By Fr. Efren de Guzman, SVD
Let me just share with you some recent events that happened this hot and rainy season. Don’t be upset with my stories. Just pray. Remember, anything beyond your control is not so much your problem. And may the things happening give you inspiration to have a compassionate heart—ready to forgive and understand, trying to be flexible and adaptable in every opportunity and concrete situation.
In the upper mountain of Kifangondo a drunk policeman lobbed a hand grenade at the people who were at a funeral wake, we brought the seriously wounded to the hospital. To our horror, the culprit was tortured then imprisoned. People said that he was a feiticeiro, a witch or a person possessed by the evil one. This fetishism is part of the culture and some attribute it to deep dreams. Anything bad that happened in their lives –accidents, sicknesses death –has its human cause. They always try to discover the human source of bad luck with help of the Kimbanda (witch-hunter, seer, diviner). One who is accused of being a feiticeiro must suffer tremendously and die. You can imagine the abuses this leads to.
Even a member of the family can be accused of fetishism. One might Joao of Casas Novas (35kms. away) had a dream that his eight-year old daughter Cinia is a feitiseira. Immediately Zepa, the mother of Cinia, accompanied by some relatives, asked our help. We brought the girl to the Mexican Sister’s convent for her protection.
The biggest Paiol (underground bodega for storing ammunition and missiles) in Viana, 25 kms. from Luanda, exploded for more than three hours. More than twenty people were wounded in a nearby village, eight died. Reasons for the sabotage: lack of food and salary for the soldiers.
A week after this incident, nine generals of the UNITA rebels arrived in Luanda to join, a unified armed forces of Angola as part of a peace accord. In some isolated areas, like Cubal which is 320 kms. south, some demoralized soldiers and rebels are fighting each other over who controls the refugees!
A minute after I gave our SVD novice, David, a ride for his bible service in Nova Alianca (23kms. away) and I was already on my way to celebrated mass in Cacuaco, a drunk soldier fired a shot in the air and stopped me. He asked for money, I gave him one note of one million kwanza. (That’s 2 US dollars.)
Fighting is going on now in Zaire: Mobutu against Kibala factions. Kibala rebels are now controlling one fourth of Zaire. Our coordinator in the Commission on Refugee, Sr. Patricia, an American who belongs to the Maryknoll congregation, arrived to attend the Bishop’s conference and meet the refugees coordinators. We were touched when she said: “We continue to take up the cause of the refugees, whether we win or die; freedom will rise in Africa like the sun from the morning clouds.”
For all the beloved birthday celebrants for the month of March: Mama Hildegard (Germany), Tatay, Sangko, Benjo (Phil.), Tony Rebello (India), Horacio (Argentina): “May a kind word, a reassuring touch, and a warm smile be yours on your birthday and everyday of your life. And may you give these gifts as well as receive them. Remember the sunshine when the storms seem unending.”
Our old catechist M. Velho from isolated Zela (220 kms. away) arrived. He had walk for eleven days to reach our place. He had to make a lot of detours to avoid landmines. For twenty one years the people are waiting for the missionaries. By God’s grace we’ll start again. That old catechist said in our meeting: “It often takes the storm to prove the real shelter. In the tempests of life let the Holy Spirit teach our soul to rest in the Lord and wait for His sure help... for patience means awaiting God’s help without doubting God’s love.”
There are more than ten thousand street children in Luanda. The non-government organizations, the Church and the Government are working together to help these children. Today we held a marathon for street children around the capital to call the attention of the people to collaborate in alleviating the suffering of the street children. In the afternoon we started the baseball season for the Filipino contract workers in Angola.
At Mama Chica’s house of the orphans, her beautiful daughter Tana was giving practical catechism for the orphans. She asked “What is life’s heaviest burden?” none of the orphans could answer. One old man, Paj Tonio, observing at the door, answered, “To have no burden to carry.” His answer has special meaning for some lazy orphans. Then Tana added, “Without distress to push as to be with us in trouble.” As usual let me end my letter with a heartfelt song for you.
Now is the Time
1). Tired of waiting for changes from above
Tired of seeing our brothers and sisters living in misery
Tired of hearing about ruins and much suffering
Can we face these challenges of life’s reality?
Now is the time to wake from a sleep.
Now is the time to think and reflect.
Now is the time to work together and act.
2). Tired of knowing destruction of forests
Tired of seeing the exploitation of the poor
Tired of hearing unemployment and hunger
Here and now—what must we do?