lunedì 29 febbraio 2016

31/2016 - Bye Bye John Loro

We have war, we have famine, violence and shooting… but people keep dying for natural sicknesses. Yesterday we lost one of our altar boys, John Loro, 16 years old and much taller than me. I met him on Saturday as I went anointing people at the hospital. I did not know he was there and thanks God who called me to his bed side. He looked ok, scared and tired but ok. Yesterday the call "John Loro passed away". I was kind of shocked; should have stayed there more on Saturday? I don't know. I wonder if "natural death", if there is such a thing - some theologians would say no - is worst than a death due to all the inhuman things which are happening now in this Country.

Simply not ask "why?" And we go on; but I tell you; seeing all our youth and altar boys crying yesterday, beside mother and father and all the other relatives was heart braking. John Loro was put on a bed, dressed all in white and was beautiful. Death cannot be beautiful and it was shocking and unbelievable.

We tend to say that death is the opposite of life. I don't believe so. Death is the opposite of birth. There is nothing opposite to life, we are created to live for ever. We shall not forget that. And the beauty of John Loro yesterday was reminding me that. Life knows no end. In the book of Revelation it is written "I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the 'end'"; this is the unfortunate English translation from the original Greek which says "I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the TELOS" which means not end, but goal, aim, purpose, target… Jesus cannot be the end…

May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

domenica 28 febbraio 2016

30/2016 - What do Missionaries do?

Sometimes they took a selfie for other missionaries in other countries...
God bless you all
Abuna Loro e Abuna Ladu

sabato 27 febbraio 2016

29/2016 - Sunday in the Village

Today is another Sunday in the village; I will go to Digala, one of my favourite Villages. Unfortunately the catechist in Digala passed away last week; but last Sunday I went visiting him and anointed him. He was a very such and humble man and everyone is going to miss him. The catechists here in mission are very important. They have fundamental role for the running of the parish and the faith of the faithful. In our friary we are five priests and we run 8 outstations (which means chapels in the villages) plus 4 chapels within the POC of the UN, plus, obviously, the Parish. It means we cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday every where.
Going to the outstations is not always safe. We are in the process of demilitarisation of Juba and the government is moving its soldiers right in the villages where we go on Sundays. The soldiers are simply taken to the village, they have no houses, nor land, nor enough food nor water and it all ends up in abusing the poor people. The situation is very critical.
We need a radical change of hearts

Well, off I go with; my faithful motorbike is waiting for me.

God bless you all
Abuna Loro

28/2016

I think someone is watching me...

mercoledì 24 febbraio 2016

27/2016 - Let them talk

SOUTH SUDAN: PORTRAIT OF A CIVIL WAR REFUGEE

24 February 2016 – (By Richard Nield - 24 Feb 2016 - www.aljazeera.com) - 'Hour after hour after hour, all they did was kill people ... I will never forget it as long as I live.'

For the five days leading up to December 20, 2013, South Sudanese government soldiers from the Dinka tribe went from house to house killing members of the Nuer tribe in what quickly turned into a civil war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Two years ago, Juba resident Gabriel Gatluak Dak Yau, a Nuer, fled South Sudan for the safety of Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. He recalls the events of those dark days in Juba, and explains why he is making plans to return to his home country.

I will never forget 2013 in my life. I was in Juba on December 15 when the soldiers came. Hour after hour after hour, all they did was kill people, until December 20. I will never forget it as long as I live.

What happened in South Sudan at that time even the young kids know. Imagine, they were telling people go and rape your mother and your sister, and after you rape them then they will kill you.

And they were telling people eat the meat of your brother. And imagine, you are all South Sudanese together. If you have a mark [the Nuer have tribal scars across their foreheads] they will definitely kill you, because they know you are really Nuer.

It was not all the Dinka. It was those from Warrap state. They say that [Nuer leader] Riek Machar killed people in Bor in 1991, and they decided that they were going to take their revenge.

I really give thanks to God because when the attacks happened I was on the other side of the River Nile in the Gumbo area of Juba. If you tried to cross the river they would just take you and put you inside the river, they would just kill you. They killed eight of my relatives. They just rounded them up and killed them.

I wanted to get to the UNMISS camp [the UN Mission in South Sudan, which opened its gates to provide protection to Nuer civilians], but there was no way to get there safely. I waited eight days, and then eventually I reached the UNMISS camp and thanked God because I had reached there safely.

Not all the Dinka have a problem with Nuer. Not all Dinka support [President] Salva Kiir. The only person who called me in December 2013 to ask me if I was okay was a Dinka friend of mine. "Gabriel are you fine?" he asked me. "Yes I'm fine," I told him, "I'm in the UNMISS camp."

