All posts by Comboni Missionaries Ireland

Uganda: A School Under Canvas

Refugee teachers create a school for young people in South Sudan. The life of refugees is hard. When they arrived in Moyo (Uganda), in the South Sudanese of Kajukeji, they were many refugees. They were thirsty and it was hot. Then, it rained and the fields flooded. Many of their belongings were dragged away by floods and roads became impassable. Little by little, the NGOs started to supply some of the basic services such as water, which is transported by tanker trucks when they can pass through the flood-hit roads. Some wells were opened. Scarce food supplies arrived, but people had to be standing in endless lines to get it. Access to healthcare is even more difficult. Trying to reach Moyo's health centre, without ambulances and passing through the flood-hit roads is a painful odyssey. Those who are lucky and are able to reach the place, have to wait hours to be visited and besides, drugs supply is limited and medicines are often out of date at the health centre. It is therefore very difficult to cure seriously ill people in these conditions. As far as education is concerned, “Still at the end of April 2017, no school was available", says the missionary and parish priest of Kajukeji, Jesús Aranda, “so the teachers of the Comboni College in Lomín (Kajukeji), who in the meantime had arrived at the Moyo area, decided to volunteer their time and skills to establish a secondary school for the young people of the place. So we set up some canvas under the trees, establishing six classrooms, a staff room and a laboratory, and the Comboni teachers started to teach classes in this school under the trees". Okumu James Alan was the director of the Comboni College in Lomín, one of the most prestigious schools in South Sudan. Now he is in charge of the Idiwa Parents Secondary School, which offers tuition to some 600 young people in a humble facility made of cane, wood and canvas. “When young people arrived here, they were bored and used to spend their times just watching videos, drinking or even stealing. They had to get back on track!”, says Okumu. At first, parents and teachers were confident that institutions would guarantee education, but nobody did anything, so they mobilised to get a permit and opened a community school. The parents contribute minimum sums of money to buy didactic materials, to build the still precarious structures and to offer small incentive pay to the professors. "Unfortunately some young people arrived here alone and do not have the support of their family. So not all of them can afford attending the classes at our school, because they must save the little money they have to buy food which is always very scarce. And at the moment unfortunately, we are not able to offer completely free tuition, which is why we are looking for partners that allow us to take on more students. We are also proposing the 'Food for education' program in order to increase school participation”, says the director. Okumu also underlines that attending classes from morning until 5 pm without eating is a 'challenge'. “Concentration becomes difficult on an empty stomach”. However, the atmosphere here in these humble schools, is the same as that of the one that can be found in any other traditional school: there are respectful and enthusiastic students. “We hope to increase the number of girl students, who are now only half of their male colleagues. The problem arises from primary school”, Okumu explains. Many girls leave classes. "South Sudanese culture somehow influences families which prefer to pay tuition fees for boys rather than for girls". School director Okumo says, “we would like to return to our land, but the war seems not to follow a clear direction and it may drag on for a long time. On the other hand, if peace were imposed it would not last long either. In the meantime we’ll keep on teaching in our humble school under the trees”. - Gonzalo Gómez

