Rome (Fides Service) – To strive to fill gap between the rich and the poor, reaffirm in situations of violence and conflict, the possibility of peace, justice and forgiveness; fight fundamentalism in all its forms through dialogue; be the “friars of the people” close to the ordinary folk; announcing in fraternity peace and well being to the poor and the suffering: these are the main challenges outlined by Father Jose Rodriguez Carballo elected Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor by the general chapter on 5 June.
With regard to the activity of the Order in this third Christian millennium, outgoing minister general Giacomo Bini, says: “To be faithful to the charisma of Saint Francis, as we have been asked by the Pope, we wish to rediscover our special charisma of itinerant evangelisation, rather than engage in pastoral work in parishes. Today we must re-invent the charisma of Saint Francis, with passion and creativity. Francis was a man who lived among the people.”
Today there are 16,000 Friars Minor on all five continents and in 100 countries. “The impact with local situations creates different styles of life and presence, according to the principle of inculturation: we must incarnate the Gospel in the historical and cultural context in which we find ourselves” said Father Antonio Franjic, Vicar General of the Order.
Particularly sensitive is the activity of the Friars in Indonesia, a Muslim country: “We do not have any difficulty in relations with the local Muslims” says Father Paskals Bruno Syukur, provincial in Indonesia. “Some problems depend only on small groups of fundamentalists, but many Islamic groups share with us the same ideal of harmony. We have good relations with Muslim Youth organisations. Reciprocal knowledge helps to eliminate prejudice and build peace. Being a Franciscan in this context means being authentic brothers to people of different opinion, religion, or race. Living fraternity can also help Indonesia as a country: a reality dispersed over its 13 ,000 islands”.
Indonesia at present is living situations of conflict in various areas, most recently in Aceh, in northern Sumatra, where – says Father Syukur, “there exists a problem of justice, or a fall natural resources, for too many years exploited without benefit for the local people. The government has the duty to preserve national unity, but it should use non-violent methods, building good relations with the local people”. In Indonesia there are 132 Friars working in Java, Flores, Sumatra, Aceh, in the fields of education, social services such as schools and orphanages.
Also in Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Franciscans work to give a message of reconciliation and peace. Father Ghislain Ndondji Tshihwisa Adidem, local Provincial tells Fides Service: “We do this mainly with our presence as men of peace. The Friars bear on the bodies and in their hearts the wounds of violence but they remain with the people, sharing the tragedies of daily life. Being there is already a sign and a message of peace.” The Friars says Father Ndondji, intend to open a fraternity n the martyred region of Ituri in east Congo, disrupted in the past months by massacres of civilians.
The work of the General Chapter and other information about the Order of Friars Minor can be found at www.ofm.org looked after by Father John Abela. During the three week general chapter the web page has registered 2,9000,000 visits, an average of 60,000 per day. PA (Fides Service 17/6/2003 EM lines 48 Words: 594)