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Fr. Evantus is an SMA missionary who has been in South Africa for over 20 years; and that, since his ordination in 1999.
Fr. Evantus is from Nigeria. In this interview, he gives us an insight on certain certain areas of his missionary activity.

 


 Fr. Evantus, what is your experience with communicating with people in South Africa?

My experience of being a missionary here in South Africa for the past 20 years has been a very positive one. I started in 1999 by doing a language course in Setswana. It was a six-month language course. It was a very helpful introduction to the language and I was also interested in the language which was key to my learning about the culture of the Botswana people. So, I very quickly became proficient in the language and it helps me to relate well with the people.


How many languages do you now know of this place?

The three Sutu languages: Setswana, Sesutu and Sepedi are languages that I know very well because of my proficiency, starting with Setswana. And since arriving here in Sacred Heart Catholic Church here in Diepsloot, I have been learning Zulu and using it also in communicating with the people. So, you could say I speak four South African languages.

Is this because you have here a lot of people from different areas:  foreigners and South Africans?

Yes, our parish is made up of South Africans surely but also people from neighboring Zimbabwe, from Lesotho, even a few from Swaziland and then of course Malawians are here in our parish and a few Nigerians. Our language of communication here in Deepslooth are Sesutu and zulu.

I see that English is the main language of communication here for people or for foreigners but why do you think is the use of the local language important?

I would like to start with a quotation by the late uh beloved president Nelson Mandela who said and I quote: if you speak to a man in the language that he understands it goes to his head, but if you speak to him in his own language, it goes to his heart. And that in a way encapsulates the essence of what we do as missionaries when we learn a language; we want to communicate to the heart of people because the gospel and the good news when it is proclaimed and shared and lived amongst the people is meant to take root and deep roots in the hearts of the people among whom we work.

So, what encouraged you to take time to study all these languages in South Africa?

I generally like languages. I was keen on communicating with people, learning about their culture to be one with them. There is a saying in Setswana and also in Zulu which says that a person is a person through other people. It is by being one with the people that I found here that I was able to integrate the society and make it a second home.