South Sudan: Street Children In Juba – They Want To Live

Seventeen abandoned children have been rescued from wandering around the streets and started 'the trip of their lives’. They are part of a long-awaited educational project, which hopefully will take them, and many others like them, into a different future. Juba, the capital of the South Sudan, lays on the left bank of the White Nile, about a hundred kilometres from the Ugandan border. The city has been, since the eighteen hundreds, the principal city in the South of Sudan, a vast region of 619,745 square km. With a population of around 500,000. On 9 July, 2011 when South Sudan officially became the 54th African state and the 193rd state in the world, Juba became the newest capital in the world. In December 2013, some Dinka militias loyal to President Salva Kiir began to clash with Nuer army soldiers, accusing them of planning a coup. The Nuer soldiers were led by Vice President Riek Machar who had been dismissed by Kiir a few days previously. The city became a battleground. Thousands of people took refuge in United Nations areas. Dead bodies lay in the streets. After talks and various negotiations, between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, a peace agreement was signed last July. Through the years, because of the war, many people had come to settle down in Juba. Many are children without parents. In the capital Juba, up to 3,000 children live on the street, and that number is increasing daily, said the Mind and Soul Institute, a local charity that works with street children. According to Bester Mulauzi, country director of programme development for Save the Children, “Children living on the streets face unimaginable dangers. They risk being forcibly recruited by armed groups and are more likely to be abused and exploited”. Wearing the blue colours of London Chelsea soccer team, Johnson and his companion are sitting at the back of an open four-wheel-drive vehicle parked in one of Juba’s main streets. Anyone who sees these children dressed in blue has to pay attention to them. It is a weird sight in a country that has been ravaged by civil war and stricken by poverty for many years now. In fact, soon some people come near, “are you a school football team? Which school do you belong to? Have you come to challenge the team of a neighbouring school?”. The answers to the questions are not simple, and go beyond the appearances. Fr Paolino tells the curious ones a very sad story: a story of abandonment, drug abuse, juvenile crime, poverty and a chain of unending sufferings. It all started when Paolino Tipo Deng, a South Sudanese Comboni missionary priest, bumped into those children, who were living in appalling conditions. No sooner seen than done! He took upon himself the task of doing something to change their situation, and prayed that God could help him in his purpose. Today he oversees an educational project which, hopefully, will take at least a hundred children out of the streets of the capital and give back to them an opportunity to study and enjoy their childhood for the first time in their lives. The building in which Fr Paulino had found the children was in a shambles. “An authentic rat's nest", remembers the father, "it's an old religious formation house, abandoned many years ago. You can imagine what it may look like now, after many years of war and strife. Everything is in ruins. It lacks even the most basic services. And yet, it was - and still is - the refuge of about one hundred street boys. That hovel was the only home they knew. They were sheltered by night, and also fed during the day. Somebody had carried out some works of maintenance, and so they could enjoy one decent shower cubicle”. One day with another two Comboni missionaries Fr Paulino went to see the place. They were struck by the look of it. They found the children kicking around a deflated soccer ball. When the children saw them, they all ran to greet the visitors. "What are you doing here?”, one of the fathers asked them. “Nothing”, was the answer of one of them, with a big smile on his face. An explanation followed, “This is the orphanage of the zone!” One of the two missionaries who had visited the 'orphanage' wanted to accompany Fr Paulino in his trip to take the first group of those street children to their new destination. After a 40-minute drive, including a short stop to refresh the passengers with some soft drinks, the group arrived at the Good Shepherd Peace Centre in Kit Kolye village, south of Juba town. It is a beautiful centre for human, pastoral and spiritual formation, the first of its kind in the whole of South Sudan, opened in October 2016, furnished with a chapel, a refectory and accommodation for up to 35 retreatants, and cared for by a religious community under the umbrella of 'Solidarity with South Sudan', an inter-congregational initiative to foster peace and justice in the country. No doubt, the children were impressed by the beauty of the compound. As they jumped off the pickup, one of the missionaries asked them: "Well, boys! What do you think?”, waiting for the reply. No one said a word, all were busy taking in through their eyes that new fantastic world they were in. Only one, the youngest, after a while, cried out "This is our new home!”. "Not really, replied the father, yours is somewhere else, but not less beautiful”: The little boy looked at him, smiled, took his sunduk (a metal trunk) from the back of the car, and, like the others, received from Fr Paulino a padlock and a key: "You will keep your belongings in this metal box. From now on, you are responsible for all the toiletries and educational materials you will be given during the whole year. And do not lose the key”. I wish I was there to see their faces. Before this, they did not have anything; now all their hopes were kept and locked in that trunk. They spent some nights at the Centre. Then they were carried to their true 'home'; at least for a year: 'Brother Augusto Memorial' Primary School, an educational boarding facility run by the Saint Martin de Porres Brothers, a local congregation founded by two Comboni Missionaries, Bishop Sixto Mazzoldi and Fr. Giovanni Marengoni. There, in few days, the brothers had prepared brand new huts for the 17 children just next to the school. Fr Paolino gathered the children and said "Listen carefully to me, and keep my words in your minds and hearts. Do not throw away this chance. Be brave. The road ahead will be challenging and difficult. Never get discouraged. Always keep up hope. And know that the success of this project we launch today is in your hands”. He paused for a moment, then added: "Among you I can see the new president of South Sudan and the future ministers of our country. Do not disappoint the great expectations we have put on you all”. He looked at them and studied their faces intently for long moments. He was absolutely sure that they had listened with much attention, and he could see their faces alight with great ideals, immense hope and a clear determination. Fr. Paolino talking with another missionary said. "When I first saw these children, forsaken and roaming around the streets of Juba town, I knew I could not witness their situation and do nothing about it. I am thinking about the rest of them still living in that hell-like 'orphanage': I want to do something also for the other orphans who do not have even that rat's nest to spend the night and get some food. I want to work out some plans for all the street children and for all the many youngsters that still roam around the town”. He continued "I know what I have to do. First, I will restore radically the orphanage and also I will build proper boarding accommodation for at least 100 children next to the Brother Augusto Memorial Primary School. I will need many resources, not only to put up structures, but also to run them. Gosh, without realising it, I have become their foster parent". Actually, he is more than a foster parent. He is the true father for these children. - Roy Carlos Zaiga Paredes

