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We prisoners in Sierra Leone

During the terrible violence in 1995, religious sects were imprisoned, along with young people, adults and children in a detention camp

A relationship within reach of others, making room inhabited by God where others may enter. Making room. This category which brings me back all of a sudden to 1995, back eighteen years, to the experience of imprisonment in Sierra Leone, more exactly in a military camp, where we seven sisters were taken by  rebels after we were kidnapped.

Hundreds of civilians like us were taken, captured out of the blue, from their homes. Mainly young people and children, but there were also adults.

We were like them, left without anything of our own, completely dependent on the guerrillas and witnesses of the most terrible violence, inflicted gratuitously on an innocent and unsuspecting population. We were left to fear for our lives. Young people and children were forced to train to be fighters. Any attempts to escape resulted in captures and executions.

The horror I felt at times deep in my bones for what took place, the sense of my own fragility and helplessness during that absolute madness and at the same time the truth of prayer that, even there,  could keep us in a relationship with God. It is there, for the first time that I experienced the mission in its essence. The necessity of truth, the need for life, the search for God.

It was this cry that I felt from my fellow guerrillas and from their victims. It was the arm that struck and the victim who suffered the blows which resounded the silence of God But the miracle is that the silence was not a mute silence, but that of revelation.

A scene which I have returned to many times over the years always trying to understand how that silence had been able to disclose the presence. I still do not know how to explain it, but it was that presence that saved me, leading me through those days without allowing the evil to touch me deeply.

It is this presence that the guerrillas came to look for were when they stopped in the corners of the military camp where we were confined and it is here that for the first time I felt my mission like a womb which welcomes and nurtures life, not by its own ability but by the presence that inhabits it.

It was given to us by grace, and in particular at certain times, to be a space of welcome where our brothers and sisters in the throes of an absurd violence, could occasionally enter and rest a moment.

The coming of the guerrillas was not dictated by the pursuit of things: we also, for once, had nothing of our own, not even to eat. They were not looking for things, therefore, but they came to look for our poverty, loved and inhabited by God. And there they found a place of rest .

It is the wonder of the mission. This is the most cherished image that I still carry in my heart, after so many years. When they came, our feminine sensitivity allowed us to intuit unspoken needs and undeclared searches, but sometimes their hearts were too full of violence, perpetrated and suffered, and then, sitting on the ground, in their uniforms, always armed, expressions would escape such as : I'm confused ... bless me! They hate for no reason ... I want that sign too... (the cross on our forehead, on that Ash Wednesday), I have come to visit you for a while ... teach me to pray ... What incredible grace the mission!

Truly a treasure in pots of clay, just like the space in which we find ourselves thanks to the gift of the Son, a space inhabited by God and accessible to all, where a meeting can take place not because of our holiness, always distant, but thanks to the holiness of God who in his merciful omnipotence knows how to use the poor and weak instruments, clay pots, in fact, to reach his children.

As a woman I like to think as such, attentive to the possibilities of sometimes barely perceptible life, such as the visits of the guerrillas, the questions of the taxi driver and a thousand other daily opportunities to embrace them in the vital space knowledge with God knowing that thanks his grace we will fertilize them and help them to grow. How this growth unfolds will not always be revealed and remains a mystery, but we know that it certainly takes place , and then we continue our journey with the hope that gives us our faith , that is, a hope that is already lifetime guarantee because it bears the signature of God

May the Lord make us more Churches, the house inhabited by him where others can enter and the meeting can occur.




St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 23, 2019