Praying with the Pope -- June 2009 -- Missionary Intention
That local Church communities serving areas torn by violence may be supported through the love and concrete signs of nearness offered by Catholics from around the world.
The generally peaceful elections this year underlined how South Africa has changed. In the late 1980s and early 90s in the blood-soaked run-up to the elections of 1994, I was in a rural parish in Natal in an 'area torn by violence'. A woman I knew was badly disfigured when she had petrol poured over her and was set alight. I saw a young boy who had been hit in the face with a shotgun blast and whose mother had been killed. Two daughters of an employee were both murdered in a single attack. The son of a Eucharistic minister was shot in the back and died after a few days.
In such a situation you feel fearful, confused, helpless and isolated. The isolation is perhaps the worst aspect and that is why you crave the understanding and support of people outside the situation. I remember an immense sense of gratitude when Archbishop Hurley came to visit. When the Australian Foreign Minister came to assess the situation with an international delegation, this was also tremendously encouraging. That the eyes of the world were watching our remote and powerless place was a comfort in itself. It also held out the hope that the violent would hold off because of a fear of eventually being held to account. Journalists, too, were good to see around because they also broadcast the plight of the people.
I would have to say that the support from the Church abroad was somewhat disappointing. I think that this was because, like many organisations outside the country, the Church was still in 'boycott mode' and did not understand that now was the moment to get involved rather than stand back, because a suffering people needed their direct and immediate help.
There are many places in the world today which are going through their own pre-1994 experiences. Some are our neighbours. Of all people, we South Africans, should remember them prayerfully and practically.
(This article originally appeared in THE SOUTHERN CROSS of South Africa (www.scross.co.za)