Oral Literature: How The Monkeys Saved The Fish

The rainy season that year had been the strongest ever and the river had broken its banks. There were floods everywhere and the animals were all running up into the hills. The floods came so fast that many drowned except the lucky monkeys who used their proverbial agility to climb up into the treetops. They looked down on the surface of the water where the fish were swimming and gracefully jumping out of the water as if they were the only ones enjoying the devastating flood. One of the monkeys saw the fish and shouted to his companion, "Look down, my friend, look at those poor creatures. They are going to drown. Do you see how they struggle in the water?" "Yes", said the other monkey. "What a pity! Probably they were late in escaping to the hills because they seem to have no legs. How can we save them? I think we must do something. Let's go close to the edge of the flood where the water is not deep enough to cover us, and we can help them to get out". So the monkeys did just that. They started catching the fish, but not without difficulty. One by one, they brought them out of the water and put them carefully on the dry land. After a short time there was a pile of fish lying on the grass motionless. One of the monkeys said, "Do you see? They were tired, but now they are just sleeping and resting. Had it not been for us, my friend, all these poor people without legs would have drowned". The other monkey said "They were trying to escape from us because they could not understand our good intentions. But when they wake up they will be very grateful because we have brought them salvation". - Traditional Tanzanian Folktale

Plastics Pose Biggest Threat To Oceans

Oceans choking on millions of plastic water bottles, cups, straws and single use plastic bags. Oceans are choking on plastic junk—millions of tonnes of water bottles, soda bottles, drinking straws and single use plastic bags. Worse still, what we see floating on the surface accounts for only 5% of all the plastic litter that has been dumped into the sea. According to Ocean Conservancy, a US environmental non-profit, the other 95% is beneath the surface, where it strangles underwater creatures and wrecks aquatic ecosystems. 99% of all seabirds will have ingested plastic by 2050 if nothing is done to reverse the trend. Today, the world is producing 20 times more plastics than 40 years ago. This means that each year more than 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism and marine ecosystems. Only less than 14% of all plastic is recyclable, and it is high time someone came up with an innovation or technology to deal with the remaining 86%, which could create $80bn-$120bn in revenues, according to a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which works with business, government and academia to build an economy that is restorative. Sadly, plastic waste that finds its way into the ocean will remain there for hundreds of years because plastic does not rot. In fact, plastic is so durable that the United States Environmental Protection Agency says, “Every bit of plastic ever made still exists”. Once it gets in the seas, plastic waste leaches chemicals, many of them toxic, into the seas. “Up to 80% of all litter in our oceans is made of plastic. At the rate at which we are dumping items such as plastic bottles, bags, cups and straws after a single use, by 2050 we will have more plastics in the oceans than fish”, warns the United Nations Environment, the UN agency mandated to protect the environment. Because of its low density, plastic litter is easily transported over long distances from source areas. The ocean undercurrents scatter it to every corner of the earth, some of it floating on the oceans and others sinking to the seabed. According to the US-based Centre for Biological Diversity, there are “15–51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans—from the equator to the poles, from Arctic ice sheets to the sea floor”. Emerging research suggests that not one square mile of ocean surface anywhere on earth is free of plastic pollution. Making matters worse, the cosmetics industry now adds tiny plastic beads called “microbeads” to hundreds of toiletries, such as body and facial scrubs and even toothpaste. These tiny particles easily go through water filtration and drainage systems to end up in the sea, where they are ingested by fish and seabirds. UN Environment warns that about 99% of all seabirds will have ingested plastic by 2050 if nothing is done to reverse the trend. Plastics in the ocean kill or harm more than 300,000 marine animals every year, said American oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Some creatures get entangled in the plastic debris, while others like seabirds, turtles, fish, oysters and mussels ingest the plastics, which end up clogging their digestive systems and causing death. Fish and birds mistake smaller plastic particles for food and feed on them in enormous quantities. “Are our oceans dead? I would say they are not dead yet, but they are in deep trouble”, says Ms. Earle. “Plastic marine litter knows no boundaries and can wash up on any shores, including those of uninhabited islands. It is a global problem requiring a global action”. Ms. Earle believes governments should pass laws that discourage the use of single-use plastic such as bags, cups, bottles and the micro-plastics that are used in millions of items every year. She further suggests incentives for citizens who make choices that limit their use of plastics, such as by using cloth or sisal bags for shopping, adding that countries can also tax those who use plastics and use the money for cleanups. Big corporations have joined the global effort to turn the tide of marine litter. The technology company, Dell has announced recently that it has started using recycled plastic fished out of the sea for its product packaging. At the individual level, choosing reusable shopping bags, cups, straws and water bottles, and saying no to personal care products that contain micro-plastics and plastic packaging can go a long way toward curbing the plastic menace. When it comes to plastics, no action is too small to make a difference. - Zipporah Musau

Vocation Story: “Lesa Waluse”

