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Marist Bulletin - Number 274


The Voices of Children Call Us to Solidarity

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During these days of Advent we want to motivate the use of a typically Marist proposal, created by the Bureau of International Solidarity (BIS), that can help you and your community in your prayers and reflections.
The Bureau of International Solidarity (BIS), based at the Marist Brothers’ world headquarters in Rome, is the Congregation’s centre for education, advocacy, project coordination, and networking for justice, peace, and solidarity, especially in fields directly related to the welfare of children and young people.
For each Advent, BIS prepares a booklet that gives us an opportunity to enter into the mystery of Christmas.
This year’s reflection booklet has become an avenue for children’s voices around the Marist world to be heard. Twenty three children, or in some cases groups of children, have shared with us their reflections on life, the world around them, and their concerns and hopes for the future. BIS has incorporated their reflections into a format for reflection that includes a daily reading from the scriptures of Advent, points for personal reflection and a closing prayer taken from the liturgy of the day.
You can download all the text from our website.
Today, with this Bulletin, we are sending you five of the twenty-three life reflections from these young people, one from each continent.

Democratic Republic of the Congo
After years of civil war, the children of the Democratic Republic of Congo hope for peaceful elections and a new government that will lead the nation toward prosperity and growth. Elections are scheduled for December 2006. This message comes from our brothers in the DRC. The brothers tell us it comes from a young adult named Bulukaoto in Kisangani. During this season of Advent, remember to pray for a peaceful outcome to these elections.
“Advent” ... a time of hopeful anticipation for the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. “Emmanuel: God with us” … a message of the love of God who wants to live among us…
How are we going to respond to this “welcome” of God who begs our hospitality?
My country, the DRC, after many years of war is in a period of transition that is full of uncertainty.
God teaches us Solidarity by wanting to come among us. When I look at my family, my school, my country and the other countries of the world, I discover that Solidarity is no longer a duty that touches the heart of people. Today -- in many families, in our schools, what we see on television -- we see and learn selfishness, vengeance and bloodshed.
Advent invites us to change our heart to aim for the common interest, the interest of all.
This is perhaps what the politicians of my country with the help of the international community are trying to teach us children who grew up in a time of civil war. A “change of heart” which is real for me is expressed by the desire to stop wars and a commitment to advance to free, democratic and transparent elections. For me and for many children who have been the victims of war, this is a real joy.
Now, in our schools, our churches and our families, we do not cease hearing words like: “Election, Reconciliation, Forgiveness, Negotiation, Change, etc.”
Today, these are words of hope. Only a few years ago, we were taught how to hate and kill. The Congolese people, like many other people of our planet, are journeying towards the solidarity of God who wants to live among us despite our differences.
We are learning to accept each other despite our differences. We want to turn our diversity into a source of richness, of peace, of forgiveness and not a source of conflict, of war, of exclusion and of bloodshed.
Our prayer is that God may make us into a people of solidarity, open to everyone, and ready to spread His message of love and of solidarity. (Br. Michel Uhuka)

Spain, once a colonial world empire, has a proud history of cultural achievements. From 1936 to 1939 it suffered a devastating civil war. It joined the European Union in 1986 and has become a strong economic force in Europe.

At fourteen, Rafa enjoys the support of a stable and loving family. He also finds himself confronting a world where not all are so lucky. He worries about his friends, wars, poverty and inequality. (Br. Federico Andrés Carpintero)

