From the very start, there was a fruitful co-operation with Sisters of diverse religious institutes. The contribution of social institutions run by the churches was acknowledged by no less a person than Nelson Mandela who, speaking on the influence of religion on his life stated: “You must remember that during our time—right from Grade 1 up to university—our education was provided by religious institutions. I was in missionary schools.”
In the Central African Republic, missionaries have been risking their lives in solidarity with people as the Chadian and Sudanese rebels of the Séleka coalition conquered the country and sowed violence, terror and death
The Central African Republic (CAR) has been on the news headlines since 13 South African soldiers were killed and 27 injured there on 23 March. The victims belonged to the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission. The perpetrators are the rebels of the Séleka coalition. They came from the North and took over Bangui, the CAR capital, on the 24 March, causing President François Bozizé to flee. Michel Djotodia, leader of one of the groups of Séleka (Alliance, in the local Sango language), proclaimed himself president of the Republic.
They started their incursion in the North—many of them are from Chad and Sudan—in mid-December and as they made their way towards the capital, they looted, terrorised and killed people. They occupied one mission after another, camping in the house of the missionaries and stealing all they could. The regular army soldiers were easily defeated and fled with the people.
Here is the testimony of Msgr Juan José Aguirre Muñoz, the Comboni Bishop of Bangassou, about the conquest of the city on 11 March:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of freedom and liberation. The liberation is primarily a release from all kinds of personal, economic, political, social or cultural bondage. These forms of slavery are obstacles that prevent men and women from living with dignity and from making decisions as full human beings. When men and women choose their own ways freely, their decisions are unfortunately often influenced by the unfair circumstances and structures that prevail.
When we encounter situations in which poverty and social injustice are part of the people’s daily life, when social inequalities are due to unfair economic arrangements, when people are displaced by conflict, when men, women and children are exploited at work or suffer the disastrous consequences of the forces of nature caused by global warming, it may be difficult to know whether responsibility lies with unjust structures or at a personal level.
The liberation of the human being is therefore not only a personal responsibility. Liberation from the injustices of this world is a relational dynamic among individuals, people and human structures. In the task of transforming this world, our commitment to Christ requires a personal commitment to social and economic justice that works for human liberation. Our Christian commitment to economic justice must focus on changing those structures that perpetuate injustices among the poorest and do not help the integral development of the human being.
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From a tender age, St Daniel Comboni was introduced to the mystery of the Heart of Jesus. In his years of formation, he was enchanted with a beautiful painting of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the seminary chapel
The Comboni Media Centre is run by the Comboni Missionaries in South Africa
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