jueves, 6 de febrero de 2014

Remembering the Forgotten, Giving Hope an Epiphany Journey

By: Felicia Marie Ng

On a balmy Saturday morning, in the last days of Christmas just before the culmination of the season in the Feast of Epiphany on 5 January 2014, friends, family and well-wishers gathered together on the premises of the Good Shepherd Convent Restful Waters in Singapore to traverse in spirit together as a community to Kolwezi in Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), a forgotten place on a far side of the world in Africa.

The voyage began with the familiar tribal drum beats of the song, 'Feed the World' by Band Aid as the soundtrack to a video prepared by Jane Marie Ng, a Good Shepherd mission partner.
As the images of the conditions in Kolwezi unfolded gradually from an aerial to ground view to reveal the harsh and arid geographical landscape, and then to capture the faces of individuals comprising the local community in Kolwezi, the lyrics of the soundtrack became increasingly haunting and its message could no longer be buried in the folds of a catchy pop tune. 

Sr Susan Chia rgs, representing the Good Shepherd Mission Development Office and Good Shepherd International Justice and Peace Office, opened the session by addressing us from a tender place in her heart space, sharing very poignantly her compassion for the marginalised women and children in the community in Kolwezi, and the rejuvenating hope that this outreach project to Kolwezi gave to her in a phase of her life journey in a different direction. Calling to mind that the Epiphany is the feast of the manifestation of God to humanity, she invited us to recognise Jesus among the poor, marginalised, lost and broken in Kolwezi.

Morene Sim, Chairperson of Good Shepherd Convent Restful Waters, gave a presentation to outline the key demographics of DR Congo, its primary industry of small-scale subsistence mining of minerals such as cobalt, copper and manganese, and the significant realities and struggles in daily living faced by its people. This presentation helped to set the context for us to understand that we have a closer connection to DR Congo in a way we never fathomed before.
Each time that we play with our shiny electronic gadgets or use one of the many home appliances that we
rely on to make our lives easier or more comfortable, are we aware of or do we give much thought to the plight of the miners in DR Congo?

They are exposed to toxic and hazardous material such as uranium and mercury that are used to extract minerals during mining, the bones and muscles of child miners are permanently deformed and damaged, miners risk falling down open mine shafts, being trapped or injured by collapsing tunnels, or drowning while mining underwater, while working constantly waist-deep in corrosive acidic water they are prone to diseases and infections.

Sr Margaret Lee rgs, then shared her personal experience of the mission in DR Congo. We listened riveted by her recount of the children of Kolwezi being so poor and hungry that they ate sand to fill their stomachs.
Sand not even freely available to eat; it had to be bought in the markets. We learnt about efforts by the locals in Kolwezi to help each other by building a community gathering space for the Good Shepherd Sisters to carry out some of their programs, only for these thatched mud-brick huts to be dissolved and swept away when the floods of the wet seasons arrived.
It has been said that true compassion is not just an emotional response, but a firm commitment founded on reason. The Good Shepherd Mission Development Office has conducted a thorough needs analysis on the community in Kolwezi and the Good Shepherd Mission has drawn up several key programs to be implemented in Kolwezi.

Going beyond feeding the physical hunger of the people today, the vision of the Good Shepherd Mission is to empower the community in Kolwezi to achieve self-sustainability.
Programmes such as the Sewing Centre, Centre for Women, Fish Hatchery and Farming will teach life skills, give viable employment and offer an alternative means of livelihood to the people of Kolwezi.

Questions were fielded from the floor after the presentation and the audience proved to be feisty, often firing challenging questions for the Good Shepherd Sisters and mission partners.
This proved that their hearts had been roused and stirred into wanting to do more. The gathering of friends over delicious home-cooked food and wonderful fellowship that ensued after the very symbolic Epiphany journey to Kolwezi was equally beautiful.
As many of us present at Restful Waters reflect on how we got to know each other and became friends, we find that it is the sharing of God's love that has brought us together.
This great love sustains us in all that we do, and connects us in very powerful ways. 

We have been blessed by God with His love and many other graces in our lives. We often give thanks for the tangible ones that we can see and count with our limited human comprehension.
Yet God's blessings upon us are boundless and given freely in ways beyond the grasp of our vision and reason. But when we know that "there's a world outside [our] window, and it’s a world of dread and fear, where the only water flowing is a bitter string of tears, and the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom", what do we do? With knowledge of the extent of suffering in a community like Kolwezi, do we, like in the lyrics of the soundtrack, just "thank God it's them instead of [us]", and then look the other way? Here is what we need to do – share about the Good Shepherd Mission in Kolwezi so that more people will have awareness. In so doing, we are really spreading the Good News gospel of Jesus, and responding to our call as Christians to be the compassion of God and to share His love.

May the tender parts of our hearts connect with those of the people in Kolwezi, and as we recognize our fragility and weakness, may we be reminded of our shared humanity as children of God. And carrying this epiphany in our hearts - a blessing from God no doubt - may we then yearn to help our brothers and sisters in Kolwezi to achieve the universal dream of a better tomorrow.

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario