Visit to Murugaragara

Murugaragara, (whose name means "beautiful view") is a straggling village of 250 to 300 people scattered over a large area.The Fraternity of MurugaragaraThe Fraternity of Murugaragara The people live very poorly from agricultural work, a few banana trees, a little sorghum, maize, manioc, haricot beans, and all that with only a hoe as a tool.
The maize and bananas are used mostly to make beer, and even though today the authorities forbid them from being used for that because of the agricultural under-production, the people continue to do so on the quiet, because it is the only way of celebrating and forgetting the misfortunes of life.

The last time I had seen Lorenzo went back 7 or 8 years. I found him in good form despite his very bad back and a hernia that he will have to have an operation on some day or other. He was very happy to have visits and be able to leave his isolation and to share and exchange peacefully.Lorenzo and friends, MurugaragaraLorenzo and friends, Murugaragara
In 2003, Marcel, the second brother, had to return to France because attacks of malaria were weakening him increasingly, and thus Lorenzo remained alone temporarily in order to put things in order for the fraternity before going back to Europe himself. But four years have passed, and the 'putting in order' continues, at the African pace.
I have to admit that I was very impressed by this little village lost in the bush, and in particular by the life of this fraternity. The fraternity is an important place in the life of the village. During the day there are always people coming there, for something or other. The people sit under the tree and time goes by gently while chatting.
Lorenzo continues to work his fields of haricot beans, his banana trees, his potatoes, etc., and with his harvests, he has reached economic self-sufficiency, at least for his ordinary life. Alongside his work there is, if one can say it this way, the accompanying of 'Kigango', which is the local Christian community. Thanks to our brother a lot of little things are being done that may be sparks of hope for helping this village get out of poverty and, in particular, a certain inertia.
The Kigango works community fields, and the members commit themselves to participating in the work of clearing the land, sowing and harvesting. One part of the harvest is shared among the members and another part is deposited in the Kigango treasury. It was with this money that the community was able to build the concrete chapel that is the pride of the community today.

On the fraternity's land there is a mill for grinding maize, a sewing machine, a small carpentry workshop, a henhouse and the cow which will soon provide, one hopes, a heifer to increase the production of milk.the cowthe cow
All these activities have people in charge of them who receive a wage for their work, and the extra earnings are always put into the treasury for unplanned things or for other projects, like, for example, buying a small bus to transport people (especially sick people) and take produce to market. A young man has already been sent to the town to get a driving licence. Of course all that was able to get underway mainly thanks to Lorenzo's presence, and it is because he is there that it can continue. It is not easy to get the sense of the common good, to enter into the mentality of the people; there is sometimes a tendency to be content, passively, with the little that everyday life can give, and there can be a lack of effort to go further.

This fraternity was founded in 1978. A lot of brothers have passed through it "who were like rays of hope", but alas, today it risks closing.
I have to admit that I was very taken with this fraternity: it is a beautiful insertion! Our presence in this rural area, so poor and underprivileged, has its full meaning. This fraternity, truly so far from everything, remains a little spark of hope in the daily life of these men and women.

"The hope of the poor is not for tomorrow, but for today, the 'today' of God. It is not primarily for the end of misfortune, but it always proclaims a beginning, even if this humble and fragile beginning makes one think of a seed, a bud or a child… Hope is even the absolute beginning, the beginning of the absolute future, the first fruits of the 'new creation'." - Pierre Ganne SJ.

By sharing Lorenzo's life for a few days, it seemed to me that this fraternity's way of being present in Africa might be one 'response' (among others) to the search for inculturation which is in process among our brothers and sisters who are present in Africa.Murugaragara is the only agricultural fraternity that we have on this continent, inserted into an environment that is truly poor, where the brothers, through their own work, have been able to become, and still are, economically self-sufficient.
And then I started to dream: why close realities like this one? Why not try, on the contrary, to reinforce them? Why would our young brothers, from Africa or elsewhere, not be interested in this reality? I know very well that it is not easy. I know that life in the villages is hard and that a hoe is very heavy.
Yes, Murugaragara is no paradise. But are we capable of including in our choices a grain of foolishness out of love for these people, abandoned to themselves? Love does not mean protection from risk; there are always risks that have to be taken on. Are we still capable of taking risks?Better to light a small light in the night than to curse the darkness. (African proverb)Better to light a small light in the night than to curse the darkness. (African proverb)
I found Lorenzo very much alone. Each visit that he receives is like a breath of mountain air which gives him strength for a time. I have pushed him to leave Murugaragara at least once a year in order to meet with the Brothers of the Gospel at Arusha. It seems to me very important to try and strengthen the bonds with our Brothers of the Gospel because they are the closest. I know that our brothers of Arusha would be happy to journey with Lorenzo.

I would like to end this newsletter - which is already very long - by thanking all those who accompanied me during this trip: it is thanks to you, brothers, sisters and friends, that I was able to enter into your realities a little.

Thank you!