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Friday, October 13, 2017

Refugees. 2

We continue working with the refugees. Their number remains fairly stable, around 3,800 people. The "system" of NGOs and United Nations Agencies has proved to be quiet efficient, and they begin to get a positive feedback, although it often takes a long time to fulfill all the bureaucratic passages. 
This is the reason why when we purchased the medicines on Tuesday we did buy also 2.6 tons of rice, which we immediately distributed to the 700 and plus families. Together with the Red Cross, a small dispensary was opened, which mainly cares for the refugees who come to us with the personal I.D. card we got ready for each family nucleus.
Just in these hours we are taking care of school enrollment hoping to open a refugee school beginning this Monday coming.
The solidarity is really huge, perhaps because our people have still in their heart and memory the bad experience they lived for almost two months between December 2013 and January 2014 when they too were refugees here at the Mission. On Sunday the Offertory of the mass was very generous, and St. Vincent Society brought food and soap, which we immediately distributed.
The actual situation at Bocaranga remains very uncertain. There has been a military operation by the U.N. Peace Keeper, but we fear that the rebels who run a few kilometers away, they can be back as soon as the Blue Helmets will leave, and this can happen in a few weeks time.
On Saturday afternoon also here in Bozoum  came a contingent of Blue Helmets. We had to work hard convincing people to accept them, because they fear their presence could be the reason for an occupation of Bozoum by rebels.
On Tuesday morning I went to Bangui in order to welcome our Provincial Superior, Father Saverio and the superior of the Indian Sisters who are in Bouar, and who are planning to open a new house in Bangui. On Thursday morning we leave before 05.00 am arriving at Bouar around 01.00 pm. I leave there the Sisters, driving finally back towards Bozoum, after 600 km of road and 11 hours of driving.
i doni della San Vincenzo

il riso di Bozoum

p.Saverio e p.Federico

Saturday, October 7, 2017

3,222 three thousand two hundred twenty two

3,222 three thousand two hundred twenty two
There are still hundreds of people (children, adults, the elderly, pregnant women) who run away from the worst. The city of Bocaranga, taken by the rebellious 3R movement, on September 23, is at present firmly in their hands, while the luky ones did escape. 
On Saturday, we begin the census. With the help of delegates, chosen by the IDPs, and volunteers from Caritas and other NGOs, each family comes sharing their data. We pay particular attention to the children. We put data on the computer, and for now there are 3,222 people, 2,137 of them are children. 
A good number of people giving their solidarity do a bit of everything: who opens the doors, who brings something to eat, who helps in cleaning schools and spaces to accommodate everyone. 
On Sunday morning at Mass, the Movement of the Legion of Mary quickly organizes a fund raising, kind of, for the refugees: and they collect  peanuts, cassava, rice, bread, soap, clothes.
 Many Organizations are on alert. And even from Prague, both the ONG Siriri and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are helping us. A small group of Italian friends too, gathered for a BBQ, asking among their friends collect Euro 150 ! Beautiful generosity !
On Tuesday, in the morning, we celebrate the Mass for all students in our schools (Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, High School, Literacy): a flood of children and teens invade the church! 
Wednesday afternoon I leave towards Bouar. In the first 70 km I meet 17 antibalaka barriers, armed with rifles and various tools. There is one of this barrier every 4 km. Naturally, I stop at every barrier, and having with the rebels,very young people, a  surreal dialogue. They say they want  to defend the Country, but at the same time all of them feel forced to stop asking for a payment. 
On Thursday morning we are at the diocesan annual Meeting, that brings together all the parishes. This year, given the situation, the meeting is reduced to just one day. But it touches our hearts listening  to the testimony of many fathers, sisters, and catechists who witness the presence of God the Father in the most dangerous areas. 
Almost half of the diocese is threatened. Some cities are a theater of dangerous confrontations (Ngaundaye, Ndim, Bocaranga, Niem) and many escape in less inscrutable areas (Bozoum, Bouar). 
On Friday morning we meet other parish priests, sisters and catechists of the most affected areas, and we try to organize ourselves in order to help them in a better leaving the meeting with the  basic medicines to cure the refugees.. 
October is the missionary month, and we start it  with so much pain for the poor people who suffer and flee. With so much pain for the victims (killing, plundering, violence). With so much pain for the armed groups, the authors of all this. And with so much pain for those who could and should do something, and did nothing !

