Bearing witness to Christ whatever the cost!
Ha-Jo, Dominic and Paul
It was not God’s will that Joseph should be sold by his brothers, nor was it God’s will that the three confreres should be abducted, but God can use such events for his loving plan for the world. Who knows if I was not more useful in captivity than physically present!
This 17th January 2024 was an unprecedented day at the Generalate and for the whole Society of Missionaries of Africa with the testimonies of our stagiaire Dominic Merikiori Mahinini and our confreres Hans-Joachim Lohre (Ha-Jo) and Paul Sanogo. This took place during a conference of thanksgiving and testimony, both face-to-face and online. It was followed by members of our two institutes (Missionaries of Africa and Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa). On Zoom there were more than 215 connections, without taking into account those who were connected not as a single person but as a community. Meanwhile, the Chapter Hall was fully packed; Ha-Jo, who is visiting Rome, brought together the confreres and sisters who are present in Rome. Paul and Dominic gave their testimonies online from Mali and Tanzania respectively. The Superior General, Stanley Lubungo, who sat next to Ha-Jo, moderated the conference with great emotion. Dominic and Paul were kidnapped in Nigeria for 21 days from 2nd to 22nd August 2023. Ha-Jo was abducted in Mali from 20th November 2022 to 26th November 2023, a total of 371 days.
In their testimonies, Dominic and Paul spoke of the torture they endured, starting in their community house from which they were captured and continuing throughout their captivity in the forest. Prayer was their only support, and this strengthened their faith. During this conference, they reiterated their gratitude for the prayers that accompanied them from all over the world. They are grateful for the care and support they received after such an experience.
Ha-Jo joined his younger brothers by opening his testimony with thanksgiving. The word thank you would sum up his sharing. Thank you for the daily fervent prayers and spiritual support: “I have never felt abandoned, I have never been afraid and I know that I do not owe that to my little faith, but it is thanks to you, thanks to your prayers that the Lord has converted into consolation for me”.
Ha-Jo described his time in captivity, from the abduction to his release, in several stages, starting with a 5-week stay in the Sahel bush, a stay in the desert in the sands, then another stay in the stones, thorns and wadis. Throughout the period of his abduction, Ha-Jo was not tortured. However, he felt dependent and stripped of everything except his faith in Jesus Christ. So he gave a sense of spiritual retreat to his rapture in the desert. Ha-Jo affirms that the fact that he was released after a year is proof that prayers serve a purpose. He was abducted on Christ the King Sunday in 2022 and was released on Christ the King Sunday 2023, which coincided with the anniversary of Cardinal Lavigerie’s death, Founder’s Day.
Ha-Jo confessed that the story of Joseph, son of Jacob in the book of Genesis, accompanied him throughout his captivity. His explanation would also apply to Dominic and Paul: it was not God’s will that Joseph should be sold by his brothers, nor was it God’s will that the three confreres should be abducted, but God can use such events for his loving plan for the world. So Ha-Jo asks himself: who knows if I was not more useful for inter-religious dialogue in captivity than physically present in Bamako?
Each testimony ended with a round of applause. It was such a moving conference that the Superior General concluded by inviting everyone to observe a moment of silence to interiorise the missionary exhortations heard.
Serge Zihalirwa Boroto