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Praying with Refugees for hope
01 February 2013

In South Sudan the fragility of life demonstrates the importance of community, Lobone, South Sudan (Christian Fuchs/JRS).

JRS works in cooperation with Boston College exploring our core values.

To read their most recent reflection on hope, click here.

Rome, 1 February 2013 – As we travelled toward Morobi, I was informed that Flabius, the head catechist in the village, had lost a daughter, and she had been buried only the day before. "He probably will not be at the seminar, Father, because there is much grief. This was his last child."

He had lost not only his twenty-one-year-old daughter – and his wife a few years ago – but over time seven children to war and disease. As for this last child, Sabina, the cause of death was unknown. She became ill and died within 24 hours. This happens in the bush; one day a person appears healthy, able to perform the daily tasks in the village and at home, and the next day she is gone, her body struck down by a swift and efficient killer.

At the Morobi chapel – Flabius appeared and took a seat off to my left. He is a frail, grey-haired man of about 50, small of stature, with a face dominated by huge gleaming eyes.

Later after the seminar Flabius, who had sat silently as we ate, asked to say a few words. Speaking in his native Bari, he said something like this:

"I don't have much to say, my brothers, sisters, Father. I've suffered deeply this past week with the death of my last child, and now I'm alone, and there's no one to assist me, except yourselves, for which I'm grateful".

We sat in silence for a long time, letting the rain of his words soak into the soil of our hearts. He concluded, his heavy eyes catching us all in a single glance:

"I don't have much more to say. Pray for me and thank you".

It was heart-breaking. Flabius knew that all were grieving with him.

I was witnessing the Body of Christ suffering and ministering simultaneously.

Reflections for prayer
When people suffer massive pain, they are at risk of becoming isolated, the prisoners of their own trauma, excluded by those who fear to share their fate, unable to communicate, although they long to experience and hear that there is life beyond the pain. Those are times when we need others to invade our space and to tell us that there are good reasons for us to move beyond the entrapments of trauma.

The real threshold is that first step out of the tempting isolation and self-victimisation, not only for those who suffer exclusion, but for all of us. Blessed are those community builders who dare to proclaim, demand and practice this "move out of isolation", who trust that the response to our suffering is through the presence and strength of others, who surround us and take away the veil of our blindness.

Jesus of Nazareth's authority and impact on people rested to a large extent, I imagine, on his capacity to foster friendships, His practice of community-building through the de-isolation, by sharing their fate.

The authority of Jesus emerges not only in the words and actions through which he restores our communities by opening them up to those we so readily exclude, but also in the proclamation of a dream, the Kingdom of God, which he likes to compare to a banquet that all of us enjoy together. It seems an impossible dream, a horizon that can never be reached, but Jesus' faith in a God who comes forward out of that horizon and makes it reality, is contagious.

Scripture for reading
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews, 11.1)