It is easy to identify with the person who says, in Sr. Evelyn Matterns account, Africa is off my mental map.
Africa is such an enormous and varied reality that it is easy to push it off into the pile of geo-political clutter one always intends to catch up on. The catching up, however, usually only occurs in explosive or desperate moments when the stories, about vicious killing or awful starvation, finally push their way onto Page 1.
So it is good, in a moment of relative calm, to take in Africa a bit at a time, to realize, as Mattern puts it, how profoundly connected we are. We remain connected through the astounding work of people like Sr. Teresanne Fornasero, who has worked in the austere outpost of Wajir in northeast Kenya for 25 years.
Life in such places always holds an edge of danger, and the danger sometimes blossoms into terror and death, as was the case with Comboni Fr. Raffaele Di Bari, killed in Unganda Oct. 1, and Br. Antonio Bargiggia, shot and killed in Burundi Oct. 3.
Bargiggia, a Jesuit Refugee Service worker in Burundi, lived the life of the poorest of the poor in an area of Buterere. Last May he wrote a reflection on his work.
We have many neighbors, nearly all Muslims, with whom we get on very well, and they help us as much as we help them, he wrote. Its not that we actually do much for them in the sense of addressing their needs, but we share in their joys, their sorrows, and in their times of fear and anguish.
In words that become particularly poignant in light of recent Vatican declarations, Bargiggia explained, All this unites us and brings down the barriers that can exist between black and white, between one religion and another. I am -- quite simply -- a resident in Buterere who goes to the well for water and who runs away with the people in the night when the shooting comes.
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National Catholic Reporter, October 13, 2000