The Mission Hub

The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the
Propagation of the Faith, the Missionary Childhood Association, the Society of St.Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. These Societies promote a prayerfulmissionary spirit among baptized Catholics and to gather a fund of support for the evangelizing and pastoral programs of more than 1,150 local churches of the Developing World.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Preaching the Gospel in the Face of Danger

My first stop in the Diocese of Chipata, Zambia was at the house of the local Ordinary, Bishop George Lungu. Because of our truck’s brake failure, we arrived for a late dinner. Around the table, rank was dismissed; the bishop and his auxiliary shared their stories of the day with me and the many priests of the diocese gathered. I was assured that this was a nightly occurrence:  such is the brotherhood and community life of the priests under his leadership.   
 As I prepared this column, news reached me of this strong shepherd standing up publicly and firmly for one of his flock.  A Rwandan refugee and still carrying a passport from that country, Fr. Viateur Banyangandora had lived in Chipata for years and was ordained to the priesthood there in 2004.  As usual at the Lundazi Catholic Church last Sunday, Fr. Viateur gave his homily.  Bishop George states, “His message was about the ‘haves’ sharing with the ‘have nots’ as the readings of the day were saying.  Fr. Viateur spoke passionately about the plight and poverty of his parishioners and the people of Lundazi.”
On Monday, Bishop George was shocked to learn that Fr. Viateur was arrested. After being questioned locally in Lundazi, he was taken to Chipata and held without food or counsel until the bishop himself arrived and was allowed to see and feed him. Local officials feigned ignorance of the reason for Father’s detainment stating they were only following orders from Lusaka, the capital.  Bishop George describes the next events:Without being charged, Fr. Viateur was later that evening driven to Lusaka. From then on there is a black-out of information. Where was Fr. Viateur taken? Was he being fed? What did they do about his diabetes and blood pressure medicine? We will need answers.” 
Three days later, Chipata was stunned to learn that Fr. Viateur had been deported to Rwanda for “conduct found to be a danger to peace and good order in Zambia.” He had spoken for the poor.
While appealing for calm, Bishop George sent a message to his priests: “Do not be intimidated by anyone. You were ordained to preach the Gospel and this must be done even in the face of persecution. In doing so, you will be carrying out the prophetic role of being the conscience of society. As Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both Soul and body in Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28).”
“No one shall be allowed to silence our priests.”
To read more about Bishop George's statement, click here.
To read about the Association of Zambian Diocesan Catholic Clergy's statement, click here.
-Maureen Crowley Heil 

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