AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - Xaverian Missionaries spread the Good News in schools, at all levels
Freetown (Agenzia Fides) – On July 8, 2010, the Xaverian Missionaries celebrated the 60th anniversary of their arrival in Sierra Leone (see Fides 07/07/2010, 21/07/2010). In this reflection sent to Fides, Fr. Gerardo Caglioni, who has been a missionary in that land for years, describes the contribution made to the development of local populations and the relations with Islam.
"The arrival of the Xaverians in Makeni, in the Northern Province, marked a significant change in the history of that country. It meant its full development, thanks to the education promoted by the missionaries. The Holy Ghost Fathers, who had already arrived in the British colony in 1864 with Father Blanchet and Father Koeb, had limited their presence to the Freetown Peninsula and slowly, with the progress of the railroad, had penetrated into the southern part of the country, much more prosperous and developed. They never ventured into the North, with the exception of Lunsar (1933), an important iron mining center, to minister to the families of many workers from the South.
Upon the request of Propaganda Fide to entrust the northern part of the British Protectorate to the Xaverian Missionaries, the Spiritans were compelled by the Holy See to also open a mission station in Makeni (1949), to give opportunities to those who came to have a reference point and thus be able to work in the new territory. The Xaverians immediately got to work. A few days after their arrival in Sierra Leone, Fr. Azzolini wrote to his superiors: "This morning, the 11th , Fr. Calza and I left for our destination, Makeni. Fr. Olivani and Fr. Stefani left in the afternoon for Lunsar... It is my great pleasure to inform you that both here in Makeni and in Freetown, the Fathers were very good, kind, friendly."
In Makeni, they found themselves catapulted to the extreme limit of what had been, albeit for a short period, the Muslim empire of Samori Touré, right on the busy trade route linking Freetown, the colonial capital, with the interior, which had belonged to the Muslim empires of Futa Jallon and Samori Touré, born from the terrible Jihad of sword fighting. This was the trade route that promoted Arabic for communicating between one chief and another, for recording commercial contracts or keeping accounts, and which now, with its commerce, was peacefully spreading the religion of Islam.
The Xaverians, on those ancient trade routes built the new world of Sierra Leone, spreading the Good News which was announced in schools at all levels. The methodology experienced by early Christian missionaries of the seventeenth century, the Jesuits and the Capuchins, was to preach the Gospel and to establish Christian communities on the coast and up the rivers into the interior. It was an easy way to get from one place to another, in a land where roads did not exist. The Muslims, from the other side - which spread from the vast desert of the Sahel - entered the territory of Sierra Leone by descending from the north, along the main rivers of the country. The Xaverians, who were in the center of the country, did nothing but the opposite of the Muslims and, from where the railroad ended, they ventured out to the boundaries of the country. The Xaverians were really the last to arrive and, according to the rules of the game, had to adapt or submit to those who had come before them, especially the many prolific Protestant groups." (End of Part 1) (Fr. Gerardo Caglioni, SX) (Agenzia Fides 12/11/2010)
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