The World Social Forum (WSF) was held last March in Tunis (Tunisia). The Comboni family (Missionary Sisters and Comboni Missionaries) participated, while holding the Comboni Forum. At the end of the Forum, they published their final statement.
The Comboni family gathered at the World Social Forum was a guest of a nation being born anew. There it breathed the Arab spring and the strength of a people’s dreams.
In Tunis, the dignity and the critical spirit of women, the potentials of youths, their desire to open up to the world are all awakening. This thirst for liberation and for a religion with a human touch is typical of Easter – the feast we celebrated during the days of the Forum.
Holy Week gave a special flavour to the desire for justice and peace shared by many peoples and social movements. Conversely, global challenges shed new light, for us, on the mystery of Easter that we celebrated with the small local church.
For days, we listened respectfully and attentively to the Islamic world, within the intercultural dimension characteristic of these international civil meetings.
For the first time, we were not present just as listeners, but as Missionary Sisters and Comboni Missionaries, with our specific activities, experiences, and communication.
We felt we were in the right place: in dialogue with people searching, with religious sisters and brothers journeying in the same direction, and with missionary animators surrounded and challenged by the pluralism of ideas and organisations.
We live next to our peoples, and are thus their voice. This made us among the few direct witnesses, at the Forum, of the dramas of the various countries in conflict in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world.
We felt the Church’s wealth of commitments in many areas of JPIC that we too support. We felt strengthened in the joy of discovering that other religious follow the Comboni method of “Saving Africa through the Africans.”
We, the Sisters and Missionaries, held a Comboni Forum alongside the events of the World Social Forum. This enriched us; it was a unique opportunity of ongoing formation and made us believe that a better world is possible.
Areopagus of evangelization
We are men and women of the road and the Gospel. We have a great wealth and experience of missionary life to share.
What we need is a systematic way to advance, to recompose fragments, to highlight and to think more deeply about evangelization.
We ask ourselves what the mission should be today. We should propose a theology and a spirituality embodied in today’s context. The Bible nourishes us; we walk with Christ the true liberator of history. We recover the mystique of the peoples to whom we belong and which we serve. We dialogue with the spiritual heritage of the native peoples and the great religious traditions of the world.
The strength of our faith and identity lies in including and in listening, rather than in defining boundaries and differences. We welcome the challenge to open up to the world and to fight all types of prejudice.
Committing ourselves together as the Comboni family is not the goal, but the first and necessary condition to be missionaries today.
We feel there should be more space for lay missionaries and for those with whom we live and work, through increasingly rich networks, who are responsible for today’s complex challenges. The leading role is theirs. Together, we are the salt and yeast that knead a new history – the hidden stones, as Comboni says.
Continuing the journey
Rereading our missionary and pastoral experience, we are in great harmony in some areas that associate our local and provincial activities. We renew our commitment to serve three priorities:
– Human trafficking and mobility;
– Care of creation, especially as regards land grabbing and plundering common goods;
– Interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
In these areas, that summarise our options for JPIC, many of us are already building ties among provinces and increasing collaboration between our two Institutes. We can’t expect to be able to do everything and to know everything: we must qualify and specialise ourselves on issues that we feel more urgent and in tune with our missionary charisma.
Let us then renew the thematic division among communities and provinces challenged by similar situations. This is already the case with the working group among the pastoralists in East Africa, or with the common commitment in Brazil, Mozambique, and Peru on the impact of mining on society.
After Tunis, let’s begin again with the Easter message in our heart. Let’s enjoy sharing with our communities and provinces what we have seen and heard here.
Let it be clear that the Comboni meeting during the World Social Forum was an occasion for missionaries to be evangelized and to evangelize.
As the Comboni family, we feel the need for a permanent reference group, ensuring and promoting the continuity of this process.
Praying on the tombs of the first Christian martyrs of this land, we renewed with them the courage to witness our faith until the end. By offering our lives without reservation, all may have life in abundance.