Oblate Voices is a JPIC blog that follows stories of hope and is about how Oblates and associates live and experience mission work in the spirit of the Oblate founder, St Eugene De Mazenod of responding to the needs of poor and most abandoned around the world.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Reflecting on Soweto Looting: Suffer Little Children

By Fr. Zweli Mlotshwa OMI, South Africa

Fr. Zweli OMI reflects on recent January 2015 tragic loss of lives and looting of shops owned by foreigners in Soweto, South Africa.  
Fr. Zweli is currently working in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, South Africa.

The revolution devours its children, in many a society the children are the direct victims of social upheaval and dis-functionality.  In 1976 Soweto children in South Africa went on the rampage to protest about the government system of poor education for Black children; police responded by shooting live ammunition; the youngest and first victim of the protest was one Hector Peterson, he was only 13 years old.

In the 1980s   the social and political scenario was on fire; children once again were devoured by the chaos. One child Stomie Moekesti became a symbol of the devoured children. The police detained him when he was only 12 years old. He became a member of the infamous Mandela United Football club, but he did not play soccer. Instead the group was known more as the bodyguard of Mrs. Nelson Mandela. It is this same group that is alleged to have killed him because he was accused of and suspected to be a police informant.  His little dead body was found in the open field where rubbish is dumped, he was only 4 years.

Incidence of stigma and discrimination towards people with HIV/AIDS has decreased in South Africa, but this was not always the case. Nkosi Johnson is I think a symbol of children and people who suffered discrimination. He was born with HIV 1989 when he came to the public eye around 1997, he became known as the longest surviving child born with HIV.

"Care for us and accept us — we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, we have needs just like everyone else — don't be afraid of us — we are all the same!"   These are the words he said responding to the stigma faced by those affected by the disease. He died in 2001,  he was only 12 years old.

The 22nd of January 2015 will be the day when most people of Soweto will remember with shame. It was reported in the news that an informal shop owner shot and killed a 14-year-old boy who together with his friends attempted to rob him. The shop owner case is under police investigation.

The death of the child sparked a ripple effect series of violence and looting. People and especially young people responded by looting and harassing shops and informal mini marts owned by foreign nationals especially who have become the leading owners of shops in most South African townships. The whole of Soweto stood on edge as people watched children going wild looting shops and causing general mayhem.

South Africa Law enforcement are reported to have said that some people have arrested in connection with looting of foreign-owned shops in Soweto, among are Children who will appear in court. People arrested are accused of public violence and custody of stolen property after looting incidents in Soweto.

Catholic Bishops in South Africa have condemned the looting, burning of shops in Soweto and call on the people involved not to allow themselves to be incited to such destruction.

Below is the Bishops statement about Soweto:

Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC)

"The Roman Catholic Bishops meeting in Pretoria condemns the looting, burning of shops and businesses in Soweto and call on the people involved not to allow themselves to be incited to such destruction.

To those who encourage and benefit from such looting we say that you are not only destroying buildings but the moral life of young people and the very name of our country. It is tragic that people have lost their lives and we extend our prayers to their families. To our brothers and sisters whose businesses and livelihoods have been destroyed we reach out to you in sincere sympathy. What has happened to you deeply disturbs us and we call on all Catholic and Christian communities and leaders to offer you all the practical help which they can muster.

We call on all parents in a special way to step in and offer guidance to their children and to all young people involved. We call upon all our faithful to offer full support, co-operation and information necessary to the police and community leaders in their defence of those who have been victimised. We assure the victims of our prayers. We want to say that this behaviour is not typical or acceptable by the majority of the Southern African people."
 Issued at Pretoria, St. John Vianney Seminary, 23rd January 2015

This reflection is not a debate of foreign nationals in the country but a lamentation of the suffering of children during social upheaval. It is important that South Africans take a step back and ask themselves, the root causes which is driving these children to act in this manner.  

These children are a symbol of how in a dysfunctional society children become the not just the collateral damage but actually become the target itself. There are children who are forced to be soldiers, carrying guns bigger than their growing shoulders, strapping bombs in their little bodies and fighting systems much bigger than them. These children continue to shame us the adults because they reveal how we continue to fail as a society, how we fail not only to protect them but actually send them to solve our adult problems.    

