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Ethiopia

Supporting pastoral work in all its various aspects

The Borana people live in the far south of Ethiopia in a region bordering on Kenya. In many ways, the Catholic Church is in her infancy here, since Catholic missionaries only arrived in the region about 45 years ago.

 

The Holy Spirit Fathers (Spiritans) who work in this area have now established three parishes and several schools. The missionaries sank boreholes and made wells for the local Borana people encouraging some to settle nearby.

 

They are a nomadic people, and while some have recently become more permanently settled, many continue to live their traditional nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place with their flocks of cattle in search of grazing lands. As this is a very arid region, access to water is a matter of life or death. The Borana occasionally come into conflict with members of other tribes when the water supply dwindles and grazing become scarce, or where one tribe drives its herds onto the territory of another. But the presence of the Catholic Church in the region has made for fewer conflicts. In the past, an unwritten law existed whereby the men had to show courage by fighting—If one’s opponent drew his weapon, then he too had to be ready to fight. Things have now changed to some extent, because the tribesmen who have embraced the values of Christianity, are now immediately ready to make peace instead.

 

The presence of the Church has also improved the lives of some women. In the Borana tradition, a girl never “marries” but “is married.” She is never asked for her consent to the marriage, in the past the dignity of a woman was not considered. If a girl should fall pregnant before the marriage, she would be sold off to an enemy tribe. But now, the Catholic Church is presenting the people with a different concept and understanding of marriage teaching that both man and woman have an equal dignity in the sight of God. There is also growing interest in education among the people. The Church is encouraging parents to realize that a school education is just as important for girls as for boys. The Holy Spirit Fathers have accordingly opened several schools in this region. Initially, the people did not trust them, but gradually they have come to understand that education can help to improve their lives and better understand their own rights and dignity. Moreover, they can deepen their understanding of their newfound faith by reading the Bible and other religious writings.

Able to visit faraway regions

There is great interest in Christianity among the people, and especially among the children and young people. The Holy Spirit Fathers want to intensify their work, especially with the young. Therefore, they organize meetings with young people from other tribes.

 

It is usually very rare for young people to have an opportunity to meet and talk with young people from other tribal groups in this remote and underdeveloped region. But Ethiopia has such a vast ethnic and cultural diversity with over 80 different ethnic groups rub shoulders and speaking as many languages. In many cases, often belonging to different religious groups as well. Therefore meeting others becomes a crucially important experience, particularly for young people who may have a tendency to wander away from their own isolated homes to travel into other areas, towns and cities, where they then may face major problems in coming to terms with what is to them, a completely alien environment.

 

It is also important for the adults to be carefully accompanied on their path of faith. Many of those who are baptized are already married according to traditional tribal customs. When they embrace Christianity, they are also helped to prepare for a Christian marriage in church, so that they can then live their lives in a fully Christian spirit. It is clearly seen that the number of the Catholic faithful who attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion increases considerably because of these marriage preparation programs. The priests also try as often as possible to visit and accompany the sick and the disabled, who cannot get to church, providing them the opportunity to receive Holy Communion and, where appropriate, the Anointing of the Sick.

 

The Holy Spirit Fathers are also working to improve the training of lay catechists who visit the people in their villages and help teach them the Faith. It is clearly important for them to have a sound understanding of the Holy Scriptures and Church teaching, to serve as guides for others and help them deepen their spiritual life.

 

We have promised $6,960 to reinforce and support their pastoral outreach of the Spiritans in this region.

Thank you for supporting us in this work!

 


 

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