2021-10-27 GENERAL HOUSE

Message of the Superior General on the occasion of the 25 years since the killing of our Brothers in Bugobe

Celebrating 25 years since the killing of our Brothers in Bugobe

Message of Br. Ernesto Sanchez Barba, Superior General
31 October 2021

Next Sunday, 31 October 2021, we remember and celebrate 25 years since the killing of our confreres of the community of Bugobe, Nyamirangwe: Brothers Servando Mayor, 44, Miguel Angel Isla, 53, Fernando de la Fuente, 53, and Julio Rodriguez, 40. Today, in a special way, we join our thoughts with the families of these four brothers, their Provinces and their close friends who still grieve their loss.

I think their story is well known to all: four Marist Brothers being present among and caring for those displaced by one of the great wars of the 20th century, the war in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. A war in which thousands of people died violently. A humanitarian disaster considered genocide.

The Bugobe community, situated in the territory of Zaire (Congo), had started its work of solidarity in October 1994.  Initially six Rwandan brothers formed the community but over time it became clear that an international presence was necessary. Brothers from beyond Africa joined the community. Two years later, the ongoing war and political climate forced the departure of the African brothers. Four Spanish brothers remained – Miguel Angel and Servando at first, and a little later, Fernando and Julio.

They are brothers worthy of our admiration. They enter into that category of great Marist models, taking their place alongside so many other brothers across the five continents who ‘loved until the end’. We greatly appreciate their act of dedication.  We stand amazed and in admiration of their faith, hope and charity, their commitment, their willingness to leave comfort and security, to be a Marist presence in the midst of an isolated and fragile people. Such was this large group of displaced families and individuals.

These brothers cared for those fleeing their country because of war. In remembering them, we bring to mind our many brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who accompany those in similar situations, risking everything for love.

We note that the four brothers were killed as a community. I want to emphasise the witness of life in common. They were not four isolated individuals, but a Marist community, working together, living fraternity.  They discerned together their key decisions. We are called to live fraternity in our communities as a defining experience, to be homes of light in situations of darkness.

The book, published in 1997, which recounts the life of these brothers is entitled Walking till the end of love. They lived this love in such a way that they chose not to save their lives but to risk them. They did what they believed they had to. Among their last conversations with the Superior General, they said: “We cannot abandon those whom all others have already abandoned”.

There is no doubt that each of our brothers knew interiorly a deep strength that came from God and from Mary, and this made them capable of unconditional and total dedication. The Christ discovered amongst the rubble of each one’s life is significant, a mutilated Christ, a reminder of Jesus offering his life without conditions.

 In our day, the witness of our brothers encourages all Marists of Champagnat, brothers and lay, to “respond boldly to emerging needs” and to “journey with children and young people on the margins of life”, following the invitation of the XXII General Chapter.

I invite you during these days, around the 31st, to take time to pray, to give thanks, and to celebrate the life of our four brothers of Bugobe. May it provide the occasion to reflect on our own personal and communal witness – as a family, as an educational institution – in relation to the situations or poverty and marginalisation that surround us.

May Mary, our Good Mother, and Saint Marcellin Champagnat continue to inspire us in our following of Jesus, loving until the end.

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