Eleven Marist Brothers recently concluded a program of preparation for their final vows at the Champagnat Youth Centre in Port Dickson, Malaysia. They came from the countries of China, the Philippines, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, South Korea, Vanuatu, and Vietnam and were accompanied by Bros. Andrew Chan, Bryan Davis, Alfredo Herrera, and Tony Leon.
- October 1-2: The Child Protection Desk of the Marist Province of East Asia launched a new cybersecurity training to protect young people from online sexual abuse and exploitation.
- October 3-14: The Formation Programme on Servant and Prophetic Leadership took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil. 62 Marist Brothers and Lay Marists from 19 countries participated in the training.
- October 7: Nine new Marist Brothers made their first profession of vows in Tudella, Sri Lanka. They are Bro. Topu Mondol from Bangladesh, Bros. Clementino Xavier, Dionisio Madeira Martins, Filonemo Mendonca, Julio Brites, Juvencio Nia Hanjam and Salvador Baptista Ferreira from Timor-Leste, and Bros. Nguyễn Văn Lý and Trăn Văn Thành from Vietnam.
- October 9: Bro. José Sotero from the Province of Brasil Centro-Norte made his final vows at Rosário do Catete in Sergipe.
- October 11: Deffo Tagno Malvis from Cameroon and Sylvain Djikoloum began their experience of Marist postulancy in Ahwiren, Ghana.
- October 20-22: The National Solidarity Meeting for Marist works in Ecuador was held in Loja. Several social ministries were visited by the participants and policies regarding short- and long-term volunteers were reviewed and updated.
- October 21: The Marcellin Foundation, Inc. in General Santos City, the Philippines was honored as Project of the Year by the Marist International Solidarity Foundation (FMSI) in recognition of its work with vulnerable street children.
- October 22: Bros. Steven Chinsolo, Misheck Mkanthama, and Raphael Time of Malawi celebrated their final vows as Marist Brothers in the city of Dedza.
A Moment in Marist History:
In our 200 year history, the Marist Brothers have already had a number of martyrs. Some were killed on their home soil, while others died serving in a foreign land. Four of our most recent Marist martyrs were killed on October 31, 1996, in a refugee camp where they served Hutus who had fled the chaos of the genocide in Rwanda.
The refugee camp of Nyamirangwe was established in 1994 near Bugobe in what was then the country of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). More than half a million people had been killed in the ethnic violence of the preceding months, leading many survivors to seek relative safety and stability elsewhere. Four Rwandan brothers began ministering in Nyamnirangwe shortly after its inauguration, in order to help the vulnerable refugees. While the Red Cross oversaw the camp of about 30,000 inhabitants, our brothers focused their attention on the 4,000 children and youths living there, both teaching them and providing pastoral care.
Because the Rwandan brothers were of the same ethnic group as the refugees however, many saw political implications for their presence in the camp. As such, these brothers who founded the ministry in Bugobe were advised to leave and were replaced by Bros. Servando Mayor García, Julio Rodríguez Jorge, Fernando de la Fuente, and Miguel Ángel Isla Lucio. Although these four brothers were all Spaniards, Julio Rodríguez had already been elsewhere in Zaire, Fernando had been serving in Chile, and Miguel Ángel was coming from Côte d'Ivoire.
These four new arrivals continued the initiatives begun by their predecessors while also providing assistance with transportation, food aid, and care for the sick and elderly of the camp. Still, they could not escape the desperation and violence of their surroundings.
Uncertainty and confusion increased in the camp throughout 1996. October 31 saw the camp essentially deserted in a matter of mere hours. The sudden flight of so many refugees indicated the danger that was anticipated. Even though our brothers expected an attack to come however, they remained in place in order to be available to care for any who remained and needed them. That evening, members of a militant group loyal to the former Rwandan government invaded the brothers' home and shot them. The militants remained in the house for several days, claiming that the brothers were being held hostage, before discarding the bodies which were found in a wastewater tank two weeks later.
We view these Marist Brothers of ours not only as victims of political violence, but truly as martyrs. Not only did they give their lives in generous service to the most vulnerable, but also the crucifix in their home was destroyed by the assassins, indicating an explicit hatred of the faith that motivates our Christian love of other.
While nobody should seek martyrdom, we Marists continue to be enriched by all those whose love of other empowers them to risk even the greatest sacrifice. Our Church may never officially beatify the martyrs of Bugobe. Nonetheless, to us they are saints.