Monday, October 5, 2009

LETTER / Rose from Uganda: Africa needs the “madness of God"

Rose Busingye is the Director of Meeting Point International (MPI), an NGO located in a suburb of Kampala where HIV infected people and their families are given care and support. Rose wrote a letter is very happy to publish.

The title of the African Synod is "The Church in Africa in the service of reconciliation, justice and peace." The fulfillment of this program depends on the whole heart of Africans and their education.

Christ came, the question is to see that this changes everything: it changes the way I treat myself and how I behave with others and with things. The issue is that of belonging to Him. Belonging means to be preferred, it means that someone has wanted me. This supersedes all the differences that we have, whether of tribes, politics or other vested interests.

Truly peace for Africa depends on the encounter between the human heart and Christ. This is because belonging to Christ more than belonging to the tribal group puts the latter in the right place, with the proper value. But this happens only if the faith penetrates the deepest layers of humanity, where the criteria for the perception of things are formed. Then this belonging becomes the strength of an “I”, and the person becomes free and a protagonist.

For this to happen, education is fundamental. The African has a very strong religious sense and a strong sense of belonging, but these must be educated. One must be educated to understand that the fulfilment is already with us, the answer is already present, and not a magic spell or a sentimental way of believing that makes it happen.

The African has an exalted religious sense; there is not an African who is not aware of depending on something higher, who does not have this sense of dependence on something. He calls it "Spirit" or some other name, looks for it in magic, but cannot live without having something to depend upon. No African would ever say, as many Europeans do, "I was born, now I'm here and that's all." No: the African has always lived the question of origin.

The encounter which is missing

The problem is that most Africans, and even most Christians, cannot testify to an encounter in which one heard: "It is I you are seeking." Because too often Christ has not been presented as something that is already present in us, but as something that comes from outside. So today many African scholars are saying that the Christian God has been imported by the whites and that Christianity is not reconciled with the identity and culture of Africa.

For me and many of my friends it is not so, because the way in which we were introduced to Christianity through the person of Don Luigi Giussani and those who followed him was different. It is as if we were told: "Everything you've been looking for in your minds, in magic, it is already present, it is that which has made you, which gave birth to you, which makes you breathe. And I will tell you his name. Instead it's like so many Africans have been told by those who presented Christianity to them: "Put away all idols, all your things, I have brought God to you, I have brought Christ to you." As if Christ were a property. But Christ does not possess anyone like that, he comes in the way he wills, as he draws them to him, coming to every man in this world.

Magic, the spirits and daily life

The consequence of not presenting Christ as something that is in you, but as something that comes from outside, means that ultimately, for many, there is a white God and a God of the African. And when there is a difficulty, an illness, even Christians sometimes look toward the God of Africa and say: " Maybe it’s because of the spirits." So they go to the ones that you Europeans call "sorcerers". They fill their minds with fear. Sorcerers terrorize them, their minds are filled with reactions that come from fear, and they themselves are convinced that to heal themselves their mind must be tortured and filled with beliefs that result from their fear.

Even the sects that blend Christianity with the spirits, those so-called "saved", by following the same method of the sorcerers, they produce agitation and suggestion in the mind, convince you that the presence of God or the good spirits are related to magic, and that everything in life can be obtained through magic. This is a God who tells you: “I can get you everything through magic. " But this is not a God who enters into your normal life, who lives your life with you, who carries it with you. This is a God of psychological suggestion: at the end of the prayer you feel healed, but the next day you're worse off than before.

But God is this tenderness which has come into the world, who took pity on us and touches us all here. This is what Benedict XVI has expressed in his three encyclicals, especially in Deus Caritas Est, where he describes God's infinite love: “the divine madness," he wrote. The peace and reconciliation born of this experience of God: God has made me, for I was nothing and I am nothing, but he has taken me as I am, and in my everyday life.

What follows naturally is to say: "I want to participate in this madness of God, in this being of God." This thing, in time, means that I no longer get angry over the sins of others, for the injustices that the other has done to me and to other people. In the experience of divine love, there is no longer any meaning in my measuring my sins, and those of others. Over time this produces serenity and the desire that my encounter with every human being be with tenderness, not an effort or repeating words or trying to be better than the others.

Those who arrive here in Kampala are girls from tribes hostile to mine, young people who fought or who were child soldiers. I should be afraid of or feel contempt for them. But these things do not affect me any more, for me they are loved and willed by God, and they continually need to be loved and desired. If they do need to eat, I give them to eat; if they need medicine, I give them medicine. When they arrive I welcome them, like all other children, not by judging whether or not they have stolen or killed. They belong to Christ, and therefore they also belong to me.

Reprinted from Il.Sussidiario.

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."