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.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Catholic Community of Mingan, Quebec, Canada Tackles Religious Stereotypes Through Film

Fr. Ali C. NNAEMEKA, OMI, is a Nigerian Oblate from the Province of Cameroon, working in Northern Canada.

For sometime now our news reports have focused heavily on the issue of migrants coming from areas where Islamic extremists and other rebel groups are sowing disorder and terror. This reality has created a stereotypical view of Islam among our youth, especially among those with no direct contact to the Islamic world. This has caused many of them to believe that Islam is synonymous with terrorism or anti-Christian activities.

As I continue to build connections with young people in my Ministry, I have come to understand that they are more vulnerable to such nefarious social media propaganda. The reality, I discovered, is more pronounced among the young people in some of our First Nation Communities where it seems even less is known about Islam. In many cases, all they know is what the media circulates. Which means they are convinced that there can be no peaceful cohabitation between Christians and Muslims.

To counter this misinformation and provide an opportunity for our youth to have a healthy and firsthand exposure to the possibility of a peaceful relationship between Christians and Muslims, on the evening of Good Friday, Saint Georges Catholic Community of Mingan organized a film viewing and discussion event.

With the support of my Oblate brothers we hosted the screening of an historical film, Of Gods and Men. The film centers on the adventure of eight French Trappist monks in the 1990s whose monastery was located in a remote Algerian village surrounded by Muslims. Their presence among these poor villagers was so blended that they were involved in almost every aspect of the community life. They even participated in Islamic festivities and took care of both sick and poor Muslims.

Then in the early 1990s came the Algerian Civil War and a local rebel group began exhibiting menacing behavior toward the monks. As life became more threatening, the monks had to decide between abandoning the village or staying and facing the possibility of death. After a series of community gatherings they opted to remain in the village with their Muslim brethren. Though they knew they were in danger and faced a double menace, one from the government, the other from the rebel group. Their decision to stay ended tragically.

Since this was my first attempt at hosting a film event, I could not predict the community’s level of interest. So, to promote the event I utilized the Community Radio and other social media sources to circulate information to the larger public. Surprisingly 99% of our young people showed up. Before beginning the film, I discovered from preliminary discussions that many of them had no idea what the word ‘Koran’ means. So we started by discussing some basic tenets of Islam and the possibility that some Christians could sacrifice their life for their Muslim brothers and sisters.

At the end of the film, our young people came to not only know more about Islamic realities, but that it is possible to love people of a different religious group because we are all created to love one another and live in peace and harmony.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fr. Seamus Finn OMI to speak at major Laudato Si Conference in Zambia

Fr. Seamus Finn OMI will be speaking at a major Laudato Si Conference in Lusaka Zambia. Speaking at the same conference will be Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The conference is focusing on Care of our Common Home, in the Context of Large Scale Investments - Mining and Agriculture in Zambia. Drawing lessons from Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Si, the conference will discuss impacts of climate change, roles of corporations and recommendations to mitigate these impacts. 

Fr. Seamus with Cardinal Peter Turkson( front row-first left) and other participants at the Mining CEOs Conference in Rome in 2015
Fr. Seamus Finn OMI who is Chief of Faith Consistent Investing – OIP Investment Trust and a Consultant to the JPIC office will present on Laudato Si and the Social Responsibility of Corporations and join a roundtable discussion panel featuring business leaders, government representatives and civil society members.  Part of the pre-conference events include visit to the Nickel Mine Company and displaced local community.

Zambia Missionary Oblates will be also participate in the conference including Rt. Rev. Bishop Evans Chinyemba, OMI – Mongu Diocese and Bishop Director for Caritas Zambia and Fr. Kennedy Katongo OMI, General Administration JPIC Director from Rome. Caritas Zambia, Zambia Episcopal Conference and Jesuits Center for Theological Reflection are the lead sponsors of the conference.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Zambian Oblate Bishop Challenge Politicians to Serve all People, especially the Poor and Vulnerable.

Oblate Bishop Evans Chinyemba OMI of Mongu Diocese says Zambian politicians lifestyle is about amassing power and wealth and making unrealistic promises and in the process making the masses of our society powerless, poorer and live in despair. The Bishop’s challenge is contained in the Easter message. Here is the excerpt of the message.