If I were to describe my vocation journey to priesthood in two words, I would say "Lesa Waluse", God is merciful', said Father Ben Makungu Chola, from Zambia. Here ishis story. From the point of view of Christian faith, my childhood was as smooth as silk. I was baptised, I heard my parents and grandparents pray. I saw them going to church, and I followed them as the most obvious thing to do. During my primary school, I went to catechism classes, I received first Holy Communion and I was confirmed. After my junior secondary school, in 2000 I went to a high school in Kafue. Here my dreams changed: my ambition was to become a lawyer. Why? To people, I kept saying that I wanted to fight for justice and for the good of poor people. Yet, in a remote area of my brain, there was the conviction that lawyers had a lot of money... I was a young man then, and I believe you can forgive me for that 'sin: The fact is that everybody around me knew that I would study law. I invested a lot of energy and time in my studies, since I knew that, without good results, I could say 'bye-bye' to the university. In 2002, I was elected chairperson of the youth of St. Ignatius small Christian community. As a young 'would-be' lawyer, I took that 'call' as a spur to create a peaceful environment for everyone and bring unity among the youth. The young boy who had preceded me in that role had divided the youth group and I thought I had to bring back unity and communion. Then, Mission Sunday 2003 came a Comboni missionary priest to celebrate mass in my parish. His homily enchanted me. He spoke, with passion and joy, of missionary life as a fantastic adventure in the name of God. He used to play guitar. After mass, I approached him and asked if he could teach me how to play the guitar. He answered "Yes, with pleasure”. By the time I could strum the instrument decently, I had become Comboni aspirant. In 2005, I joined the Comboni Postulancy in Balaka (Malawi). I followed philosophical and religious studies at the Inter-Congregation Seminary (ICS - today, an Institute) in Balaka. Then I moved to Lusaka for the two years of Novitiate. The Novitiate was a special time for me to come to know and appreciate Comboni charism, life-style and values. It was a moment to encounter Christ 'face-to-face' and build a deeper personal relationship with him. On May 2011, I took my first religious. I went to Kenya for my five-year theology studies, at Tangaza College, Nairobi. I loved theological courses, and I loved also reading and studying anything that dealt with missionary and priestly identity in the spirit of St. Daniel Comboni. In 2015, after finishing the theological studies, I went to Uganda for my missionary service. I was assigned to the Holy Cross Parish, Ombaci, in West Nile, in Arua diocese, 520 km north of Kampala. There was plenty of work for me: visiting the 11 chapels, encountering the 27,000 Catholics, meeting pupils and students in the various schools run by the church, in particular Joseph's College. In April 2016, I made my final profession in Namugongo, near the shrine of the Ugandan Martyrs. On 22nd October, I became a priest. It was World Mission Sunday. On my ordination day, I was appointed to Ombaci Mission in Uganda. After two year I am still in Ombaci mission, happier than ever. I am not a lawyer, true. Yet, I am still an ambassador of peace, a lover justice, crazy for love, unity, human dignity and solidarity. Above all, I am a witness of God's mercy to me and to all.

