Posts Tagged ‘Africa’
Jesuit Father Gary Smith has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to serving the poor, including the last dozen in African refugee camps in Uganda, South Africa and Kenya. He says that working with the poor in U.S. cities, such as Portland, Tacoma and Oakland, prepared him for his work with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Africa.
“It gave me a viewpoint of how the church had moved toward the poor. All the personalities you find on the streets prepare you for all the personalities you find in the camps. Human beings are human beings,” Fr. Smith says.
Now back in the states, Fr. Smith recently spoke with The Oregonian about why he’s drawn to Africa: “There are the poor and there are the poor. My experience in the refugee camp is that people there have no address, no money, no documents. The degree of poverty is very different.”
Fr. Smith also discussed working with refugees from other faiths. He said working with Muslims was not difficult. “They believe in the absolute, the creator. They want help discerning how God is moving in their lives,” he says. “They saw me as a father, someone who wanted to listen to them very attentively. These students knew the Quran, and they rejected extremists out of hand.”
Fr. Smith also spent time helping refugee students work on an online diploma program through Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, which is run by Jesuit universities and JRS. “When you work with really bright refugees who want nothing more than to be a man and a woman for others, there is a great sense of accomplishment in that,” Fr. Smith says.
To read the complete interview with Fr. Smith, visit The Oregonian website.
Two African Jesuits completing their doctorates in health care at Georgetown spoke to students, faculty and staff last week about their plans to return to the country to help their communities.
The talk, “Jesuits in Africa: The Hope of International Development” was part of Jesuit Heritage Week, which began on Jan. 29 and ran through Feb. 4.
“Jesuits are working in 28 out of 54 African countries today,” noted Jesuit Father Rodrigue Takoudjou.“We African Jesuits clearly perceive health care and education as priorities in our ministries.”
Fr. Takoudjuou, of Cameroon, is getting his Ph.D. in pharmacology, plans to teach at a Jesuit medical school in Chad.
One of the main health care issues that Jesuits are helping combat in Africa is HIV/AIDS, mostly through organizations such as The African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN).
“AJAN’s mission is to stimulate and coordinate the work of African Jesuits in responding to HIV and AIDS in an effective, coordinated and evangelical manner, culturally sensitive and spiritually grounded,” he explained. “The African Jesuits are involved in more than 100 HIV/AIDS initiatives throughout the continent.”
Fellow panelist Jesuit Father Jean-Baptiste Mazarati, of Rwanda, will teach at the state medical school in his country when he graduates with a doctorate in tumor biology in 2012.
“Africa stands in the world as a big question mark. So who will answer that question?” Mazarati said. “It is a question of endemic poverty. It is a question of endemic disease. It is a question of endemic conflicts. It is a question of lack of leadership. …It is a question of a continent that holds so much richness, yet is struggling to take off.”
Africa also has a large population of children, he said, so there is a strong need for educational advancements.
Jesuits are sending Rwandan priests around the world to seek higher education in the sciences, social sciences and development “to make sure that tomorrow we come back to Rwanda stronger,” and ready to teach, Mazarati said.
Carol Lancaster, dean of the School of Foreign Service, moderated the event. Katherine Marshall, a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, also participated in the panel discussion.
“Jesuits have made such a contribution to this university and to the world,” Lancaster said.
The Jesuits’ personal stories of mission and ministry in Africa enlightened, yet posed more questions for some in the audience.
“The intersection between religion and African development is an extremely interesting field that must be further explored to fully understand the challenges and hopes of development,” said Vivian Ojo, who helped organize the event with Mariana Santos.
“The Jesuits provided some answers to some of the most difficult questions [plaguing Africa],” Ojo added. “I left the conversation with a desire to search for more answers about a topic not often explored.”
Jesuit Father A.E. Orobator, provincial of the Society of Jesus is Eastern Africa, sat down with National Jesuit News via video chat to discuss the needs and the efforts of his group while working with those most affected by the ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa.
The Jesuits are responding to this humanitarian crisis in two ways: immediate food assistance and long-term projects. According to the UN, more than 12 million people are in need of emergency assistance, primarily in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Check out our video interview with Fr. Orobator below.
The Jesuits pray for all those suffering from drought, hunger, displacement and famine in the Horn of Africa and are grateful for your ongoing prayers and support.
Serving in Zambia on sabbatical in 1989 had a life-changing affect on Jesuit Father Peter Henriot. “Working in a village development project with local people and doing simple tasks did almost more for my education than all the other learning I gathered while studying and working in the United States. And at the end of that year, the people there gave me the best gift – the desire to stay.”
And for the next 21 years that’s exactly what Fr. Henriot was able to do, having joined the Zambia-Malawi Province (transferring from the Oregon Province) while working with the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia after having spent the previous 16 years with Center of Concern in Washington, D.C. And, then in 2010, he was assigned to another purpose – to help establish Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (LJSS) in Malawi.
Although it is a country rich in natural resources, Malawi, whose nickname is “The Warm Heart of Africa,” continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of human development. It ranks a somber 153 out of 169 on the United Nations Human Development Index, which is largely caused by lack of educational opportunities for its youth.
“There simply is no future for Malawi without better education for the young people,” Henriot states.
More than one million people live in Nairobi’s squatter community of Kibera, including 30,000 orphans of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Recently, Chicago Public Media spoke with Jesuit Father Global Terry Charlton, co-founder of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a unique Catholic high school designed specifically for young people affected by HIV and AIDS in the Kibera slums.
In 2001, as Charlton visited people suffering from AIDS, he kept hearing a repeated concerns for the children of those suffering, primarily about the child’s ongoing education.
“There is free universal primary education in Kenya, but all secondary education, including at the government schools is for a cost, and a cost that would be far beyond the means of these people mired in poverty because of their illness, not able to hold jobs and that sort of thing. So in 2003 our school decided to sponsor 12 of their children for freshman year of high school,” said Father Charlton.
Working to help more children in the same situation, Charlton opened a school for 25 students in 2004. Through the support of many people from around the World, plus a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Government, they have been able to build a school that now accommodates 280 students.