ASIA/AFGHANISTAN - Evangelical presence of the Barnabites and silent witness

Thursday, 14 December 2017 orders   solidarity   poverty   evangelization   religious freedom   mission  


Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "The mission of Catholics in Afghanistan is based on a particularity: it is almost exclusively made of silent testimony. When one is active in faith, there is no need for words. But let us pray that in future, if God wants, we can build a church": says to Agenzia Fides Barnabite Father Giuseppe Moretti, a missionary in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from 1990 to 2015. Father Moretti explains: "The presence of the Barnabites in Afghanistan, in fact, is linked to the concession, obtained in the early decades of the twentieth century, of the presence of a Catholic spiritual assistant within the Italian Embassy in Kabul.This privilege, which took shape in 1933, followed the absolute prohibition of proselytizing the local population.These conditions remained unchanged over the decades, even during the civil war and after the establishment of the Missio sui iuris by John Paul II in 2002, of which father Giuseppe Moretti was the first Ecclesiastical Superior. "In a situation like that in Afghanistan, where we do not have the right to evangelize, one can only act in two ways. The first is to place oneself at the service of the poor. This task is currently carried out with exemplary dedication by the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the Pro Bambini Association of Kabul, an inter-congregational reality born in 2004". The first, explains Father Giuseppe, are dedicated to helping disadvantaged families and they host a dozen girls in extreme poverty, while the latter have opened a home for childeren suffering from Down's syndrome.
"The other field of action - he continues - is the spiritual assistance of the international community. It is a very delicate task, because it consists of a pastoral mission of new evangelization addressed to soldiers, diplomats or officials characterized by a strong religious indifference".
"The message that I tried to convey to them over the years - explains the Barnabite - is that the Catholic diplomat is called to live a life as a true believer starting from everyday life, carrying out his work with responsibility, without words of contempt towards the population. My goal was to form witnesses who, through their lives, show what it means to believe in Christ. How can an Afghan show curiosity towards our faith, if he sees Christians who do not pray?".
The Afghan population is 99.7% Muslim. After the return of Father Giuseppe Moretti to Italy, the mission was entrusted to his Barnabite confrere, father Giovanni Scalese, and still has a base in the chapel of the Italian Embassy in Kabul. Until 2016, in addition to the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Pro Bambini Association of Kabul, there were also the Little Sisters of Charles de Foucauld, who arrived in Afghanistan in the fifties. "The desire for the future is that we can have a church outside the Embassy, thus giving the missionaries the opportunity to have a proper parish organization and to carry out prayer meetings, catechesis and pastoral activities".
The first proposal for the construction of a "public" church reached the person in charge of the Missio sui iuris in 1992 when a representative of the government of Najibullah, submitted a plan to build a church to Fr. Moretti, which included a small compound, with all the guarantees of immunity. The project remained a dead letter given the sudden changes in the political situation in Afghanistan, with the outbreak of civil conflict, the rise to power of the Taliban and then the war of 2001.
Today there is an Orthodox church, the only true Christian religious building on the whole Afghan territory. In fact, in 2001, Romania sent an infantry battalion to Afghanistan, the Romanian expeditionary force wanted to build a real wooden church inside its compound, where the troops of the Kandahar military base come to pray before leaving on a mission. (LF) (Agenzia Fides, 14/12/2017)