The Harvest Is Great
By Fr. Ernie Amigleo, CICM
Fr. Ernie Amigleo, though a Filipino, is a Novice Master in an Indonesian Seminary on the island of Celebes. Here he tells us about an exposure program to help the students enter into dialogue with their Muslim surroundings.
Eleven novices with knapsacks on their backs left for the city to start a new program called Dialogue of Life with Islam Families. For two weeks, novice lived with is foster parents’ who belonged to he low-income Javanese Islamic families in the city of Ujung Pandang.
These families have migrated to Ujung Pandang to look for greener pastures. Some of them have been in the city for more than 25 years, others for just a few years. To survive they open small eateries, selling Javanese soup, noodles or bakso. But, their income from selling bakso is not enough for their basic needs, so Javanese women are forced to work also by making rounds selling local herbal drinks.
Our novices had mixed feelings when they where about to launch the new program. There were feelings of fear and anxiety; they are afraid of being rejected, anxious because they have no idea what will happen during those two weeks. There was also a feeling of enthusiasm and excitement – experiencing something they have never experienced before.
Into the Cauldron
But all these negative feelings were at once put aside as soon as they were received with open arms by the community. For two weeks, they lived and worked with these families who have to struggle hard in order to survive. They tried to adapt themselves to the new life. The novices slept without mattresses, were exposed to mosquitoes, slept with the whole family in one room without privacy, has a cup of tea or coffee for breakfast, and had their meals at unspecified times (sometimes past two o’clock in the afternoon and nine o’ clock in the evening). They helped prepare noodles and spices in the late morning and then helped sever customers who came to eat in the late afternoon till around midnight. Most of their time was taken up by activities. But about Javanese culture, Islam, family life and also the neighborhood.
Life is a struggle
After two weeks, they returned home full of experiences and stories. During their sharing it was evident that this experience was an eye-opener to all of them. In their reflections and sharing, some wrote, “This experience has made me aware that life is has made me aware that life is a struggle.” Life means hard work.” Others said: “I learned to appreciate Islam against which I was so prejudiced before.” It has made me realize how much I have taken for granted the many blessings I received from home and from the novitiate.” It has been a very difficult, yet challenging and enriching experience.” “I was deeply struck by my foster father who, despite his busy activities, made time to go to the mosque everyday to pray.” To sum them all up, one wrote: “It was a grace-filled experience.” Besides this, they also got some impressions of the city of Ujung Pandang –crowded, very noisy (blaring of radios and televisions), and gangster. It is dirty and there ins an obvious lack of facilities like toilets. While o the other hand, there is warmth, hospitality and religious tolerance among the people who come form different backgrounds. This new ‘experience’ was introduced into our novitiate program in response to the call of the Church to dialogue with other religions and to contextualize our CICM missionary spirituality.