A group of Portuguese missionaries met to share their experiences and visions of evangelization. “Following the Brazilian Church’s appeal to become aware of its missionary call, I see important to participate in missionary animation of the local Church”, says Fr. Joaquim Fonseca, who works in Rondonia. “In Brazil, today, no one feels ashamed of talking about Jesus Christ and the Bible, even in secular media. Most people are open to the Gospel”, adds Fr. Martinho Lopes Moura. On a different perspective is Fr. Manuel Lopes. “The Mozambican Church is participating in the process of social development. Many pastoral agents work with university students. It is from them that the leaders of tomorrow will rise; they are the ones who will shape politics, economics and social changes for the future. A large number of young people are wandering around unemployed, without any hope of giving a meaning to their lives. Journeying with them, we can help giving a new direction to Church and society.”
Yet, the work of evangelization meets also resistance and other kinds of difficulty. “War is perhaps the worst reality we find in our work – says Fr. Feliz da Costa, from Darfur, Sudan -. The insecurity has a dramatic effect on our action, it paralyses many activities. In Nyala, we can safely operate only within a 15 km radius”. “Our worries are different – says Fr.Franciscoo de Madeiros– we find that the proliferation of sects is a serious matter. In South Africa, hundreds of “independent Churches” support a government that is clearly indifferent to religious life. In my pastoral area several “sects” are emerging, groups usually devoid of any values or teaching. Often one hears that ‘all Churches and religions are equal’. Ethics are not taken in account in a land where ‘local culture’ is ruling”. A similar view comes from Brazil, where sects find a breeding ground among rich and poor alike. “Violence, drugs, corruption and fragility of the family – says Fr Martinho – cause serious problems to our pastoral work. Since evangelization is both proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and taking part in social transformation, many people shun away from commitment. For different reasons, both rich and poor are happy to join sects that answer to the emotional needs of people engulfed in social problems”.
The challenges that lie ahead are very similar everywhere. Staying with the people, listening to them and share their anguish, celebrations and fight for humans rights is crucial. “Prophecy and incisive action must work together to support the poor”, say almost to the unison missionaries from both Africa and Latina America. The social aspect of evangelization should not, however, overshadow the core of mission work. Proclaiming the event of Jesus, sharing one’s faith, witnessing to the presence of God in history is more important than anything else. “Some say that practical projects are the gratification of mission work. I do not agree. Building churches, hospitals and schools does give satisfaction. Yet, it is meeting people, sharing their lives and discovering Christ’s presence that is an extraordinary achievement”, says Fr. Lopes.
The geography of mission has changed. More and more missionaries come from the South. This is a trend that will continue in the future. “The Brazilian Church is growing in missionary awareness. I am confident that many Brazilian missionaries will be sent from there to other countries,” says Fr. Fonseca. “I feel that the future will still see missionaries at the service of the poorest of society. We will have to grow in our attention to the youth, dialogue with other religions, and enlist even more people to promote social change to build a society more aware of God and his message”.
Manuel A. Ferreira