Our relationships haven't been broken by the war. We still have relationships with them. The one who asks if you are okay when you are in trouble - you cannot forget him.

I spent one month and a half in UNMISS. On February 27, 2014, I left there to go to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

It was very difficult to get here. I was afraid that if I travelled by plane that they would take my passport in the airport.

So I used a bus. When I reached the bridge across the Nile, soldiers there asked me: "Where are you going?" I told them: "I'm going to Kakuma." They told me: "You want to escape?" I told them: "No. I'm not going to escape!"

They said: "You are Nuer, we are going to kill you." I told them: "No problem." Fortunately one of the security guards came and said: "Let these people go."

I didn't travel with any of my family, but I travelled together with some of the Nuer. Most of them were boys. They don't have marks. If you have no marks, sometimes it's an advantage.

I arrived at Kakuma on February 28, 2014. I'd lived there before for 10 years, from 1999 to 2009. Now I've been back here almost two years.

I'm staying with my brother in Kakuma, who I left here when I went back to Juba. I really appreciated seeing him again. To be apart from your brother is hard sometimes. When we met again I really gave thanks to God. We'd been apart for almost five years.

My brother has been here for more than 10 years. He's at school - in Form Four. He is supposed to complete his education first and then he can go back to South Sudan.

When I arrived at Kakuma the first time, it was really different from how it is now. You'd maybe get water once a day, but now it is available. At that time you'd go to school, then go to get water, then cook. But if the dust came you could not even cook.

I owe my health to UNHCR, and I have a ration card from them. But there's not enough food. We used to get rations every 15 days, now it's once a month, even though it's not more food.

It's very hard to manage. If I have my ration card alone I will not survive. We come together in a group of 10 and collect the food. You may get sorghum, or maize, they give you oil and salt.

If it is only one person it's very hard to survive unless you have someone who can assist you somewhere. Maybe someone in South Sudan or in Africa can send money to you and you can go and buy a sack of maize.

The top officials at UNHCR don't know that this food is not enough.

I want to go back to UNMISS camp in Juba, because here in Kakuma it is too difficult. Being in the camp without any education is very hard. I wanted to get a diploma in computing, but it's very hard to get the funds for a computer. Even if I don't get to work at UNMISS at least I will get to be with my people.

The only problem with going back is the killing. Nowadays I hear there is a lot of killing there.

If you have these marks they know you are Nuer and they will kill you. UNMISS really saved the lives of people. If you go outside [the UNMISS camp] and you get killed then it's up to you because you are the one who wants to get killed.

I am waiting for Riek Machar to go back to Juba, then I will know there is peace, and that is when I will go back. If it is peaceful, I will go back to Juba town. If not I will go to UNMISS.

The problem now is that when you go back you might have lost your parents, your relatives, your friends. South Sudan has been completely destroyed.

I don't think peace will come back to South Sudan very soon. Salva Kiir doesn't want peace.

The history of South Sudan is a very, very, very sad story, a very sad story. But for the future, even though we lost many people, we have to go forward.

Source: Al Jazeera

lunedì 22 febbraio 2016

26/2016 - Very active parish

What strikes me sometimes is the "normality" of the activities we carry on during this time of such great uncertainty. Really the Country is on the edge of a new (or old) war and we behave as if nothing was going to happen. In some way it's very good, and we keep investing in these people's future. 

Today our Parish was really full.

First of all we had the Divine Mercy Prayer Group as every Monday.

Secondly; there was a DMI sister who came to teach the women how to make home made liquid soap and then sell it in the market:



The women were very exited and we hope they can start some small business.

Thirdly there was a woman given some classes to the Crusaders who are a group of mainly girls who dance during Mass and they express, with their bodies, what we pray with our lips.


and finally we some of the youth who were learning Bari. Bari is the main tribal language spoken here in Juba. They are all Bari but only few of them know how to read or maybe they don't speak their language at all as, grown up here in the city, they've just learned Juba Arabic.


How beautiful is the simplicity of "these classes". 

I hope you liked this Monday as I did.

May the Lord bless you all
Abuna Loro

domenica 21 febbraio 2016

25/2016 - Sunday in Mission

Just a quick post to let you know I felt like I've had a normal day. Normality is so special sometime and we rarely notice it or appreciate it. I do! I do I do I do!!

Today it was my shift to go to the outstation and I went to the Village of Bungo (try to find it on google map or google earth and let me know, just curious). It's about 70 km from the city and the road to go there is a true nightmare. Speed cannot be over 35 mile per house or you would be kicked off the car… can I say that I hate that road? Anyway, there are communities who deserves to be served and there we go. Here is a picture of the chapel in Bungo.