I am Rafa and I am fourteen years of age. I live in the city of Valladolid, in Spain. I am currently in the second year of secondary school at the Marist school called “La Inmaculada”. I have a great brother whose name is Kiko. My father works in the telephone business and my mother at the Castille and León Council. What I prefer is the computer and everything that you can see with it. I like fantasy books, going to the movies and chatting with my friends. Sports wise, I prefer swimming to football or basketball. I do not know what I am going to be when I grow up; I have not really thought about it yet; …something with languages… that’s what interests me the most.
What I look for in my friends is that they tell the truth, that they are easy to talk with, well mannered and friendly … I have been at the school for three years - a long time!, since I was a child. As for the teachers … there are all sorts. Boys of my age have problems and difficulties with their studies; some are isolated. No one hangs around them because they are violent, sometimes… As for me, I do well in my studies and I have some good friends.
I believe that the most important thing to be in life is to be happy with who you are. And also to do what you like to do. I am concerned about what is happening in the world, especially the poverty of people in under-developed countries (they do not have anything to eat), the wars (in Iraq), what is happening every day, the terrorists who get on buses and blow themselves up … Here at Valladolid, there are groups of neo Nazis with a fascist ideology …
There should be more equality in the world (even though we are all different), I would say: more equality of rights. When I hear the word hope, I believe that means that there are possibilities… that there exists a faith in something good. People need to be less concerned about unimportant things and to profit more from life, friends, family, things that fill your heart. If someone says a prayer, may it be for the world, for me, for all the sick, for those also who are close to me and to you and who are having some hard times …
(Rafa, age 14)

Australia is a country rich in natural resources. It has an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. Its environment is unique and fragile. It faces many social challenges including reconciliation with its Aboriginal past and the cries of peoples from other parts of Asia seeking the safety of its shores.
Patrick attends a Marist school and is respected by many of his fellow students. At seventeen, he is not blind to the injustices around him. He asks himself very difficult questions and appears ready face the challenges before him to create a better world. (Br. Chris Wills)

My name is Patrick; I’m a seventeen-year-old Australian and a practicing Catholic. I attend - as the College Captain of 2006 - Marist Brothers Ashgrove, and live in a world offering me countless opportunities. My wish is for others to have the same wonderful life with which I have been blessed. As I look at the world in which I live, I see a great deal of injustice. Many are born into the harsh world of poverty, with limited opportunities for education, basic nutrition and living, and yet few have the privileges I so often take for granted. For me, the world must be changed. For too long, poverty has oppressed people of the world. For too long, the fortunate have sat back letting these injustices occur. As an adolescent, and in the future, I know that each individual has the power to make a difference, each individual possesses the power to pursue his or her dreams. My dream is of a world of equality, a world where everyone considers all others as family, a world no longer plagued by the injustices of poverty. I wholeheartedly believe that with God beside me, my potential – like all children of God – becomes limitless, and my dreams become achievable. “Changes can come from the power of many, but only when the many come together to form that which is invincible, the power of one.” (The Power of One) Only as a united body with a common goal can the world, its people and its leaders hope to achieve the changes necessary for the world to become what it was always meant to be, a place of love, freedom and happiness for all. It is time for us to stop asking, “Why is the world the way it is?” and start asking, “What can I do to help?” The actions of every individual will ultimately contribute to create the world of the future; hence the responsibility rests on us all. I pray for a better tomorrow for the world in which we live, for God to bring opportunities and equality to those less fortunate in the world than myself and for all people everywhere, that they may find God in their journeys of life. I pray for the current and future leaders of the world, that they set their sights on noble goals, that their decisions are made with courage, love and compassion, and that they serve the common good of all mankind. May God guide us all through our journeys of life, may we live as Jesus taught us, to love one another as family, may our characters shine with the qualities given to us by the Lord, and may all people experience the opportunities to nurture these qualities and live to their full potential as children of God. (Patrick, age 17)

United States
The US is the worlds foremost economic and military power. Not so long ago, it was a country which took pride in the fact that it was a melting pot of ethnic and racial diversity. As in the early 1960s when racial tensions led to marches and boycotts and a federal law to outlaw discrimination, this core element of American ideology finds itself once again in question as issues of immigration increase public tension.
Wander is a student at a Marist school in New York. His parents are from the Dominican Republic. He will be the first in his family to attend a university of higher learning. He stands at a crossroad. (Br. Michael Flanigan)

