On 4-8th July 2023, at the Franciscan Spiritual Centre in Kabgayi, a town about 50 km from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, a workshop on Promoting JPIC for Every Creature was organized by Br Jean Eric Mutabazi, OFM, Provincial JPIC animator in the Province of St. Francis in Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius.
In this land of a thousand hills, the workshop was attended by 24 participants from various countries (Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda), namely: Franciscans Youth, Franciscan seculars, Franciscan religious, the members of Laudato Si Movement in Africa, and OFM JPIC animators in these countries. As the representative of the JPIC Office in Rome, Br Taucen Girsang, OFM also attended the event and conveyed the essence and mission of JPIC.
JPIC as Franciscan way of life
The awareness of JPIC as transverse values, a fundamental dimension of Franciscan charism, spirituality and way of life was raised by Br Taucen. He argued that JPIC, the Franciscan’s DNA, should not be considered as an additional work, an optional, a service for a few interested friars. He encouraged the participants to realize that JPIC must be embodied in every single Franciscan. That JPIC is an identity for all Franciscans, young, religious, and secular. On that basis, every Franciscan is responsible for making JPIC more visible in the social reality. In addition, in the midst of sharing, some participants asked interesting questions about how we implement JPIC as our way of life today.
JPIC’s concrete plan
After a brief discussion in groups divided by country to get to know the social reality better (Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Zambia and Malawi), each of the friars as local animators in those countries came together and presented what they found out about the JPIC work plan from 2023-2025 for their province. Some of the concrete plans collected included: pastoral care for street-children, visiting prisoners, defending the rights of women and children, visiting refugee camps, making JPIC animations in schools, encouraging Franciscan youth, building closer collaboration among Franciscan families, and so on. Through these activities, local animators will make small steps without pushing themselves to do something beyond their capacity.
Special Statutes for JPIC in the Province
The need for a Special Status for JPIC in the Province is a reasonable fact. Looking at the JPIC as an office and a way of life, the nature and purpose of the JPIC Office as well as its organization and how the province would finance the activities of JPIC was discussed by the Provincial JPIC animator, Br Jean Eric Mutabazi with his co-animators for Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Zambia and Malawi, and Tanzania. With a little help from Br Taucen, it was agreed that the JPIC Special Statutes model from the JPIC Office in Rome would be applied in the province taking into account the contextual situation in each country where the animators work.
Franciscans Youth for Environmental Justice
The next session was a presentation on Laudato si, Pope Francis’ encyclical letter (2015), led by Steeven Kezamutima, coordinator of the Laudato Si Movement in Africa. He invited the participants, especially the Franciscans Youth, to look at what is happening to our common home. Awareness of the environmental degradation issues, such as plastic and bottle waste, deforestation, chemical fertilisers, natural disasters, extreme drought, fast food, were discussed in depth. Having detecting these problems, what do we do to it? He asked. He then concluded that everyone has contributed to the cries of mother earth so environmental conversion must be personal, communal, social, and committed. He added that Franciscans will never stop campaigning for environmental justice. At the end of his session, Steeven took time to watch film The Letter together, and followed by a discussion on resources mobilization for youth.
Then, a friar who dedicates his time to human development at Franciscan school in Kivumu-Kabgayi, Br Emmanuel Buber, OFM, explained how young people, the students, should care for the environment with simple actions, such as not cutting down trees, not using plastic, cleaning the room, not wasting food.
JPIC and Human Rights
Br Jean Eric dedicated one day of the five-day Workshop to visit a Lake for a moment of togetherness as well as to evaluate and to present certificates to the participants. He also reminded them that humans are part of Mother Earth and should respect each other. While enjoying the fantastic panorama with good food and drinks during lunch, boating on the Lake, singing and dancing during the trip, there was a space where explanations about Human Rights such as the right to food, water, life, house, health, freedom of expression, access to education, free choice, were explained by Steeven. This was of course intended for the participants to understand that the violation of other rights will always lead to injustice and destroy peace.
The highlight of the Workshop was that the bond of brotherhood among the participants grew stronger by the day by declaring that Franciscan life is to have nothing but to enjoy everything. More than that, the participants committed to immediately start and actively make JPIC as a way of life more visible in Africa. To conclude the workshop after Mass, while singing Laudato si o mi Signore, a mango tree was planted as a sign of their commitment.