By Art Laffin
Maputo, Dec. 2
Today marks the 29th anniversary of the of the martyrdom of Jean Donavan, Sr.Dorothy Kazel, Sr. Ita Ford and Sr. Maura Clark-PRESENTE! They were killed in El Salvador in 1980 by a death squad because of their love for the poor, their commitment to uphold the human rights and dignity of the voiceless, and their deep fidelity to Jesus' way of unconditional love. Deo Gratias for their faithful lives of courage and hope.
I leave this morning to return to home. I am so grateful for the many experiences I've had in my short stay in Mozambique.
Yesterday, I visited the Nutrition Center (NC) in Matola, which is just outside of Maputo. The NC is part of the DREAM program which was built in 2005 by the community of Sant'Egidio (CSE). I didn't realize until yesterday that this is such an essential part of DREAM, which is an acronym for Drug Resource Enhancement Against Aids and Malnutrition. At the NC, CSE members and friends provide a refuge where the poor of the area can play, take showers and have a nutritious meal Monday through Friday. Most of the children, ages 2-early teens, are very, very poor, and many are malnourished. Most of the children where dirty clothes and many are without shoes. The NC, which is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. is a sanctuary for these beautiful children. There is also a School of Peace for 25 children and a small kindergarden. Yesterday, some 2,000 children came the NC. I was in awe of the several who women do most of the cooking for the children. They use the biggest deep pots I have ever seen. Every child had pasta, a small piece of beef, half an apple and clean drinking water.
I spent time with some of the very young children as we watched some of the girls play a creative game of jump rope. As i held little Januario and his baby brother on my lap, I couldn't help but think of my son Carlos, and all the other children i know and love. I also thought about the impending escalation of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and how all the billions of dollars being squandered on our sinful warmaking could be used instead to help these beautiful children at the NC.
Before leaving the NC, I had an hour meeting with a group of young people and early teens who were visiting the NC from a nearby school. I was asked to speak with them about the death penalty and nonviolence. As we sat under a mango tree, we spoke heart to heart. I also shared with the students books by Archbishop Desmund Tutu and Martin Luther King. Jr. I will always remember these special young people and our heartfelt sharing under the mango tree.
I leave Mozambique with a profound respect and deep love for all the wonderful people I have met. I am deeply grateful for the CSE for inviting me to come to Mozambique and for taking such good care of me during my visit. Everyone I have met has brought me closer to God and has helped deepen my faith in the Gospel. What a great Advent gift! My new friends of Maputo will always have a special place in my heart.
With love and gratitude,