Letter To Pope Francis From African Youth

A group of young people living in Nairobi who regularly meet at Shalom House have written a letter to Pope Francis on the occasion of the Synod to be held in Rome next October, during which hundreds of bishops will discuss on the theme “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”. The letter has been sent to the Synod Secretariat and wants to be a respectful contribution to the discussion from an African perspective. Holy Father Francis, We are a group of African youth, aged from 20 to 30 years. We would like to deepen the way we live our faith, and two years ago we have started sharing the Gospel together calling ourselves “Youth’s Missionaries”, maybe being too visionaries. Though we belong to different Christians Churches all of us recognize in you a servant leader, a shepherd who can lead us with example and wisdom. On the occasion of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the youth we have decided to write to You directly on how we live our faith. We hope this Synod will give us more motivations and instruments to become missionaries to our fellow youth. We feel that Jesus should be the most important person in our life. Instead, speaking for us African, we feel there are too many mediators between us and Jesus. We read the Gospel, feel inspired by the Beatitudes and wish to live a life of commitment to Jesus that would be fully African and fully Christian. Sometime it seems that to be Christian we have to shed our culture and follow traditions and rules laid down centuries ago, in another place and another culture. Traditions and rules that even the youth in the countries of their origin do not understand, as we know from our contact with them. We do not reject the Tradition of the Church, we would just like to remove the unnecessary stains so that the face of Jesus would shine with more splendour upon us. We would like from time to time listen to our leaders (bishops and priests) face to face, and have them listening to us. We love what you do, celebrating Mass every morning with a small community. It would be so much easier for our bishops to do this, their flock is much smaller, yet we have the chance to see our bishops only during big celebrations. Our traditional cultures and religions were often too closed in themselves, unable of change and lacking a long term vision. They were wonderfully all-inclusive for the members of the same human group, but often excluding the others. The Gospel has opened up our horizons. Yet we cannot renounce our roots, they are part of us and the Spirit of Jesus wants us to grow from where we are. They connect us with the mystery of life and the mystery of God. We like to celebrate our faith in a community, with songs and dances, with all our being. We see the love of God around us, and every day is a joyful celebration of life. This is part of our African spirituality. Now our faith is not sustained and fed with African models. We know of the Uganda Martyrs and of the “martyrs of brotherhood” of Buta, Burundi, who with their life and death have witnessed to Christ and overcome division and tribalism. They are an example of how the Gospel can assume and take at a higher level our African traditions. In every African town there should be a church dedicated to them! And in the history of African church other figures should be identified who can be inspiring for young African people, so that we can feel they are companions in our life journey. We know that our Churches have come to Africa already divided, sometime in competition. This is another bitter heritage of the European history transferred to Africa. But we know also that some African Christians in time of danger were able to overcome the divisions, work together. and to witness Christ together, like in the case of the Uganda Martyrs. And we feel that we have to strengthen communion with all Christian Churches. With those who have come divided and also with the many that were born on our African soil mixing the Bible with our traditions. They have weaknesses, yet they provide answers to the quest for African spirituality. We dare to suggest that in the ordinary calendar of our local churches, at least once per year there is a special celebration for all Christians. It could be not only a time when we pray for the others, like what it is done during the celebration of the Week for the Unity of Christians, but a time when we pray with the others and with them we celebrate our common faith in Jesus our Saviour. We have in the Church a multiplications of celebration where we stress our own faith and our own tradition. Aren’t we strong and relevant enough to share our faith with the others, especially with our Christian brothers? The relationship with our Muslim brothers needs to grow, so that we can work together at the service of humanity and of God in all secular matters. This is already happening in our daily lives and it should be assumed and promoted by the churches. To cultivate friendship and common action with our Muslim brother should be a daily concern for our Christian leaders. Youth pastors should approach the issue of the divided churches without fear, the sooner they will face it, the stronger the faith and the aspiration to unity of their flock will be. We love the world in which we were born. We look at it with awe, and we want to embrace it, to improve it. Respecting the wonderful nature around us and improving the bonds of communion in the human family. We like your prodding the church to go out in the street, to meet the challenges of daily life and not to stay close in the safety of our homes and communities. Some of us have lived in the streets, we have experienced abandon and rejection and we know how difficult and cruel life in the street can be. We have also known war and refugee camps. The street, the most difficult places, are the places where life happens, you meet the others, you create bonds, you learn the dynamics of meeting and dialogue. In the street the unexpected comes to you and in it there is the voice of God. Most of us are Kenyans and we have seen you in Nairobi. We remember what you said about corruption. Corruption is like diabetes, corruption is like craving for sugar, and wanting more and more of it. We are ready to accept and forgive the weaknesses of our political leaders, of some of our priests and bishops who are sick with this disease. We ask them to be servant leaders, powerless and poor, close to us. The church will be more credible and they would be able to speak with real authority at times of social and economic crisis. Poor political leadership is one of our problem. In Africa we had the shining example of Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere, and a few others. The majority of African leaders have been blinded by power and greed. We who write this text are poor, and living a life rooted in the Gospel of Jesus is a difficult challenge for us, always stimulated and incited to become rich fast, and by any mean, by the bad example of our leaders. Our corrupt politician and members of the ruling class have often looted our countries, and embarked on wars on behalf of the foreign interests to which they have sold themselves out. They are the main responsible for the miseries and death suffered by the youth who die in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe. We appreciate your calls for openness and justice. Modern imported models of life have made us more individualistic and selfish. Friendship, tolerance, hospitality, community living, reaching decisions by consensus are values that have become almost impossible to live in our modern competitive society. Exclusion is the norm. “Be first!” is the dehumanizing imperative. We believe in life and in the God of life, and Jesus has come to teach us to live a full life. We are not discouraged by the difficulties. We see around us the good seeds and the new life that is growing. We want to care for it, and nourish its growth in us. We know that God loves us and he wants joy and happiness for us, and for everyone. We are not naives, we have experienced that suffering and death indeed play a big part in our human journey, but we have also experienced that love and life are stronger, and we can live a full life even in the midst of material wants.. We are heirs of the joy of the Resurrection and we need to communicate this joy to the people around us and to the next generation. Holy Father, continue to guide us so that we can become the prophets of a better future.

