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“They loved until the end”

 

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Bugobe, 10 years

30/10/2006: Dem. Rep. of the Congo

I am having lunch, when suddenly I receive a phone call from TV3. The journalists voice sounds familiar, as well as expectant and inquisitive. Núria, an old student of my philosophy classes at the college, wants to confirm the news about four Spanish marist brothers murdered in the refugee camp of Nyamirangwe (Bugobe, Zaire as it was then, Democratic Republic of the Congo today). “I dont know anything, I answer her. I write down her phone number. A few minutes later, I receive another call confirming the news for the worst: Servando Mayor, aged 44, Miguel Ángel Island, 53, Fernando de la Fuente, of 53, and Julio Rodríguez, 40, have been killed. It was October 31, 1996. Ten years ago. Two years before, in 1994, there had been a terrible genocide that brought around half million people to death. Thousands of people belonging to the hutu tribe escaped, mainly to the Congo (Zaire) and set up refugee camps there.

Four hutu brothers decided to help these people. Later on they were removed because their lives were in danger. Those responsible for the international politics were unable to act with some success. Africa was not in their agenda, but the area was a powder magazine continually sprinkled by social and political crisis. When the four brothers received the invitation of Brother Benito Arbués, Superior general, to leave the place, as their lives were seriously at risk there, they answered him: “We cannot leave behind those who have been abandoned by everybody. All the international organizations agents have left, and currently thousands of refugees who run away from other places on war are arriving here. We want to help welcome them. They wished to live out their mission thoroughly without looking for martyrdom. Things went worse but their message was still the same: If you were here, you would also do what we are doing. We have made up our decision to stay here if you allow us to. The four of us think this way. Today we can escape, in some days perhaps it will not be possible… Our will is to stay here. For the time being we are not threatened, the only ones that can do harm to us are the rebels that are coming, but it seems that they respect the white people.

Servando’s last message ran: “Everybody has gone away from the camp of Nyamirangwe. We have been left here alone. We are expecting an attack at any time. It will be a bad sign if we do not make a phone call this afternoon. All this area is very upset. The refugees run away bound to nowhere. They may come back here again. Now there are many infiltrated violent people around. We’ll stay here since we dont want to get mixed either with the soldiers or the armed groups.

When Servando was last in Spain, before returning to Africa, his mother asked him whether he really thought that he could do something for those poor people there. The answer sounded clear: Mother, when the refugees see us missionaries around, it is the same as if they saw God. If we dont help them, nobody will do”.

This was not social heroism, but deeply rooted faith: “I feel that God asks me to remain here. When I remember these four marist brothers’ martyrdom, I think of essential values. Their biographies were normal, the kind of standard people, so no writer would find the ingredients required to write a book on them. When you take a risk, when you play that game scoring life or death, there are no way-outs. They made it this way. Human suffering and a deep faith can explain their decision. This is a good lesson for our polished Christian religion, since a lot of current discussions inside our Church today are pure art. They and people like them are the genuine face of the Church. They challenge all of us now remembering them 10 years after they were killed. Somebody wrote a book about them and gave it a title that summarizes their lives perfectly well: “They loved until the end. H. Lluís Serra Llansana

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