Fr. Efren de Guzman svd

Goodbye Angola

By Fr. Efren de Guzman svd

After 20 years of serving in Angola, working with the lepers, some encounter with the danger of death, plus the occasional bouts with loneliness in that far, isolated land, I am now moving on to a new assignment; I will be working with the Jesuits and members of other congregations and lay people in East Timor. Similarly, the main thrust of my life will be on community development. As much as I wouldn’t want to leave Angola and the life will be on community development. As much as I wouldn’t want to leave Angola and the life with the people there I have loved through the years, I have to answer God’s call for me to go to another land. And in my heart I believe God will take care of the people I am leaving behind.

What is the situation in East Timor today? After 24 years of Indonesian oppression and violence in East Timor, a referendum was held on August 1999. it was preceded by terrorization and killing of East Timorese people by Indonesian militia groups to persuade them to vote for integration into Indonesia. The militias destroyed 70% of the buildings, fields and livestock and at the same time forcefully evacuated into West Timor (part of Indonesia) between 250, 000 and 300, 000 East Timorese – some 40% of the population of whom hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.

Angola Diary

By Fr. Efren De Guzman svd

Dear Misyon Friends,

In the many uncertainties we are experiencing here in Angola or whenever I’m down, I praise and thank God that we have special friends like you, friends with compassionate hearts who wish to pray and support our work for the poorest of the poor.

I don’t know when God will take my life through sickness assault, landmine explosion or accident. So let me tell you, as I try to express this brotherly feeling within the limitations of a letter, how close you are to my heart.

December 1. Some of our friends in Cazega were hesitant to report to the authorities that almost every night in their area, some armed people were entering houses, robbing and raping women. One of the victims was woman who just given birth, later she died of infection. The people were so furious that when they caught the perpetrator, who was a military deserter and a drug addict, they tortured him and burned him alive.

Angola Diary

By Fr. Efren de Guzman, svd

All over Africa refugees and displaced persons are seeking help. Fr. Efren recently attended a meeting to help those involved in refugee work.

May 9: I arrived in Lusaka, the capital city of Angola, and visited the refugees between the frontiers of Angola and Zambia. I’ve seen some Hutu and Tutsi and some Zairian refugees. Loren Kabila, the new President of Congo, expelled President Mobuto and changed the name of Zaire to Republic of Congo and the people said that what happened to Zaire was just a change of dictators.

Angola Diary

By Fr. Efren de Guzman, svd

Long ago, in the time of Noah, it is said that the Lord placed the rainbow in the sky as a promise of peace. As we go to the press war has flared up again in Angola as Fr. Efren feared. We ask our readers to pray that the rainbow of peace will return again to Angola. Everything else has failed. Prayer is all we have left and prayers are always answered.

Angola Diary

By Fr. Efren de Guzman, SVD

 Let me just share with you some recent events that happened this hot and rainy season. Don’t be upset with my stories. Just pray. Remember, anything beyond your control is not so much your problem. And may the things happening give you inspiration to have a compassionate heart—ready to forgive and understand, trying to be flexible and adaptable in every opportunity and concrete situation.

January 30

In the upper mountain of Kifangondo a drunk policeman lobbed a hand grenade at the people who were at a funeral wake, we brought the seriously wounded to the hospital. To our horror, the culprit was tortured then imprisoned. People said that he was a feiticeiro, a witch or a person possessed by the evil one. This fetishism is part of the culture and some attribute it to deep dreams. Anything bad that happened in their lives –accidents, sicknesses death –has its human cause. They always try to discover the human source of bad luck with help of the Kimbanda (witch-hunter, seer, diviner). One who is accused of being a feiticeiro must suffer tremendously and die. You can imagine the abuses this leads to.

Angola Diary

Fr. Efren de Guzman, SVD

As we prepare this article from Fr. Efren the news from Angola is bad. Things have deteriorated again and the longed for reconciliation between UNITA and the Angola Government seems far away. In the midst of very difficult material and physical circumstances, Fr. Efren and his little group struggle on. It is amazing that he finds time at all to write these brief thoughts, memories, dreams and prayers, special mixture which we call Angola Diary.

Angola Diary

By Fr. Efren de Guzman SVD

March 21

I was awakened late at night by a desperate call: “Mano, Mano, (meaning brother). Come and help Devota.” The caller said their relative, an eighteen-year-old girl was thrashing about so violently like an animal. She seemed to be possessed by an evil spirit. Reaching the house, she growled at me like one possessed: “I know you and you don’t know what you are doing.” (The voice was like a hyena) a thought struck me: “Look at her eyes” The ‘demon’ would not look back but said: “She’s mine!” I said, “Leave her now, for I will call on the name of Jesus and the forces of heaven to overcome you.”

Angola Diary

By Fr. Efren de Guzman, SVD

After I got back to Angola from my medical check-up in the Philippines I was expecting to see better changes in the life of the people here in Luanda. But, to my dismay and deep sadness, the situation here is getting worse everyday. The poverty of the people is becoming more insupportable, the rate of criminality is rising, the number of the unemployed is growing by leaps and bounds. The general picture of Angola is a country beset by all forms of human affliction and torn apart by conflict and division.

Like beasts

Here in the city of Luanda, children are dying en masse without getting the benefit of minimal medical attention. Uncollected garbage clutters up the streets of the capital. Gun-totting members of the Armed forces and the police prowl the city thoroughfares like beast, desperately trying to augment their meager earnings through corruption and intimidation. The daily income of an ordinary man is eight million Kwanzas, equivalent to eight bottles of beer. Eight million Kwanzas cannot ever buy a can of NIDO milk in the only viable supermarket in the city. (Kwanzas is the peso of Namibia. The exchange rat of Kwanza in dollar is 1:1, 500, 000).

In the face of this vast scene of suffering and sorrow, I could only sight with a sense of helplessness. You may note that what I’m telling you is all bad news. Yes, but I have also some good news to tell – things that pertain to my pastoral activities here.

Angola Diary

By Fr Efren de Guzman SVD

 APRIL

April 14 Sunday

We held a meeting after the Eucharist. We had a big questions for the members of different groups of fishermen. Last year five different groups received a boat and net for fishing, but unfortunately none of the recipients want to pay back to help future members. We were so frustrated till we heard one good comment: “Failure in not defeat until you stop crying.”

Africa let me put my arms around you

By Fr. Efren de Guzman, SVD

He came into the room in a bloodshed cassock. I looked up at my brother wondering, seeing fatigue and pain painted all over his face yet hope still filling his eyes.

"Two of the tribal minority groups had a clash today. One of the chiefs was killed and I had to attend to him personally. It wasn’t pretty. But I know that as I served the people, they understood better God’s love,” he said quietly.

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