Fr. Efren de Guzman, SVD
As we prepare this article from Fr. Efren the news from Angola is bad. Things have deteriorated again and the longed for reconciliation between UNITA and the Angola Government seems far away. In the midst of very difficult material and physical circumstances, Fr. Efren and his little group struggle on. It is amazing that he finds time at all to write these brief thoughts, memories, dreams and prayers, special mixture which we call Angola Diary.
Our Call to Reconciliation
“Africa today is not Africa of long time ago, of wild animals running the vast plains enjoying nature which God provides. Yet never before has the jungle law of kill or be killed made itself.” The religious, ethnic, social, political and ideological differences among peoples in Africa have led to increasing conflict. Certainly we cannot succeed in forcing people to get along, but it is our Christian mandate to try, and if it fails, then we must help victims of conflict to pick up the pieces of their broken lives, and broken homes and start again.”
Most of them are orphans. Others do not know if their parents are still alive. Tears fell from our eyes as we heard one of them protesting over the radio> His name is Kito, 10 years old. He said: “We are like outcasts, our future is to build our houses in the sky and on the sea! And if he policeman finds that we have no money, he takes our one good shirt! Where are the homes and schools for us? What is our future... to become bandits or prostitutes? Just wait...one day we will take revenge!” A minute after the journalists left him in the street a policeman walked up and shot Kito dead. He died before we reached the hospital.
Angola is one of the countries most affected by landmines in the world with more than 15 million in place especially in agriculture areas. We have the worst bombarded and devastated cities in Africa like Kuito, Bie, Huambo. We have 78% illiteracy. We have one of the world’s highest cost of living and very low salaries. Example: a beer costs 5 to 8 US dollars. 80% of our food goes from the outside. For every five children, three are dying of hunger or disease. For every five Angolans, three are hiding dangerous arms. Meanwhile, Angola is number four producer of diamonds in the world and number two producer of oil in Africa. The United Nations have done something good in constructing roads, bridges and reconciling the rebels and the government troops. But the big question is: “How do they spend more than one million US dollars a day? We call this UN-NGO corruption!
RefugeesLast week we discussed the situation of refugees worldwide. There are few countries throughout history which have not encountered the desperate situation of refugees. Statistics are difficult to asses as they fluctuate according to world crises. But there are, at present, approximately more than ten million refugees worldwide and over half of these are women and young children.
Three days before New Year the only daughter of our elder Disedero de Costa (a government vice minister of oil exploration) was kidnapped. This old man is trying to help us build houses for the lepers in Funda. How can your console a friend who is experiencing deep trouble? How can you explain that life’s fruitfulness comes through the pruning knife or affliction? We prayed with hands lifted to God for his daughter’s safe return.
For the safe return of our Vice Minister’s daughter the kidnapper’s ransom was one hand half million US dollars. Some relatives couldn’t control their tongue and immediately the whole of Angola heard the news. They lost contact with the kidnappers. Tragically, the police suspected some relatives of the Vice Minister as the kidnappers. These relatives were imprisoned and tortured! Meanwhile, the Vice Minister himself, was dying and his wife was very sick. Friends and people prayed a lot and behold after 28 days of waiting the secret agents liberated the daughter from her abductors. And as a sign of gratitude to God the parents requested us to celebrate Mass and exorcise their house against evil. The alleged suspect of the crime was former Governor Ventura who is also accused of corruption and the alleged murder of his predecessor Government Skees.
After New Year we had a Community Farmer’s Meeting. One of our leaders illustrated the principle that we’ll never accomplish anything unless we do our part. We must keep on in spite of disappointments. And remember, if we sow abundantly, we can expect a bountiful crop. And, yes, the hardest part of harvesting is getting started with the new planting.
We celebrated a special day for the lepers. We had many visitors from the Ministry of Health, NGOs, religious, friends and our people and our Polish superior Padre Andre and Sister Dolores. Also, today big fighting is going on between the army and police forces. From, 20 to 30 km. one can hear explosions. Same reasons for rebellion: lack of food and salary.
When the storms seem unending, I wish you to remember the sunshine. As you teach love to those who know only hate. When you are over concerned with material matters, I wish you to step back and pay attention to your heart. When you are in pain life’s conflicts, I wish you courage and hope.