Saturday 6 October 2012

Guest Blog - News from Fr Jim Fanning in the Congo

By Fr James Fanning,
James Fanning at Basankusu Primary School
Nine months in the Congo. For some this is a gestation period before being really born. As each month goes by I notice the waxing and waning of the moons. I have never been so close to nature before. I am also quite sensitive to the weather these days as my solar panels only function well when we have plenty of sunshine. (And then my fridge can work well.) Although I live along the equator the skies in the rain forest are often filled with rain clouds! (Surprise! surprise!)
Well I am just pulling out of my third dose of malaria. I have always been careful to sleep under a treated mosquito net against the insects of the night but I will now have to watch out during the twilight hours before I nestle under the safety of the net at night or emerge in the early morning. Long sleeve cotton shirts, despite the humidity, are very helpful in the mornings and evenings. There is a very tiny insect which loves to bite at that time called the maraguin and after it has done its work my arm looks as thought it has touched a stinging nettle. The mosquitoes seem to be less obtrusive.
The Congo is more like a continent than a country. There is a war going on in the East in Goma but it is so far away that it seems as though everything it is not really happening. It is only when one of my parishioners asks for a lift to Basankusu on one of my monthly forays to phone his brother in the army in the East that I realise it is real after all. The bishops have given us a prayer to say for the unity of the country. There is so much mineral wealth here but the exploitation of it seems to escape all the government controls. The destabilisation of the great lakes region after the Rwandan genocide is still having atrocious consequences-rape looting, wholesale killing of innocent civilians, child soldiers, and blood diamonds…horrible..horrible.
The ordinary population gets little if any benefits from the Congo’s fabulous riches. Here in the Equator province the country continues to move more backwards than forwards.
Settling into the Congo seems to be testing every fibre of my body I am getting used to a completely different diet. Also I am not used to changing my clothes three times a day. Air conditioning is something we left behind in Kinshasa. Any way there is no power here to make it work!
But somehow I feel really privileged to be here. We seem to be flying below the radar of all the brainwashing of the western world. We cannot pick up TV (unless you have electricity and a satellite dish) nor do we have newspapers. People rely on their radios when they can get batteries. People still want and have large families despite the immense poverty around and the appalling injustices we learn about. They still believe there is a God in the heavens and he is the one who gives the children.
The Toyota Land cruiser is my lifeline with our headquarters and for getting round the parish. I have decided that at 60 plus I am not going to learn to ride a motorcycle. I did a rush round of all the schools in the parish last month for the opening Masses of the school year but I overdid it and hence the malaria. In the next three months I will finally be visiting all the sectors of the parish at a more leisurely pace. It means two or three nights per week in the villages. The people are very hospitable but I often laugh at myself when I squat on the mud toilets or walk endless kilometres in a jungle trek or bathe under the moonlight from a bucket. It is like a continuous camping holiday. I am aware I am the only white man for hundreds of kilometres around and move between feelings of loneliness and pride. and soul. But it has its disadvantages as many of the new generation have only heard of white men but not yet seen one Everywhere I go I am followed by hundreds of eyes and you can imagine how grateful i am for my own private space when I get back to my house!
I pray every day for helpers who can make the work easier. As I say this I realise the huge logistics which are needed if any one is to come. It is not a good place for people who are on a tight budget and fixed timetable (but the sweating can bring down high blood pressure...! Here you need a lot of spare time in case of delays and cancellations of flights and elastic pockets to come to our rescue in the unforeseen eventualities of each day. (There seem to be more of these than the foreseen ones!)
Of course if somebody would come out I would be there in Kinshasa to meet them and accompany them up country- but it would cost me about $1500 to do the round trip both ways for myself alone! When people come it is good if they are sponsored so that the organisation can pay the extra costs.
My present project is to try to lift the level of the education in the schools of Waka Parish. I have eighteen primaries and six secondary. There is a miserable lack of basic text books: dictionaries atlases etc. It is no good sending out bundles of books as the cost of freight and the irrelevancy of most of them to the national syllabus makes the effort more than it is worth. Straight cash will enable us to buy the books in the capital and have them freighted up here.
There is a saying here: little by little the bird builds its nest. That is what I am feeling like. I have been gestating now I look forward to giving birth,
Many thanks for all your interest and prayers
God bless you
Fr James Fanning is a member of the Mill Hill Missionary order, formerly based at St Josephs College in Mill Hill. He was born adn raised in Mill Hill and attended St Ignatious school. He is currently on an assignment in the Congo.
Fr. Jim Fanning

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Father James, Sikolia here aka Kizito from Kenya, currently practising in Oxford, UK. Nice to read of your good work. God bless


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