this small incident can trigger frustrations and make life difficult.

In the same vein, a woman was accused of being a witch in one outstation of our parish. It’s so common! As the tradition demands, she was taken to the shrine for a check-up. Others are taken to pastors. Habitually, they charge other women. Then, it happened that the whole outstation was badly affected because we were contacted late, in fact just to quench the fire. We started visiting regularly the community, the accused and the accuser. With prayers and proximity, the situation was contained. Although catechism, instructions and sermons are preventive, there is more to do; for tradition, “prophecy” and business are conflicting with each other at the expense of our mothers.

The way forward?

It is not easy to know the true causes of a conflict before managing it. Even when they are known, many factors make it thorny to solve. So, the see-judge-act method, with a certain dose of Ubuntu philosophy, is of great help in order to avoid a conflict.

Sent in mission as disciples of Christ, we have to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute; speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (Prov. 31: 8-9).” With this, there is always an emergency in acting. Is it not what guided Lavigerie when he said: “I am a man and nothing that is human is strange to me”?

Saint Theresa of Avila added: “Christ has no body but yours and mine.” Hence, how can we find peace if we fear to touch where it feels bad and so preventing it? As Pope Benedict XVI said, “commitment for justice, working for openness of intelligence and will to the demands of Good, is quite interesting for the Church.” (Benoit XVI, Dieu Est Amour (Deus Caritas est), n°28).

For me, it is a must and it should be uncompromisingly done “through an active but humble involvement in the dynamics of African society, and so, will [we] be able to live and proclaim Jesus Christ as the ultimate Liberator” (Jean Marc ELA, African Cry, p. 87). This is what we tackle every day through our involvement in advocacy and lobbying, which cannot be achieved without constant dialogue and sacrifice (self, time and means). Otherwise, we will permanently be there to quench burning fire…again and again!

Conclusion

Between preventing a conflict and managing it, there is a step. But, if we remain positive, a conflict can be a felix-culpa as far as we learn from mistakes and so gain new constructive strategies as individuals, community, village, Society and Church at large. For this, we always strive for growth and community building. There is therefore a letting go for a common project to be carried out, thus, perfect management of unavoidable conflicts.

For the rest, how I wish I were the last eternal refugee, for having tasted conflict in all stages of my life! Well, I may still have to face it for long, as a missionary in existence! May God abide with us, for we are at war (Phil. 6, 12).

By: Venant Bukuru, M.Afr.

Karl Hermes R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Ludwig Peschen, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Germany,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

Karl Hermes

on Thursday, 27th June 2024 in Trier (Germany)
at the age of 85 years, of which 58 years of missionary life
in Zambia and Germany.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

Download here the announcement of Father Karl Hermes’ death

(more…)

Training on the safeguarding of minors and persons in situations of vulnerability, Kigali, 10th day

Our last day of training was very practical. In the morning, we took time with Stéphane Joulain to do a case study of how to deal with possible abuse cases. A time of group work allowed us to share on the ways we understand possible situations of abuse.

Subsequently, Lowrent Kamwaza presented how to elaborate a strategic plan. Inspired by his strategic plan as Safeguarding coordinator of the Society, he recommended each and everyone of us to work on our strategic plan of sector/province to go back with concrete actions to be implemented in our safeguarding ministry.

We concluded this training session with recommendations. Those to be presented to the General Council and provincials, some to be carried by the safeguarding delegates and others to be proposed to our different sectors/provinces. We committed ourselves in a final statement (Kigali Statement) to implement this ministry of safeguarding.

Safeguarding is our commitment

By: Alex Manda, Clément Kpatcha, Guy Sawadogo, Lowrent Kamwaza (News Team)

Official Communication, Rome, 28th June 2024

After consultation with the Provincial Superiors, the Assistants General and the General Officials, as required by article 215 § 3 of the Constitutions and Laws of the Society, the Superior General, Father Stanley Lubungo, has designated Father Pawel Hulecki First Assistant General.

Our fraternal congratulations and best wishes to Pawel.

Rome, 28th June 2024

André-L. Simonart,
Secretary General.

Farewell to Francis Bomaansan, new Bishop-elect of Wa, Ghana

Today, 27th June 2024, we said our goodbyes to our confrere Francis Bomansaan, recently appointed Bishop of Wa, in Ghana. This Eucharist, concelebrated with the Superior General Stanley Lubungo, was Francis’ expression of thanksgiving for each confrere of the Generalate.

During the homily, Bishop-elect Francis shared with the entire Generalate community his deep feelings following his episcopal appointment: surprise, hesitation, a time of discernment and prayer to regain inner peace, and finally the acceptance of the appointment by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. He also spoke of the profound significance of his episcopal coat of arms. These include several key symbols: a star on a blue background representing Mary and his attachment to the Mother of God; the tongues of fire representing the Holy Spirit; the Pelican highlighting his attachment to the Society of Missionaries of Africa; and an empty basket, a symbol from his native culture, signifying the state of being in need in order to receive generously, thus illustrating the need to receive God’s graces.

At the end of the Eucharist, Superior General Stanley Lubungo thanked Francis for his service to the Society, and assured him of everyone’s support in prayer. He also expressed his best wishes for his ministry in the diocese of Wa, and finally sent him on mission with confidence and prayer for his future episcopal office.

The episcopal ordination of Father Francis Bomansaan will take place on 2nd August 2024 in Wa. We express our prayerful support to him and wish him a fruitful episcopal ministry.

By: Pawel Hulecki M.Afr.
Assistant General