Uganda/Teso: Ajon – The Beginning & The End Of Every Celebration

The Teso (or Iteso, people of Teso) are an ethnic group in eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Teso refers to the traditional homeland of the Iteso, and Ateso is their language. The drinking and sharing of Ajon. In the land of the Iteso, one cannot claim to be a clansman without testing Ajon, a local brew, made from dry millet. It takes a week to mature for drinking. Ajon can be enjoyed using a calabash or drank from a pot in groups where drinking tubes are shared from person to person. The Iteso introduce one to the practice of Ajon at birth, thus, when a child is born, the excitement and happiness of the newly born is celebrated by a drop of Ajon in the child's mouth; the rest of the drink is then enjoyed by the clan members. Even the clan giving of the child's name is followed by drinking of Ajon to welcome the newly born into the world. In the community, etai (enjoy after work) and ebole (enjoy after harvest) are words synonymously used. These practices of solidarity by helping one another in the fields are strengthened by setting the drinks in the evenings after work. This form of appreciation after sharing work and working together is a value the Iteso take pride in. The spirit of working together and celebrating the hard day's work through the circled gathering of all is very vital. It is a form of celebrating the bounty of high yields. Likewise, after harvesting millet, the Aikony agwe (welcoming the new millet harvest) is a ceremony one cannot miss. After harvesting, the Iteso make Ajon in routine form, from family to family. During this time, they discuss how to use what they have harvested and what to keep for the next season. The role of the elders in the community is respected. The elders' meetings (aurianet na ateker) where the clan leaders are chosen and elected is accompanied by the drinking and sharing of Ajon to celebrate their success and effort in deliberating on important issues in the community. Misbehaviour is condoned in the community and cleansing of the culprits is characterised by preparing the drink, cooking a good meal and slaughtering and roasting of a goat. Ajon is very crucial during marriage ceremonies. Besides being enjoyed on the day of the ceremony as a source of happiness, the drink is prepared by the bride for the in-laws as a form of respect. During the initiation ceremony of the newly married woman into the clan, rituals are performed by clan leaders to make her part of the family; thereafter, Ajon is enjoyed. Likewise, when a married woman gives birth, her family upon hearing this prepare food, clothing and Ajon to be taken by the in-laws. This is meant to welcome the newly born into the clan and as a way of showing their happiness upon the blessings. When a clan member dies in the community, before removing the ashes that was used for cooking and keeping wake, the family that lost a dear one prepares food and Ajon to appreciate those who stood by them most during that time of loss; after which the ash is cleared. In addition, the dead are not forgotten for their diligence in keeping together the community. When one passes on, at the funeral rite, prayers are held and enjoyment of Ajon to accompany the spirit of the deceased to its destiny. Till now, Ajon is enjoyed during relaxation and leisure moments. The Iteso during their free time sit together and enjoy Ajon more especially late evenings after work as a way of resting from the long day's work. Nowadays, Ajon has gone commercial and is prepared and sold to get money to cater for family needs as a source of income and reducing poverty. Ajon helps in the development of the clan and unites all. It is through it that developmental ideas are crafted; knowledge of each other and knowledge of core values are shared at the place of Ajon. One could say Ajon is the beginning and the end of every celebration in Teso. It does not only bring happiness and excitement among the tribe, but it binds all together. However, although the Iteso often drink Ajon, the elders’ advice drinking in less quantity as one may become a nuisance in the community when drunk. - Akite B. Wanyama

Oral Literature: The Crocodile & The Cockerel

Once upon a time, the crocodile was king of the animals. He was holding court one day. He sat majestically on his throne as he received petitions from his subjects and issued orders. A large crowd had gathered at the court on that day. His large size alone elicited awe. His large teeth elicited fear. His huge, powerful tail commanded respect. He was not one to get entangled with. The cockerel was late. He swaggered in right in the midst of the court proceedings. As he walked between the animals in the crowd to look for a vantage place to sit down he naturally disrupted the court proceedings. Some animals took strong exception to the behaviour of the cockerel. He was showing utter contempt for the dignity of the court. He was also showing a healthy disrespect for the majesty of the crocodile. "Where are your good manners, cockerel?" they asked him indignantly. "Can you not see that King Crocodile is holding court and we must give him proper respect and courtesy?" "Oh, him?" the cockerel said dismissively as he looked at king crocodile, "do not worry about him. He is my brother. The crocodile is my brother. If he is king then I am a prince", he boasted loudly enough for everyone to hear him. The court was hushed into immediate silence. The cockerel had committed intolerable insolence and discourtesy. His act bordered on treason. Not only had the cockerel disrupted the court proceedings but had also claimed kinship with the king crocodile. The security people jumped on the cockerel on the spot. He was put on summary trial on two charges. He was charged with contempt of court for his disruptive behaviour. He was also charged with causing injury to the dignity of king crocodile by claiming royal blood. They started with the more serious charge of kinship. "Cockerel, you are a bird by any definition, you have feathers; you walk on two legs; you have two wings; you have a beak and you have no teeth. "The king crocodile on the other hand, is an animal by any definition. He has a thick skin with tough scales and has no feathers; he walks on four legs instead of two legs; and he has no wings while you have two wings. He has a proper mouth which is full of big teeth while you have a beak without any teeth. "On what basis can you dare to claim any kinship with king crocodile? A bird cannot be a brother to an animal. You have insulted the king crocodile. You have gravely injured the dignity of his majesty king crocodile. You must be punished," the prosecutor concluded. All the other animals concurred with the prosecutor. Birds are birds and animals are animals, they said. They resented the arrogance of the cockerel in claiming any kinship with the king crocodile, who was their fellow animal. However, in the interests of justice, the court gave the cockerel an opportunity to defend himself. "I do not know about the rest of you", the cockerel started, "but know about my brother, the king crocodile. It is true that I look completely different from the king crocodile but brotherhood transcends appearances. The king crocodile may be an animal, by any definition. He is, indeed an animal. I may be a bird, by any definition. I am, indeed, a bird. However, what you should all know and take into consideration, is that his mother laid an egg for him to be hatched. What you should also know and take into consideration, is that my mother, the hen laid an egg for me to be hatched. While all of you were born alive, both the king crocodile and I were hatched from eggs. You may be animals, just like the king crocodile is an animal. But you were not hatched from eggs. He is not your brother. He was hatched from an egg, just as I was hatched from an egg. He is my brother. It is true that I am a bird. It is also true that I do not look like the king crocodile. But he is still my brother. Both of us were hatched from eggs. We are brothers. He is my brother", the cockerel concluded, amid wild applause. King crocodile himself stepped forward from his throne. He was beaming a big smile. He shook hands with the cockerel. He then embraced the cockerel publicly for all to see. That was the happy ending of the summary trial of the cockerel Instead of receiving punishment for insulting and injuring the dignity of king crocodile; the cockerel received a seat of honour. He was seated next to the throne. He had proved that he was brother to king crocodile. He was therefore a prince. Sam Mpasu - Folktale from Malawi

