Encountering those living
on the existential peripheries
the case of Salvador de Bahia.
The social facts are enlightening, we are witnessing great changes that are plainly affecting the basic principles that govern the daily life of humans, economic and political life and spirituality. As the Missionary approach is not static because of ever-changing data, the 28th General Chapter, through the Capitular Acts, rightly deals with the issue of our missionary commitments in Africa in the light of the facts as we live and experience them today. The Capitular Acts are, therefore, a tool, for revitalizing our faith in Jesus Christ and the communion between confreres and to keep an eye on the present and future trends, if we are to adapt an integrated and relevant missionary approach. The missionary, by virtue of his Christian vocation, is a visionary by the sense of his observations and his generous adaptation to the environment.
Attentive to the profound changes taking place in the 21st century, the 2010 Chapter began to envisage the appointment of young confreres outside of Africa. In this perspective, I was appointed to Brazil to form, with other confreres, a missionary team for an experience of faith using the Missionary of Africa approach. Brazil is almost a continent and very cosmopolitan. Tensions between races are not very alarming, no doubt, due to a long common history of tolerance and mutual acceptance. Nevertheless there are some cases of deplorable discrimination.
Study, analysis, observation and conversations have made up my approach to making contact with the people. Through its many cultural and structural aspects, I try to understand and insert myself into the Brazilian milieu. We are talking about the festivities and celebrations, popular devotions, the feelings of the people and the esteem and prejudices surrounding foreigners. Increasingly, there is a palpable fear fed by the violence which is now taking on alarming proportions. This situation is aggravated by drug cartels which have infiltrated into the zones with high population densities. The taste for quick and easy wealth creates many young victims. For many of them this is a dead end, because there are many betrayals and any error is unforgivable. We are also witnesses to another phenomenon which is also worldwide “the non practicing Catholic,” another farce that is not insignificant. There is the emergence of families falling apart, and depression is a problem. I have observed these realities and it has become evident that people are turning for help from psychologists, psychiatrists, even from priests.
As a curate in a Parish, I take part in a mission with three axis; welcoming and listening, training and visiting, and a ‘Caritas’ project aimed at helping the poorest. The sharing and the evaluation between confreres at the level of the Sector motivate us to make a commitment that is in line with the vision of the local Church. Latin America has elaborated a remarkable vision which fits in very well with the vision of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa. It is a vision based on Church-Mercy, in a perpetual mission of evangelisation. We, Missionaries of Africa, bring our missionary zeal from Africa and many appreciate this because of the visits and the encounters in the framework of dialogue. Spirituality is of the utmost importance. We are aware that nourishing the spirituality of the people through well prepared liturgies and personal encounters demands a zealous commitment on our part. A missionary dynamic permeates the Brazilian Sector through its work of animation and spiritual formations, promoting vocations and learning new languages. It aims to make our communities living places when one’s spiritual batteries can be recharged.
Raphaël Muteba, M.Afr.