True reflection requires deep introspection, or an examination of oneself. Those who are adept at accomplishing this feat usually know themselves best. My name is Wander and I am a proud student of Mount Saint Michael Academy in Bronx, New York. I am the child of Dominican parents who sought opportunity over poverty. My passions include helping others, basketball, and music. Most importantly, I feel that the greatest gift is giving. Next year I will be attending college and there are mixed emotions about that. On one hand, I feel the enormous pressure of being the first person in my family to attend a big time college, on the other it is exhilarating to realize my parent’s dreams. This uneasiness causes me to question my abilities.
Growing up in an extremely mixed, urban community, I have seen the worst of society. All who are able to overcome these circumstances are “roses that grew from concrete.” Being blessed with the chance to attend a Marist school has permitted me to blossom and see the best in people. The world around me is filled with illusions of success based on finances. People go against all odds to acquire wealth, even if it means being immoral. The sad reality of this causes me to reminisce on a metaphorical world in which all is good. Quickly I realize that this is Heaven. From this bleak surrounding, I find tranquility in the few who do live their lives righteously. The Mount is located in the midst of the same problems that strangle my own neighborhood. It’s commitment to educate and love young men is a testament to the work of St. Marcellin Champagnat. The world around us has a glimmer of hope because of people like the Marist Brothers and institutions like the Mount. It makes the world a better place.
(Wander, age 18)

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is small tear-shaped island nation to the south west of India. Many have referred to it as a jewel with its peaceful palm studded beaches, lush green mountains and magnificent waterfalls. Yet below the peaceful surface lies a violent interior. For nearly two decades, the island has been scarred by a bitter civil war arising out of ethnic tensions. In the 1980s civil war broke out between Sinhala nationals and rebel Tamils in the north pressing for self-rule. By the time a ceasefire and tentative political agreement was worked out in 2002, more than 60,000 people were dead and the country’s economy was in ruins. In December 2004 the country suffered a devastating natural disaster when a series of tsunamis left more than 30,000 dead and many thousands more homeless. In the past year, the ethnic tensions have again erupted and fighting has begun leaving the question of a lasting peace in question. Shaveen is 15 years old and he wonders what the future will bring for his country. (Mrs. Nirmala)

I am Shaveen. I am fifteen years old, and live in Sri Lanka. There are five members in our family. I have two older brothers and I am the youngest in the family. I am studying for the GCE Ordinary Level examination which will be held at the end of this year. I attend a school managed by Marist Brothers namely “Maris Stella College.” I am a scout of the school. In the past, Sri Lanka was a peaceful country, but at present it is entirely different. The peace and love which was with our ancestors is not with the present generation. Instead of thinking of others, most people are running after wealth and power. I do understand that we must have these things in order to have a good life, but the problem is that most people think only about their own benefits. So they have no time to spare to help others. According to the statistics, Christians in Sri Lanka are only 8% of the population. At least these Christians should take the initiative to re-build peace in our country. If they don’t think about it, the situation of Sri Lanka will be worse. This is the season of Advent. During this period we prepare for Christmas, the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, by decorating Christmas trees and making Cribs. We also paint our houses, go on shopping trips and have parties to share the happiness of Christmas. While doing these things we must first understand the meaning of Christmas and should have an inner change of heart to prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus Christ. If we do so, we will be able to experience the happiness which Jesus Christ brought to this world. As Christians, and followers of Jesus Christ, we too must enjoy peace in our homes, schools, work places etc. In order to have peace we must stretch out our hands towards each other forgetting ourselves. We must use our talents which we have received from God to make another person happy. When Jesus was living on earth he always thought of others with a loving heart. He was quick to forgive and to help anyone. Jesus wants us to be like him. Then our country will be a better place for people to live in. Further we should have to show our gratitude and love for Jesus and should try to re-build the peace which Jesus brought to the world and should practice what he preached. For that we have to pray everyday and have a close contact with the Lord. We prepare ourselves according to the word of God, pray for others, help others in their need and try to preach the word of God for those who do not know him. If we try to practice these things, it will not be difficult to have peace in our country once again.
I hope the people of Sri Lanka would realize the truth and would follow the path of Jesus and let Jesus control their lives. So I kindly ask those who read this to pray for Sri Lanka and its people to have peace according to what Jesus Christ brought to this world.
(Shaveen, age 15)

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