Herbs & People: Pseudocedrela Kotschyi – Fracture Healing Plant

It is a medicinal plant whose therapeutic values undoubtedly have a folkloric background as it has been used in the treatment of various diseases by traditional healers. Pseudocedrela kotschyi (Maliaceae Family) is a small, deciduous and monoecious tree with an oblong to pyramid-shape, usually having a dense crown, and grows to a height of about 12 metres tall. The straight and cylindrical bole can be branchless for up to 7.5 metres with a diameter of 70cm. The inner bark has reddish veins. Leaves alternate but are often clustered at the ends of the branchlets, paripinnately compound with 8–18 leaflets which are alternate to nearly opposite. The flowers are unisexual, male and female flowers being very similar in appearance, regular with lobed calyx and free boat-shaped petals. The male flowers consist of rudimentary ovaries while the female flowers consist of non-dehiscing anthers. The fruit is a narrowly obovoid to club-shaped capsule of about 7–14.5 cm long, erect, and brown, dehiscing with 5 woody valves and many-seeded fibres between the valves. Seeds are 4–6 cm long, pale brown, winged at the apex. Pseudocedrela kotschy is widespread in the savanna region from Senegal to Ethiopia and Uganda. It is a medicinal plant whose therapeutic values undoubtedly have a folkloric background as it has been used in the treatment of various diseases by traditional healers. In particular, its bark, roots and leaves are the most frequently used plant parts. It is harvested from the wild, mainly for local use and occasionally planted as an ornamental shade tree and roadside tree. Internally, it is used to treat fever, stomach-aches, dysentery, and as an anti-parasitic. Externally, it is used to treat leprosy, sores, rheumatism, swelling, and even as a dressing to help the healing of bone fractures. Pseudocedrela is a medicinal plant that is also widely used for the treatment of thromboembolic disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, microbial infections and other conditions. The finely pounded fresh leaf twigs, which form a paste, are rubbed into the skin to treat rheumatism, and to the forehead to treat headache. The paste is applied and wrapped with a bandage to heal compound fractures. The carefully made decoction from pounded leaves is drunk to relieve one from oedema condition. Additionally, the pounded leaves are added to a water bath to treat against skin rash caused because of oedema. In many communities especially in West Africa, the decoction/infusion made from the pounded leaves is orally administered for the treatment of dysentery, malaria, and a number of gastrointestinal conditions including stomach-aches, abdominal pains, and diarrhoea. The leaves of Pseudocedrela kotschyi and other herbs are mixed and pounded; the decoction made from this is administered orally for the treatment of polyuria. The stem bark decoction or maceration is used to treat fever, stomach-ache, diarrhoea, dysentery, malaria, worm infestation, among other conditions. The bark decoction is applied externally to treat ulcers, sores, rheumatism, leprosy, skin itch, and gingivitis. The young stems and roots are used as a chewing stick to maintain healthy teeth. The bark decoction is also administered as a pain-killer and in the treatment of haemorrhoids, venereal diseases, and as a fabrifuges. The infusion or decoction made from pounded roots is used in the treatment of diseases such as rheumatic disorder, sores, inflammation of the gums, and syphilis. In some countries in West Africa, the mixture of the infusion of the root bark of Pseudocedrela kotschyi and the aerial part of Adenia cissampeloides is used in the treatment and management of circulatory disorders including numbness. Root bark preparation is used as a powerful diuretic, to treat asthma, fever, dysentery, oedema, and to facilitate childbirth. The root bark is pounded to form a paste which is then applied externally to treat skin ulcers, haemorrhoids, limb fractures, caries, and as an aphrodisiac. In many communities across Africa and especially in East Africa, tea made from the root powder is drunk to treat liver cirrhosis. The root is mixed with other herbs and the resultant decoction is administered orally for the treatment of diarrhoea, general weakness, polyuria, abdominal pains, allergies, emetic, insomnia, and for enhancement of palpitations. Apart from its immense use in human medicine, Pseudocedrela kotschyi also has several other uses. In veterinary medicine, the stem bark is mixed with animal fodder and is known to be effective in the treatment of trypanosomiasis in livestock. The leaves are also given as fodder to treat intestinal worms in livestock. The bark yields a brownish dye that has been used for dyeing cloths over the years and a soluble gum is also obtained from the tree bark. The wood is valued for high-class joinery, furniture and cabinet making, and for shelter construction. Pseudocedrela kotschyi is occasionally planted as an ornamental shade tree and roadside tree. The leaves also provide green manure. However, despite its numerous health benefits, the plant also has some known hazards and care must be taken when handling it. The root juice can lead to severe skin necrosis and care must be taken when topically applying it on the skin. The bark is used as an ingredient for arrow poison and also as a fish poison. Research into the medicinal properties of Pseudocedrela kotschyi showed that the plant phytochemicals have antimicrobial, antiprotozoal, and antidiabetic effects. These unique potentials of Pseudocedrela kotschyi and its constituents have shed more light and given a justification for its continuous folkloric medicinal use to treat and manage a number of communicable and non-communicable diseases. - Richard Komakech

