Comboni Missionary Father Mitiku Habbthe from Ethiopia is working with the Turkana in the remote north-western part of Kenya, a semi-desert area, shares his experience.
The Turkana people lead a nomadic or semi nomadic life style, living with herds of cattle, goats and donkeys. An estimated 80 percent of the people rely on purely pastoralism as a source of livelihood, and about 20 percent are engaged in agro pastoralism, a form of social organization based on the growing of crops and the raising of livestock as the primary means of economic activity. The Turkana land is prone to drought and is often referred to as “a horizon-less frying pan of desolation.”
The Catholic Diocese of Lodwar is the capital of Turkana, located in the north-western part of Kenya bordering Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. The diocese has approximately 59 religious priests, 60 religious sisters, l6 religious brothers, 11 local diocesan priests and more than 400 catechists and other pastoral agents. The diocese has been involved in evangelisation and social development work, such as providing water boreholes, securing food and education for boys and girls. They have also established health centres, helped empower women development, justice and peace and accommodate physically impaired children, such as deaf and blind.
The diocese encounters every aspect of people’s lives, especially in those areas where the government has neglected to act for many years. The people of Turkana recognise and respect the diocese as an entity with the capacity and the good will to implement the various emergency and development projects.
The Comboni Missionaries came to Turkana and the Diocese of Lodwar in 1975. In line with the diocesan pastoral plan, the Comboni missionaries carry out their missionary activities and live their life among the Turkana people which is according to the charism of our founder Saint Comboni who said “Save Africans by Africans and make a common cause for the evangelization of Africans.” Therefore by following the example and the life witness of our founder, we try to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Turkana people by living with them and sharing their challenges so that they may live a more fulfilled and happy life.
Lokichar, our Comboni mission, is located in the south of Turkana and it has an area of about 4,536 kms and a total population of about 133, 913. Lokichar mission was opened in the year 2000 by the Comboni Missionaries and has 22 out stations, along with a small centre where we can stay once a month to reach out to all the stations for the celebration of the Holy Mass and for ongoing formation of our catechists.
Comboni missionaries from ltaly, Malawi, DR Congo and Ethiopia make up the religious community in Lokichar. As the Comboni missionaries, we are inserted in the local reality of the diocese and so we are at the service of the local church.
Our pastoral plan and priority is for the evangelization of the Turkana people as they are living in the “first evangelization” of the area. We get involved in the following activities to bring human and spiritual development: drilling boreholes, education and formation of catechists and leaders, formation of small Christian communities, justice and peace, adult education, nursery education and feeding programs, a centre for the physically disabled children run by one of evangelizing sisters, but sponsored by the Comboni Missionaries, and support for aspiring and needy students who have lost their parents. We are also sponsoring girls who are finishing secondary school, especially the girls with the academic ability to go to college or university.
These services, mentioned above, are necessary to bring full human and spiritual development.
The work of evangelisation goes hand in hand with human promotion. For this reason, we Comboni missionaries try as a community to promote the spiritual, intellectual, mental, moral and social aspects of humanity.
As we are continuing in our activities of human and spiritual promotion, we try to create awareness among the people of the importance of a self- supporting and a self-administrating church. Now people are much more aware of the necessity of self- reliance and to overcome dependency from outside, but we acknowledge there is still a long way to go in achieving this plan of action.