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Franciscan Ecumenical Centre

June 28, 2011

A Proposal for a Franciscan Ecumenical Centre in BUKAVU (D.R. Congo)

Motivation
Franciscan Friars in the Eastern Congo have been working in hard conditions since the region got much trouble (several wars from 1994). In this multicultural and multi-confessional environment, the energies of the main confessional groups in the process of seeking peace and justice have been much dispersed, everyone doing his own things. There is therefore a need of working together hand in hand, a need of dialogue and collaboration. In trying to respond to these challenges according to the spirit of Francis of Assisi, the friars are looking forward to create an Ecumenical centre in this area. This will give opportunity to various people and Christian ministers to get special formation and practice to facilitate reconciliation, dialogue and collaboration. Dialogue is an expression of our commitment to the Gospel, to the Church, to St Francis charisma, and a response to the today’s challenges. By creating a Franciscan Ecumenical Centre in Bukavu, we hope to extend this dialogue and reconciliation to the whole region of the Great Lakes which have been the nuclear of this conflict.

Objectives
– To strengthen the Franciscan Family, the agents of evangelization and of the agents of other religious confessions by giving them a formation to dialogue.
– To increase the Franciscan presence with respect to dialogue with the Protestant Churches and to make  better evangelization method.
– To make use of the ecumenical formation that African people have got from  ISE (Istituto di Studi Ecumenici di Venezia, Ecumenical Institute in Venice), mainly Tanzanians, Congolese, Angolans, by sharing their experience to African people in need of dialogue and reconciliation.
– Reviving  and strengthening  ecumenical dialogue among Churches in the African region of the Great Lakes.
– For cultural and social impact, we would like to become the yeast to re-establish social peace in the region of the Great Lake.

Geo- Strategic Situation of Bukavu
– The place chosen for the implantation of the Ecumenical Centre is Bukavu city, capital of the South- Kivu Province. Bukavu city  is located at the crossroad  of  5 nations : Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania ; and has a favorable climate (12°-28°C) good for reflection, studies and work in ecumenical atmosphere.
– The Kivu Province is well known for a big Christian multi-confessional presence. Therefore, people need ecumenical formation to dialogue.
– Franciscan Friars in Kivu run 5 parishes and most of them are located in a protestant majority area. Therefore it is normal that the sons of Francis should initiate, promote and facilitate dialogue within the big Christian family as the Franciscan Friars have been living a pacific cohabitation in these areas for more than 20 years.

Infrastructures needed and personnel available
–  A religious dwelling house is needed, with some offices, Library, conference room and chapel.
–  A qualified trained personnel among the friars is already available: 3 friars trained in Ecumenical Theology from Venice, 1 has a doctorate in Biblical theology and another one a doctorate in Liturgy and other several Friars trained in diverse areas such as philosophy, pastoral theology who may be helpful in the formation in the center.

Contact with other Churches
Last August, 2010, I organized, with the Anglican bishop and the Catholic Bishop,  in Bukavu 6 conferences entitled Christians discerning and moving towards the unity that the Lord Jesus recommended (Jn 17,21). A memory of 100 years from the Edinburg Missionary conference. Many people from 6 different Christian confessions were interested in the topic and came in different place to attempt the meeting. In Lubumbashi in the south of the D.R. Congo, I hold the same conference in October the 6. I got more than 300 people. They asked very interesting and challenging questions.  So I think there is a real need to create a Franciscan Ecumenical Centre in the African Great-Lake Region.

Fr Pierre Matabaro Chubaka, ofm
Istituto di Studi Ecumenici San Bernardino
Castello 2786
30122 Venezia (Ve) Italy

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