Vocation Story: “If The Seed Falls…”

He dreams of becoming a botanist. He loves reading short novels. One day, he lays his hands on a booklet titled “If the seed falls..." and buys it. He feels fooled. Yet, he reads it all the same and his life changes radically. Fr. Brighton Multiply Zimba from Zambia, tell us about his story. Since I was a child, I developed a strong feeling of affection for the Church. Most probably, because my family was involved with the local Catholic community. My father was a catechist and my mum was the leader of the Catholic women. My teenage years, however, brought about a change in attitude. The local church became much more to me than an institution. I began to realise the importance of it. It was not the building, the bricks, the mortar, the pews, the programmes, or even the ministries. It was God's people gathered together for a specific purpose. The turning point, however, was just behind the corner. In 1998, while I was studying at Chama Boarding High School, in Muchinga Province of Zambia, the most remote eastern area of the country, I came across a little book entitled Mbeu Ikagwa... ("If the seed falls...). It was written in my local language, Chichewa. The cover was eye-catching, and the title quite intriguing. At that time, agricultural science was my favourite subject at school. Anything that had to do with plants and seeds stirred my attention. I decided to buy it. I thought "It will be an excellent complement to my passion for botany". From the first pages, I noticed that the book had nothing to do with seeds and plants. It was a short biography of an Italian man, by the name of Daniel Comboni. Disappointed and feeling somehow fooled, I thought at first of throwing the book away. But something inside me kept on pushing me to read at least some pages. About half way through the book, Daniel, the man whose life the booklet was presenting, was reported as saying "The happiest day in my life will be the one on which I will be able to give my life for you”. There was a flash of light in my mind. I immediately realised that the seed referred to in the title was not "a unit of reproduction of a flowering plant", it was the very life of Daniel Comboni, the founder of the Comboni Missionaries. Those words left me spellbound. Everything made sense now. Even the title of the book was spot-on! Comboni's life had been a life thrown away, lost for the others, and yet completely gained! Now something inside me was urging me to imitate Comboni and his decision: not just to offer part of what I had to others, but to spend my entire life for the evangelisation of Africa. His motto "Regenerating Africa through Africa" became a refrain in my mind. My interest in knowing about mission and missionary life grew more and more, and I joined the parish vocational group, which was animated by a Comboni missionary. At first, I did not have the courage to tell my parents about my desire, for fear that they would not agree to it, since I was the first-born of the family. Finally, I took my courage in both hands and I opened my secret to mum and dad. To my surprise, they calmly welcomed it: "We respect your decision and will pray for you". In October 2004, I joined the Comboni postulancy in Balaka (Malawi). I enjoyed the philosophical courses I was asked to attend. They turned out to be essential in understanding myself and the others better. In 2007, I went to the Novitiate in Lusaka, where I remained until my first religious profession, in May 2009. Two beautiful years, during which I was helped to deepen my faith and develop my Comboni missionary identity. For the theological studies, I was sent to Naples (Italy). Three years later, I went to Cairo, where I attended courses at Dar Comboni Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies. On the 10th October 2013, I made my final religious profession. The following month, I was ordained deacon at St Joseph's Church in Zamalek in Egypt. In July 2014, I went back to Zambia for my priestly ordination and the 2nd August 2014 was "the day that Lord had made for me'. It was a great day with all my family and friends. After a few weeks, the superiors posted me to Kosti, in the diocese of Khartoum (Sudan). Working in Kosti is beautiful and hard. Serving is always like that. But I am happy, really happy. I have no doubt that I am where God wants me to be. And the booklet Mbeu Ikagwa? It is still with me, solemnly opened on a small bookrest in the right corner of my desk.