As you can see the chapel is leaning on the left hand side… well it does and ti will collapse soon; people here are not worried; they will think what to do once it has fallen… try to convince them other way… I gave up.

On the way back to Juba we stopped in another Village called Digala and we visited and anointed Paride, an old catechist who I believe next time I'll see him it's going to be in the Kingdom of God. Such a nice and holy man. I'm gonna miss him.


Well, that's my Sunday, nothing special, ordinary thing, but in a land threatened by continuous fight, I tell you that it means a lot.

Unfortunately those fights keeps going on, every day more people are life threatened simply because they belong to the "wrong" tribe. As a European I will never ever be able to understand the tribalism. It's rooted in the DNA of these people. Once one person here said "Abuna (father) the blood of our tribes is thicker than the water of your baptism"… I am beginning to understand what he had meant. We don't need stuff or money, but prayers for the conversion of hearts.

May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

sabato 20 febbraio 2016

24/2016

A meaningful way of the cross amongst the poorest of the poor. Instead of the stations we could have stopped in each one of the tukul where those people live. It's been touching, following Jesus "up to Jerusalem"... How many crucified do we still need?
We began the way of the cross as a small group and we ended up in in the Church full of people. People are asking so many things to God, but I fear sometimes we forget the One thing we need and the One thing Jesus had said that the Father will always give to his children "God himself". And this is what Jesus is asking on the Cross. "Eli eli lemà sabactani" - "why have you forsaken me"... The "absence" of God was even more scaring then death itself.
What do we ask God?

venerdì 19 febbraio 2016

23/2016 notwithstanding the difficulties

video

Really, situation is very bad now in the Country and we are alla bit worried. Yet this morning I went out to  buy some hope and I found it from those little ones.
I was whispering a song and they followed me... The words say "because living is beautiful, even if life's bad". The words are by an Italian singer and do fit in our situation here in South Sudan.
God bless you all
Abuna Loro

giovedì 18 febbraio 2016

22/2016 - NOT singing in the rain...

Thanks to God yesterday we had the very first tiny tiny rain… well we got some drops… but it was good (though not very refreshing).
Just after lunch time we heard noise from our thin iron sheet roof, rain was coming. We rush out in the garden looking up to the sky. Not many clouds, but it gave us hope that this very arid and too hot weather is now coming to an end. Last year rainy season had been very poor and the harvest was little. People rely on rain for their food. The WFP (World Food Programme) has announced that in South Sudan millions of people will starve if there are no helps form abroad. Now it's time for sawing but the first harvest is going to be in June or July and it's too late; people are running out of food in many counties. The war doesn't help the ONG who are really trying to help those people, but roads are too dangerous.

We shall not lose our hope!

God bless you all
Loro

martedì 16 febbraio 2016

21/2016 - Seriously...

I mean, what is wrong between me and watches? it does not depend on the brand nor the the size nor the type of battery… they simply stop working properly once around my wrist. It's always been like this. Before coming to Africa I was given a wonderful watch for my ordination; one of those cool watches that are charged by a hidden and mysterious solar panel. It was perfect, but then KALAS (end of it, all, no more in the local arabic language). Some days it goes very fast and others has to rest. As I was very thoughtful I came to Juba with another watch. My very very old swatch (22 years). It never abandoned me; but now… IT IS SO SLOW…. I tell you, must be getting used to the "african time" more than me. You know? people here still look at the position of the sun. if it is up (before noon we would say) they greet saying "Da puré" to which we answer "Na puré", if it is "afternoon" they say "Da paranà" and the reply as before "Na paranà". This is the Bari language which is the main tribal language in Juba; yet the common language is Arabic Juba, which is really not like classical arabic, it sounds the same to me, but people cannot understanding one another if speaking these two different arabic.
I'm really struggling to learn Arabic Juba; people deserve a pastor who speak their language and I am sure it would also help me in understanding their culture and their faith.
I am the youth chaplain since few months now and still have difficulties in following their thinking. They are very nice guys, and I think we go on together, yet some differences between us do tend to create tensions within the group. We, the friars, have the feeling, that the previous missionaries did to much give money and all sorts of necessary benefits; it happens now that if you don't give money, or if you don't build a huge, and mean a huge, church, you are not a very good shepherd. As friars minor we don't want to fall (brief interruption. It's 7.00 o'clock now and they are shooting outside - that's life here) into this mentality of economically driven Church or evangelisation. Juba is not a really big city, yet, but there are more than 143 different churches. Anyone can open a new Church. The catholic churches, in terms of parishes, are only 7. We are a minority; many people go to where they give, together with the word of God, meals and other benefit. Does faith go through the stomach? If I were poor as most of those people are I would probably say "yes". As sad as it sounds even Jesus felt compassion "because they were like a flock without shepherd" but immediately he multiplied the bread, which is a way to understand the Holy Eucharist. It's not easy and there's no an easy answer.
Deep poverty changes prospectives.

