“In many countries, churches have been closed and all forms of social gathering have been prevented, therefore it is up to us religious women to find new ways to be even closer to children, women, the poor, the most vulnerable parts of the population, which has become very complicated”. This is the heartfelt appeal that Sister Helen Bandiho, Secretary-General of ACWECA, regional body that brings together consecrated women from the English-speaking States of Central and Eastern Africa (10 Countries in all: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and, as an associate member, Zimbabwe). Through a letter, sent to Agenzia Fides, the religious asks the religious women of Africa to draw upon their charisms and rethink new forms to stay close to the most marginalized sectors of society now that COVID-19 has made them even more exposed.
“The main sources of education are currently closed and we must somehow provide information and knowledge. There are many people who have not fully understood the magnitude of the phenomenon or who do not know or cannot defend themselves, it is important to reach out and inform them. The letter I wrote at the end of April is meant to be a question for all of us engaged in the field: what do we do as nuns to show the closeness of God to those who have lost hope? How do we act for those who cannot attend services and need to stay in touch with the Word of God? And then, what are we already doing in our congregations to make our charisms present in the midst of the pandemic? I think that as religious women we can have a lot of influence and it is of great help to stimulate the reflection of all the orders. I launched this appeal and now we await answers and suggestions from our sisters”.
Sister Bandiho, who was recently appointed Secretary-General, immediately wanted to get in touch with the congregations and ask to be protagonists of new forms of action: “I consider to plan and share new forms of intervention that allow us to to be close to the poorest in this new and dramatic situation very useful. We can now see new poverty added to old forms of poverty, many people find it difficult to understand how to behave to avoid contagion or simply have not received any information. Many others have lost their job that was already precarious and as a result, they are more easily prey to unscrupulous exploiters and accept any type of employment, even without the slightest security. As women of the Church, in full compliance with the norms and paying close attention to protecting ourselves, we must reinvent our approach to be close to new needs”.