Sunday 14 April 2019

Displaced and living "like wild animals' – a neglected place where only the Church is visible

Delivering supplies

Archbishop Thabo travels to an isolated area in the Diocese of Niassa where there are no NGOs, no post-Cyclone Idai assistance and where the plea is for "comido" (food):

DAY THREE: At 6:40 am Bishop Vicente gathers eight of his clerics and church wardens to join us for Morning Prayer. We are later joined by two cathecists, and afterwards pay a courtesy call on the district governor, as has become the norm.

Then we drive to the marketplace to buy seed and rice, as we did last week in Sofala Province when I visited the Diocese of Lebombo. As in Sofala, I learnt that solidarity has to be accompanied with food. The marketplace is busy and when the vendor realizes we are buying in bulk and for what cause, he gives us a good discount.

The last 50 km of the 275 km of the drive to Morrumbala can't be called a road – we took almost half the amount of time we took on the previous 225 km. Morrumbala  is far from the convenience of NGOs and proves the notion that the Church is visible where no one else dares to be present. No one here has received the attenion given to districts which have received outside assistance from the NGOs – neither tents, food nor medication has been provided. Those displaced have built small huts with sticks and straw. “Comida” (food) is all they want, one says, “we are displaced and live here like wild animals with absolutely nothing.”

PHOTO ESSAY: The Church ministers where nobody else dares to be present>> 

Though this area is very isolated and has been struck by Cyclone Idai, coming from Makgoba's Kloof and Cape Town I could not miss being struck by the topography and beauty of this place. We are in the forest, amid thick, lush bush, ravines, hills and mountains – a rarity in the bulk of Mozambique so far.

We make our first stop at Aqua Kente, which hot sulfur springs at the foot of Maramba Mountain. We are met by the local ruler, Queen Rosa Mamwenda, who is a delight and loved by her people. It was refreshing for me that there is at least one reigning queen among all the male chiefs that we have met at each village so far.

We engage her and her subjects, listen to their story, share encouragement from Scripture and share seeds and rice with the village committee and the queen to distribute according to their system. We visit two more villages, Megaza and another. The key feature everywhere is that we are welcomed – and bid farewell – warmly in song and dance. Even in pain and total loss, the gift that they have not lost, nor are prepared to lose, is their song, dance and their hope.

Another disturbing, and very sensitive, matter is the number of young children who have their own children. Everywhere, there are countless children. I didn't see a school or similar centre in Morrumbala. It is clear that the cyclone is rewriting the history of these people of God – all of a sudden sparse rural villages are becoming concentrated townships because of relocation. These agrarian communities will soon lose their identity, the safety of village life and who knows, their rivers may be exploited to supply others so they end up short of water in these upland settlements. I wish we could at least build a primary school in  Morrumbala.

After thanking the members of our team, we travel the 275 km back to Quelimane. There we prepare to say goodbye, but also to take the longings and prayers of God‘s people to God in prayer as I say Compline and the Examen, examining my conscience. When grafted into the situations such as those I have experienced in these days, I realise there is much I can de-clutter and so live more simply.

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