On Monday I started a new on-line University course on Christian Spirituality (www-e.pa.eu); to me is a challenge: first of all I have to get up even early in order to have a reasonable access to internet (5am…) secondly I need to find time during the day for the studies and thirdly because… sorry I forgot, but there was another reason… :-)

Anyway, as our first duty we were asked to post what we think Spirituality is. I read the most various definition as it was logic to happen, yet I was so surprised that in most of theme there was no reference to Jesus nor the Holy Spirit in terms of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Fair enough, the question was about spirituality and not "Christian Spirituality"; but I see no other way that Jesus and the Spirit. Even the Church teaches us that the Spirit works outside the "borders" of the Church in way we do not understand. No one is excluded from the life of the Spirit even if does not know Christ and the Spirit. In the definitions I read there were so many references to the "divine" or the "whole" or even our psych or consciousness. I think it's going to be an interesting course which will open up my mind to very different approaches even to our own faith. 

Well, once again, and thanks to God, it's prayer time again

and no the blessing in Bari language

Ti Ŋun Kabulönit lo liŋ 'borone ta: Monye, Tore Mulökötyo Loké. 
   

sabato 13 febbraio 2016

20/2016 - Sunday readings comments

From now onwards on the Religious Superiors Association of South Sudan blog (www.rsasouthsudan.blogspot.com) you'll find Sunday readings comments.
They're written for us religious here in South Sudan,  but I believe they can be of general interest. They're proposed by brothers, sisters and priests alike.

Here below the first one:

First Sunday of Lent 14th February 2016


First Reading: Dt 26, 4-10
Psalm: 91, 1-2. 10-15
Second reading: Rom 10, 8-13
Gospel: Lk 4, 1-13 

In today Gospel we are called to look, once again, to what Jesus had to face in the desert where he was led by the Spirit. The temptations are just the beginning of a story which will successfully end on the Cross.
In fact, these temptations do not end in the desert,  they accompany Jesus throughout his whole life, up to when he offers himself on the Cross. Only on the Cross they are definitively destroyed. It means the Word of God is leading us towards Jerusalem and the Calvary; deciding not to follow the way of the Cross means to abandon the Word of God.
Reading the temptations without reference to Jesus' baptism might be misleading. It is in the baptism that Jesus chose to share his condition with the whole humanity and in obedience to the Father. The temptations are the consequences of that choice; they are the sign accompanying who is in the world, yet does not belong to the world. It is in the Baptism that the Father announces the mission of the Son which is not a “doing”, but to be the “beloved Son”; a condition Jesus will defend against the tempter who wants to disrupt this fundamental and primal relationship.

The dialogue with the tempter is preceded by a time of forty days; a time of discernment where “we” prepare for the fight so that to accomplish what is truly and just; so that we shall not forget who we really are; “children of God”. The core of the temptations is in fact to remove God from our horizon and they appear to us under a moral habit; they do not invite us to do evil things, but what it might appear as good. Yet, there is no good without God. As Jospeh Ratzinger wrote “there is no possibility to put some order into this world by trusting only our human forces or by recognising as necessary and just our political and material realities and leaving aside God as an illusion which which threats us in different ways”; the temptations appear as the only reality we need: power and bread; while God is forced to appear as unnecessary reality.

The question about God and his relationship with us is the core of each and every temptation. It is the big question in our own lives. What shall the Saviour of the world do or be like? This is the question underlining Jesus' temptations.

When tempted we risk to focus our attention on the aim we want to reach and we analize all pros and cons. Very often in our activities we don't need to choose between good or evil, but what is good and what appears to be good as well; the answer is not in the best outcome of our actions, but in understaing who we really are. In front of any choice we shall ask ourselves “who am I?” and the answer will be given to us by the Word of God that strengthens and confirms our sonship of the Father [cfr. Phil 2, 5s].

