Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
September 7th, 2011

Janine ter Kuile

Financial Aid Office
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Wednesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time
[439] Colossians 3:1-11
Psalm 145:2-3, 10-11, 12-13ab
Luke 6:20-26

Blessed are the poor. At first glance, this sounds contradictory.  How can someone be poor, hungry and hated and blessed? 

This summer I spent two weeks in the heart of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo.  It has been described as the worst place in the world to be a female.  My mission was to support the local women on the eastern border of the country, who convened to discuss strategies to cope with rape, violence, and war.  Nearly 1,000 rapes occur every day, to men and women alike, some extremely violent.  Congolese traders of precious minerals like coltan (a mineral vital to cell phones and other electronics) say the voice of a poor man doesn't have any importance. They know U.S., Britain, Rwandan and Ugandan companies profit from the unregulated mining and selling of Congo's vast mineral deposits.

People are naturally curious.  They asked me, ‘why are you going?’  ‘Who would go there voluntarily? ‘ I asked myself, is it not enough to be poor, but then have to suffer unimaginable atrocities?  Would going there give me an answer?   What could I hope to achieve?  I believe people rarely take risks because they want to, but they take a leap of faith because of the persistent yearning that can only be resolved through action.  I felt compelled to act and battled with myself about how - and if - I could make a difference from thousands of miles away. It was increasingly difficult to continue living the role of the sympathizing American who talks about the world's suffering at the office, but goes home and does nothing.

I also felt this trip would mean the start of an intimate relationship with the people.  My experience with them told me that suffering is a permanent endurance test of life, which can be met with astonishing resilience.  Congolese demonstrate robustness, energy and talent that is keeping an otherwise broken system going.  It is a triumph of individual commitment and collective will.  You can’t help but fall head over heels in love with a people who exhibit a spirit (which is quite enviable) that laughs in the face of corruption. They carry their poverty with great dignity.  Blessed are you who are hungry.

Simon Kibangu, a man considered by millions of Africans to be a prophet, had a vision in which God gave him a divine commission to preach and heal in Congo around 1915. His mission became a mass movement that caused colonialists to imprison him for 30 years, where he died.  He said that the Black would become White and the White would become Black.  He and his wife (who kept the church going during his imprisonment), symbolize a call to action.  Blessed are you when people hate you.

Action is an essential element of any faith. The women in the east are acting on behalf of one another, blessing one another in the midst of utter chaos.  Blessed are you who are now weeping.

And so my questions still linger, how do I respond to what I have seen, heard, felt?  I can only resolve to remain in communion with this struggle by sharing with others what I have seen.  I must do more in my own community to engage with those who are different from me, who have less.  Not because  they are poor, but because I can learn from them.  I mustn’t be afraid to use my priviledge for the benefit of others.  And I pray that I will remain in a place where I care beyond myself.

The words of a new friend in Congo says it all: “Personally I feel proud to having been of help to you because beyond your decision to visit Africa there is love to human kind”.   Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!

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