Originally Published in Mongu Diocese Drum Beat – March 2016 Newsletter for Catholic Diocese of Mongu Zambia.

Indeed, Christ is Risen and we are glad! We are glad because in this resurrection we find the reason for our hope. What does the total sacrifice of Christ teach us about our lives today? Are there signs of this total sacrifice in our personal lives, in our communities, in our families, in our institutions, in our towns, in our constituencies, and in the country?

The heightened talk about Zambian politics leads one to ask if our participation in the political affairs of this nation has anything to do with sacrifice and service. Or rather politics has become a way of amassing power and wealth and making unrealistic promises and in the process making the masses of our society powerless, poorer and live in despair!  The teaching of Christ is clear for us. He taught in parables and in some cases taught through action. Christ continues to teach us about human salvation. 

Let me take education as an example. Today we see our political system continuing to impoverish our education system in order to have a bigger population of an uneducated people who can easily be controlled and cheated. Most of our public schools are a nightmare. Get a simple census and see if you will find the majority of the children and close relatives of our politicians in our public schools. They are either in local private schools or outside the country, leaving the child of a common woman and man struggling even to have a computer for an exam. Has our politics sacrificed enough for education! Easter is a story of light, a light that dims the ignorance of the masses.  We proclaim “Kriste Ki Liseli Luna” meaning Christ our Light. These words are proclaimed each Easter Vigil. In our context, the light of education empowers people. Why then should our politics aim at destroying our education system in so doing perpetuating the poverty of the mind?

We again pick on the example of health. For a long time now we have not put our health priorities straight. Have we planned enough for the health sector in the nation?  If our national priorities were straight and were centered on what is best for the nation, our public hospitals could have been more advanced by now. Yet what we experience is totally different. In the name of belonging to the global world, Zambians have to depend on most specialized and advanced treatment outside the county. Is this really a way to go for a nation that has been independent for more than 50 years! 

This Easter, Christ challenges us to put our priorities straight. Our national priorities should be based on what is best for the citizen and not what is best for the political elite! Herein, lays the sacrifice Christ showed his followers. Christ never sought his own wellbeing but that of His people.

Most of our political leaders have been politically weighed and found wanting. In the mind of many of our politicians, it has been observed that they operate with the concept of impoverishing the masses in order to hold them captive. We see this more and more when people seeking public office once elected, remember not their electorate. The electorate has to beg for development, which is rightly theirs. We have seen and heard situations where the electorates are forced to beg even for a toilet to be built at their markets. When did a public toilet become a way of winning votes! This culture is not an Easter culture.

This is a spirit of servitude which most of our politicians practice in order to hold captive the uninformed electorate. Pilate wanted to hold Jesus captive, yet the power of God was greater than that of Pilate. Just like Pilate, some of our politicians want to hold the electorate captive. This scheme cannot be achieved. Herod and Pilate became friends in their attempt to destroy Jesus Christ completely, so they thought. 

Many of our politicians have become friends for wrong reasons and not to bring Zambia to her glory. More and more the Zambian electorate is learning the cheating art of politics. This said, I am aware of some genuine politicians who mean well for our nation. This group of politicians who are in the minority sacrifice their time and energy to doing good for the people without counting the cost, yet they are often overwhelmed and get swallowed up by selfish politicians that are in the majority. It is up to the citizens to help selfless politicians so that they feel affirmed and not get discouraged. To our politicians, if you are one of those who are selfless and you sacrifice a lot so that the nation improves, count yourself blessed and continue to model your life on Christ, the complete oblation of God.

Easter Season is a story of humanity being liberated from the bond and chaos of sin. Easter Season is a song that is sung because of the sacrifice, which Christ Jesus made for humanity.  In Easter, Christ is our example who models the way of sacrifice, freedom, peace, forgiveness, mercy, sharing and hope. Christ does this not for his own benefit but for the whole of humanity.

Let Mary Our Mother, the Queen of the Apostles accompany us as we sacrifice our lives for others. Mary Our Mother, was present at the Resurrection of Christ, may her experiences help us to hope in the power of this event in our lives.

Happy Easter and let our rejoicing during this season be seen in our oblation.

+Bishop Evans Chinyama Chinyemba, O.M.I.
Bishop of Mongu