John Kirwan mhm, DR Congo
Cistercian Abbey Koningsoord: Resurrection
AN EASTER TO REMEMBER – in the D.R.C.
Choosing what to write about isn’t easy…. so why don’t I just tell you about Easter Sunday 2010? After having presided at a vibrant Holy Thursday liturgy in Basankusu town’s second church, and a moving Good Friday liturgy in the cathedral, I went to Mpoma Lodjingo in the neighbouring parish of Bonkita, prepared for a joyful Easter Sunday Mass in the simple village chapel.
Well! About a mile from the village I rode my motorbike past a small group of people carrying a dead child, a two and a half year old girl. The surface joy of Easter was squelched, to be replaced by a search in faith for meaning and hope. In the village people hurried over to the family in mourning and the carpenters went past to make the little coffin; (in this climate the dead must be buried within a day). As I waited, I reflected angrily on the local situation: far too many children are dying round here; and too many others suffer from malnutrition, and lack basic medical care and a decent education – signs of the rampant poverty in what should be a rich country….
Eventually quite a number of the community came for the Easter Mass, and to pray for the family. Their little girl, baptized Marianne, will enjoy the resurrection; but the sadness and loss remain. The sermon?
Jesus, who wept at Lazarus’ death, did not say we would not die. He said that death is not the end. He himself died a real death on the Cross; but that was turned into Resurrection, and he can’t die again. He has overcome death for us too, and a better life awaits us. Faith is always needed to accept that message; in these circumstances it cannot be easy. As a community we should try to console and support the bereaved parents.
After the homily we got the usual Easter rain too; thundering down on the corrugated sheeting, and making the baptism ceremonies inaudible.
After the Mass, we went off to join the other mourners at the house. Standing before the simple bed with the young mother lying next to her dead daughter, I led some prayers, tried to say some words of consolation and blessed them. In the dark interior it was not possible to read a bible text.
After a simple meal of caiman and cassava, I rode back over the muddy road in a somber mood. When I got back to Basankusu, Fr Harry Reusen told me that phone-calls from Mbandaka, our provincial capital, told of fighting having broken out. Disturbing news! Many people here have family there – at work, at school, or in hospital. So the town’s Easter joy was turned into worry.
Flying by Antonov plane from Basankusu to Kinshasa
Our weekly plane was late, so I went off to the little airport to see off a visitor who had been with us and our Diocesan Natural Resources Commission for two weeks. Our commission has been collaborating with ‘Forest Monitors’ in promoting community dialogue on forest issues.
We were stressing how forest discussions should put people first, and not commerce or conservation, important as they may be.
We were able to have a long chat as the plane for Kinshasa could not go to Mbandaka, where the airport had been taken over by the insurgents, and had to be refueled here. Fortunately, the company had some barrels of aviation fuel stocked here … but it had to be pumped from the barrels bucket by bucket. A long and frustrating task, though after all an amusing scene.
An Easter to remember!
John D. Kirwan mhm
Ggaba, Uganda: Resurrection