Friday, January 23, 2015


By Fr. Ali C Nnaemeka, O.M.I.

Charlie Hebdo: They were journalists who stood for free speech. May their souls rest in Eternal Peace. May our Lord bless and comfort their families during this time of grief.
Join in prayer for the safe return of the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped from their school, separated from their families. We pray for their safety, swift rescue and return to their homes. To the grieving parents and families, comfort them in their distress and hear our prayers for their beloved daughters
The terrible and dreadful terrorist attack of last week that killed founder of Charlie Hebdo and 11 others is  the most notorious of its kind this year. It was an incident that future generations should never forget.
However, the situation provokes an important question: Did the perpetrators of the dastardly act succeed in silencing Charlie Hebdo? The answer is obvious, because in killing those journalists, the terrorists ended up resurrecting thousands of other ‘Charleys’. And since their death, « Je suis Charlie » has become the new slogan of all those who believe in freedom of expression.
     From Paris to Montréal, from Élysée to the White House, from the Imam of Paris to the Pope, etc. Condemnations poured in over the contemptible act by the terrorists.
      In 2014, I, the northern Nigerian Charleys, died more than 3500 times. More than 250 of my young girls were kidnapped, without the world organising an international summit on terrorism. Another innumerable ‘Charlies’ were been massacred by the members of Boko Haram at Baga in Northern Nigeria.  
     While I am being battered and burned, my Nigerian president and his political opponents are roaming the country, well armed, in 2015 electoral campaigns.
While I am dying, all the Nigerian politicians’ are interested in is going about promising Nigerians fake roads to construct, an utopic peace to create, still-non-realisable security they would provide, invisible schools to be constructed, etc.
Even my compatriots and the religious leaders are not concerned with my situation. What matters most for them is which presidential candidate is from their tribe, or is a member of their religious group.
Yet, Je suis aussi Charlie! 
     I am really Charley! How would I not be Charley when I see that African presidents, just like their fellow western presidents, have finally realised that terrorism is an evil to be eliminated?
    The presence of six African Presidents in Paris during the solidarity rally offers me some hope that maybe these leaders can now do more to help stop massacres in Nigeria.
    I am Charley and I die every day in Northern Nigeria and even if no one speaks about it, I will always remain Charlie. Je suis aussi Charlie! 
Fr. Ali C Nnaemeka, O.M.I
Mani-Utenam, (Québec)


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"This shelter has saved my life" one migrant said. Oblate JPIC Director Visit a Shelter for Migrants in Saltillo, Mexico

Recently, Oblate JPIC Director Fr. Ponce Antonio OMI traveled to the city of Salitllo, Mexico, to meet with the director of a shelter for migrants, Alberto Xicotecatl Carrasco and his staff.

The purpose of the visit was to discuss about upcoming workshop on migration between the Oblates from the Mexican Province, in collaboration with the Oblate JPIC Office in Washington D.C

This workshop is going to take place at the end of January in the town of Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico.

In the shelter, “Refugio para Migrantes Belen”, I had the opportunity not only to meet the staff and some of the volunteers but also many migrants who were staying during  my visit. This shelter has saved my life”, said one migrant I met there. 

This is place is been a refuge for hundreds of migrants for many years now”, said to me Fr. Pedro Pantoja, the spiritual director of the shelter. “Here we help our brothers and sister by providing them with humanitarian aid, medical services, legal services etc”., added Fr. Pedro.   

For more information about “Refugio para Migrantes Belen”, please visithttp://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1101357.htm

Friday, January 2, 2015

We are One Family Under God: National Migration Week 2015 - January 4 to 10

United States Catholic National Migration Week 2015 will take place January 4–10 under the theme; “We are One Family Under God.” 
The theme brings to mind the importance of family in our daily lives. 

This reminder is particularly important when dealing with the migration phenomenon, as family members are too often separated from one another.

National Migration Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness in our Oblate communities, missions, institutions and parishes about the hardships faced by migrants, including children, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

Migrants –including children, immigrants, refugees, and victims of human trafficking– are our spiritual brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration. “They often find themselves isolated, alone and separated from family, their ability to live out their lives in fullness severely restricted. Often family members are separated from one another because of deportation, detention, or related immigration laws that inhibit family reunification.

Resources for National Migration Week 2015http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/national-migration-week/index.cfm