i doni dell'offertorio per gli sfollati

Alzabandiera al Lycée St Augustin

Messa per gli alunni

I medicinali per gli sfollati
Les médicaments pour les déplacés

Friday, September 29, 2017

San Michele and warning signs of war

Gauthier con la carrozzina nuova

San Michele and warning signs of war
On Sunday we celebrated, with a few days in advance, the patron saint of the Parish of Bozoum, Saint Michael Archangel.  We got ready for the celebration by a couple of days of preparation. The feast of Saint Michael is a strong moment for our parish, which finds itself reflecting on its origins, and reaffirming God's authority and protection.
On Saturday afternoon we went in procession through the Mission area with the statue of St. Michael followed by a very large crowd of people praying and singing. On Sunday at 8.30am we celebrate the solemn Mass. Once more large number of people, intense prayer and songs and dances. Right after Mass there were the finals of some football and basketball games. At 12.30 we have had lunch (matanga) with the catechists, the responsible of the various Groups and all those who in one way or another are committed to help the parish.
The celebration day somehow was disturbed by a serious concern: the day before, on Saturday 23rd , the city of Bocaranga was again attacked by rebels from the 3R group (Seleka area), forcing people to flee. The rebels' intention is to occupy the city, and they do not seem to have any intention of leaving soon. Their arrival has triggered general panic and escape fugitives. There were dead, killed by the rebels, and everything happened under the eyes of the UN Peace Keepers, doing just nothing to stop the rebels.
Many of the fleeing people arrived here at Bozoum: 125 km of road, and for many on foot! The concern of the nearby war, so close to our Mission, goes together with the suffering of seeing thousands of people who have lost everything. These days we need to organize their presence.
Tomorrow morning, Saturday, we will start a census, family by family, so we have a better idea how to intervene. We are in need of homes, food, medicine, school, cooking utensils ... But most of all we need PEACE! It’s an urgent and almost desperate need.


Osso di elefante
Un os d'éléphant

Riunione rifugiati
Réunion déplacés

Rifugiati di Bocaranga a Bozoum
Déplacés de Bocarnga à Bozoum

Sunday, September 24, 2017

25 YEARS (+ ONE)

25 YEARS (+ ONE)
Twenty five years ago on 22nd September 1992, I arrived in Central Africa. I had already lived in Bozoum for a year, in 1982-83 just for a pastoral  experience. But in 1992 it was for real, and for a long time. It does not even seem true to me, and I can only thank God, my people, my Carmelite family and my own family for all that I have received in these years. 25 years are a breath, and they go so fast. As for now I simply look ahead.
On Saturday, I was still in Bouar with our Communities committed to the formation of our young people. Early that day, during di morning Liturgy of the Hours, 7 young people received the religious habit, and they started their Novitiate year. A little later, three young guys completed the Novitiate year by declaring their vows, promising God to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience. September, here in Central Africa, is the period of resuming all pastoral and educational activities.
On Sunday 17th, the twenty Ecclesiastical Movements of the Parish were present at 8.30 am Mass, in which we began the pastoral activities. Catechism is also being resumed in these days: around 300 children, young people and adults are preparing to receive Baptism during a four years journey.
Monday is the opening day of schools across the Country. And finally, after a couple of months of vacation, the streets, the square and the classrooms of the Mission are filled with the voices of hundreds of kids, from the Maternal School to the High School, passing through Elementary and other grades. They are all happy: teachers, parents and children: even among the youngest, no one is crying. I have to say: the contrary!
On Tuesday morning I’m on my way back to Bangui. Here we have two working days with Giovanni, architect, who came to help us in reviewing the construction project of the Bangui Carmel Convent. I come back to Bozoum on Friday morning.
I feel satisfied for the work done, but also worried because these same days we received a letter in which the MINUSCA (UN Peace Keepers) accuses the Catholic Church of supporting antibalaka militias, and of being against Muslims. While instead our Missions welcome and defend Muslims, take care and protect them. The truth is that some Fathers are threatened because they publicly denounce what is happening (and for this reason a Polish Capuchin friar was beaten for long 4 hours)... And this happened while we were meeting just with religious leaders (Catholics, Protestants and Muslims). It’s really sad to receive this kind of letters with these unfair accusations, from those who should defend the civilians. Instead they didn’t show the courage to go and help the tortured Father while they were just 15 meters away. They simply went on without stopping.

Riunione a Bangui con p.Federico, p.Arland, p.Mesmin, p.Dieudonné e l'arch. Giovanni (a dx)