If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” - Lk 4, 3 – or we can read “if you are missionaries, if you are the Church of God, give bread to the poor...”; our people in South Sudan are asking this; what is our answer? Are we commanding money to become bread for the poor? Our answer has to be found in who we really are. NGOs or missionaries sent by the Church of God? [cfr. Mt 4,4].
Jesus, in his identity as the Son of God, will give himself up as the bread for the whole humanity. The request of bread is answered by the offer of his life. 
The identity of Jesus is revealed to us by the third temptations in which God is put to the test. If God is God must respect conditions which we believe necessary in order to gain certainty. And God becomes an object at our disposal. It is not the way we find God and trust in him. God is not in the outcome of our choices or actions, but rather in the motivations and reasons of our doings as an expression of who we are.

Fr. Federico ofm

May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

giovedì 11 febbraio 2016

19/2016

Last night in our house, the moon was like a bright smile in the sky!!
Years ago I was told "exams in life never end" I sort of did not believe it.

Wrong!!

Yesterday I enrolled to another - very very very short though - University Course. It's offered by my former university Antonianum in Rome and it's the very short on-line course. I'm kind of excited, especially because connecting from Juba is going to be a huge challenge. I will try it and if it works fine I will propose it to all the religious of South Sudan and the Diocese. The course is on "Christian Spirituality" and I'd like to understand better how and if "our Christian" spirituality is western-europe orientated and how it fits within the African Culture and tradition. Just yesterday I was talking to my brother Marco (here named Abuna Ladu) on how the spiritual and faith life is different here in Juba. Maybe in Rome and Assisi, with our little circles of "good" people who always attend our Masses and our proposed groups we are a bit spoiled. Here it looks far more simple. God exists and I have to pray because its good for me! That's all.
Is faith a spiritual walk? Because it seems to us that there is no journey of the Spirit here; but is it really necessary? We're told and we do and I believe that daily God's Word meditation is important. Here they don't do it. Most of them cannot read. Are they less Christian? Ah, I can't believe that. Our faith, my western Roman faith is challenged into a new journey, from the head/heart down to my feet. Yet, paradoxically, to do this I have an intellectual approach. Am I doing it wrong? Don't think so, that's just me I believe.

On the other way we shall not forget St. Paul's words: "when I was a child I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became man I gave up childish way".
So, there is a journey in our faith, but how to distinguish what is childish or mature, or what is simple and what is unnecessary over-structured?

Challenges, everything here looks to be a challenge... And we face it and we go on.
May God bless you all
Abuna Loro

martedì 9 febbraio 2016

18/2016 martedì grasso

One picture that says it all.
A small treat before Ash Wednesday!
God bless you all
Abuna Loro

giovedì 4 febbraio 2016

17/2016 - how amazing

Yes, it's amazing!!
Some times ago, just after moving into the new house, i saw a weird plant growing and climbing along our fence. It looked like a climbing cucumber, which I don't think they exist...
I asked and I was told it was a sponge  plant... What? I really thought they were teasing me, but I was wrong.
Have you seen the picture? It looks like a green cucumber, then it dries a lot, then you peal it and finally you get a very scrub effect sponge....
Africa is amazing, I've always thought natural sponges were from the sea, but they are also from one of the hottest and driest Country in the world!! 
Amazing, simply amazing!!
God bless you all
Abuna Loro

mercoledì 3 febbraio 2016

16/2016

A great and simply joy;
yes we had another day of great time. Notwithstanding the the threat of war, the deep economic crisis which affecting the Country and the daily difficulties we are called to face, we are still able to rejoice.

Yesterday, the 2nd of February, it was the feast of Consecrated life. What a gift. The priest who was celebrating Mass said "the consecrated people are the happiest people in the world"; true or not I'm happy most of the time. Some people need a reason to be happy and struggle to find it day after day; I feel I'm rather the contrary. I'm basically happy and really serene and need to find a reason to be sad, and I tell you, I'm not looking for it at all. Yes it happens; don't deny it. I feel empathy and compassion for all the people I'm spending my life with here in South Sudan, yet even the evil I witness is not strong enough (yet?) to make me feel sad. Worried, ok. Tense, ok. Preoccupied, ok. But not sad. I believe it's a grace of God and something I have also inherited from my family. My dad is the kind of person who always tried, and I'm sure he's still trying in his old age (please don't tell him I've said "old age") to give the best to us all; while my mum is the rather "get what life gives you and make the best of it" - great combination isn't it?

Back to yesterday. All the religious of Juba came to our Parish for Mass and then we had a simple supper in our compound with also Indian dancing, Kenyan singing, Eritrea dance, Italian songs and that was it. Simple, nice, peaceful. Then people rush off as it is really dangerous to be outside in the city after 20.00; but that's our life.

May God bless you all

Abuna Loro