On 24th December, 51 children were baptized at the Mission of Naturomoe, in Nyangatom, South Ethiopia, close to the Kenya border.
On the same day, a child was born - a baby girl - to one of our catechists. They are refugees from South Sudan, and they live in a dusty plain at the foot of the hills which act as the frontier with their country. Their faith is one of the few things they have not lost. They cannot go back to their country and they are less than 5,000 people, the minimum number required for the settlement to be considered a refugee camp … Hence, they have nowhere to rest, just like Joseph and Mary!
If Jesus were to be born today, would he be a refugee? We can't know for certain, but, what we know for sure is that he would be standing up for the millions of people that suffer the consequences of wars and forced displacements.
Nyangatom Mission - which was began by the Missionary Community of St Paul the Apostle (MCSPA) about five years ago - is in a remote area: it is Ethiopian territory, but many inhabitants are South Sudanese and they live just a few kilometres from Kenya! Here, peace is being preached as the main Good News of the Gospel, and it is so often related with the need for water for survival.
The joy of the people surprises one, because despite their difficult situation, they enjoy moments like the Christmas celebration, and song and dance are so much a part of our Eucharist celebration here. They made a crib out of mud - a crib with a lot of animals! That is the ideal condition! We painted the faces of the children with colours for the celebration. And after that, chocolate for everybody!
The men, hardened by the violent escape from their country, were moved and touched when they saw their children celebrating, and the songs retrieved a certain feeling that hovered between nostalgia and joy.
The MCSPA is supported in the UK by New Ways, a charity run entirely by volunteers. For more information see: www.newways.org.uk/
Watch this video for an overview of the MCPSA: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENpZM-KEqEM
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