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VnewsMWelcome back once again to this edition of SMA International News. We will cover events surrounding the conflict of Central African Republic; then we will look at the ongoing developments on the issue of human trafficking; and we willl have a look at the celebration of Ash Wednesday and lent in Ireland in the context of Covid-19.

 

Central African Republic

We go to central Africa where we hear about armed rebel groups took an offensive against the regime of the re-elected president Faustin-Archange Touadéra. They carried out two attacks in the gates of Bangui on the 13th of January before they were finally repulsed by the army.

 
Armed rebel groups on the offensive against the regime of the newly re-elected Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, carried out two attacks on the gates of Bangui on last Wednesday January 13, but were quickly repulsed by the army. Return on this dark day.

It is 6 am when the rebel groups enter the Central African Republic capital on January 13, 2021. The streets that once were strewn with people were all empty, giving way to a most frightening scenario with the coming and going of military convoys. It was in this atmosphere that the inhabitants of Bangui woke up, including the fathers of the SMA present in the capital.

 

Fr. Eric Yapi Yapi:

My first big meeting in the Central African Republic was the attack of January 13 when the rebels had infested our neighborhood, surrounded the police barrier; and simultaneously launched three attacks on the city of Bangui.

At 6 o'clock the fighting had already started. We were ready to celebrate the Eucharist; the Christians, the faithful were already in the church.

After five/ten minutes the shooting continued and were even intensifying. All the Christians in the church were not focus on the Mass and each one shuddered or jumped at the shots of the rifles, the shots of heavy weapons. The Eucharistic celebration really took place in this fear. We experienced this situation in fear; I lived it in fear and the others, the Christians, lived it both in fear and in exasperation. They were tired of seeing that every ten years, every five years, there is a coup d’état to change power. They were tired of losing their property; because every coup was followed by looting and destruction. The people were as much afraid as tired.

After that day, the neighborhood, the parish, emptied itself of its members, of its population. People fled; they left the neighborhood; because it is a sensitive area infested with rebels. We have lost about half of our population. But thanks to God things are calm, the city has been completely secured and we continue to pray that the military and its allies can now secure the whole country.

It was not only a difficult experience for the inhabitants of the capital, or for the SMA priests working there, but it was also for the entire society of African Missions.

 

Fr. Justin Kette:

 

There was a remarkable surge of solidarity; because I have had calls from many confreres around the world; of SMA confreres who tried to call and sent messages of comfort, support, asking for news from us. And even more, there were also confreres who took the trouble to really try to understand how we live here, how we do things, the roads blocked; it shows that the confreres are sensitive to all that we are going through here and I want to thank them for that; and that is also the SMA, that is also the church, thank you.

As ever, and tirelessly, security and peace must be looked for and maintain for the well-being of the inhabitants of this country who have suffered too much.

 

Human Trafficking

 

Responding to the gospel called to love one another as I have loved you, which is central to our catholic faith respecting the inherent dignity of every human person that is made in the image and likeness of god; we know that this is a core principle of catholic social teaching so now we will look at an issue where both his love and respect and human dignity are denied there are more people enslaved today.

There are more people enslaved today that in the entire 400 period of the transatlantic slave trade. To highlight this sad fact, to raise awareness and to encourage Christians everywhere to act against Human Trafficking the Church has designated the 8th of Feb each year as International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.

This day is also the Feast of St. Bakhita who herself was sold into slavery for many years. Pope John Paul II canonized Ste. Bakhita on 1 October 2000. During the ceremony he referred to her as “an example of faith and forgiveness to us all and a source of hope for those who are in any form of slavery or who need to find peace, forgiveness and reconciliation in their lives.”

Gerry Forde – SMA Justice Officer:

 

Globally, Human Trafficking is actually increasing – you would expect that in this modern day and age things would be getting better but the opposite is true. For example, in 2013 the ILO - the International Labor Organization estimated that around the world there were 27 million human beings who had been trafficked and were living in slavery. Roll forward to 2020 – just 7 years later and this estimate has gone up to a staggering 40.3 million people. It’s estimated 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labor exploitation. Nearly 70 percent of victims are female and many are children.

To mark World Day of Prayer Against Human Trafficking Catholic Parishes and organisations all around the world participated in special Prayers and Services for victims and also held events to highlight this issue and the need to act against, what Pope Francis has called “an open wound on the body of society and a crime against humanity.

Gerry Forde – SMA Justice Officer:

Beginning the week before the Feast of St. Bakhita the OLA and the SMA here in Ireland cooperated in the publication of a series a series of articles and prayers via their websites and social media platforms. They also hosted a Webinar called Human Trafficking: Ireland’s Reality: https://youtu.be/YPWnFILeWqM

These aimed to inform people of the reality of Human Trafficking and that it is everywhere – it is in every country around the world including Ireland. We should also be aware that many of the things we buy and use every day – perhaps our mobile phones, computers, foods such as fish and chocolate and even the clothes we wear – may have been produced by victims of trafficking who are working as slaves.

Victims of human trafficking suffer greatly and we can and should support them through our Prayers. But we can do more also – Firstly we a have a duty to inform ourselves - to make ourselves aware of this issue. Secondly, we can be more careful when we choose to buy something; and thirdly, we can support the campaigns and activities of organizations that work to combat Human Trafficking.

 

Ireland

 

So, what would happen if you were mailed the ashes on Ash Wednesday so that you could celebrate the beginning of lent in the context of Covid-19. This is what happened in the SMA parish in Wilton in Ireland so that people could celebrate the beginnings of lent in their own homes.

Churches in Ireland have been facing great challenges during the lockdown period and the restrictions necessary during the global pandemic but as we move into the Lenten period parishes like Walton in cork in Ireland have become creative in their approach to the traditions of lent.

 

Breanndán Ó Gréilligh – School Principal:

 

Lent is upon us! what I’m going to do is bring some palms up to the church families and children from the school will do the same thing they'll bring their palms up I’m going to pass them to father Michael and to tom the caretaker and they will burn them and transform them into ashes up there they'll be packaged and distributed by the ladies of the parish through envelopes etc.

 

Fr. Michael O’Leary – Parish Priest of Wilton Parish, Cork - Ireland:

 

The COVID-19 epidemic has been a challenge to us as to how we would undertake the ritual of Ash Wednesday this little exercise has been an interesting experience and challenge to bring the ashes to our people now that we've asked them to apply it in their own homes repent and believe the gospel amen.



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