I have been to Tanzania various times by now, but each time is as if it were my first time. I am always deeply struck by the welcome of a cordial, open and peaceful people. Each time I am able to appreciate new aspects that make me feel not only at home, bu allow me to appreciate the richness of a different and marvellous culture.
This time the experience was even stronger especially because the world pandemic situation brings me to feel the suffering of an unprecedented crisis upon me and within me. Everything we are called to live in this particular historical moment has an added value. There are many feelings that act as a filter to the reality we experience and nothing anymore seems to be what it was before.
I experienced days when I tried to give room to welcoming everything I was able to pick up on trying to live each second deeply and letting the newness resound within me with all its richness.
When I arrive in Dar Es Saalam, I immediately had the sensation of exiting a surreal experience. After a year of physical distancing, of pressions and fears of infection, of precautions and limitations, of numbers and forecasts … of lockdown, infections and deaths … I found myself immersed in a reality with daily challenges of the same magnitude and, for a second, Covid-19 seemed a far-off thought. I was aware that those who live in situations of poverty do not have the opportunity even to be aware of what is often happening around them and that the world economy truly rules the fate of humanity.
I was welcomed by the Sisters with much joy. This trip was a time of great fraternity when, after overcoming the physical distancing that the pandemic has imposed on us, we were able to express that nearness and sisterliness that was good for the heart. I felt embraced and supported by the entire Congregation, appreciated through gestures of closeness and encouraged to look to the future with hope in spite of the times of uncertainty, to be “craftsmen of communion.” I heard about experiences of faithfulness tried by suffering, of courage, peaceful witness though living in uncertainty, of sharing, care and nearness … of charity and service at the cost of life.
We worked on processes already begun, mutually listening to each other in an attitude of searching and openness to listen to the voice of the Spirit to reach an autonomy that is very close.
Together with a group of responsible men and women and volunteers we are finishing up the achievment of a new management and administrative structure for the Village of Hope. There is much synergy and synodality that is allowing the fostering of transformation in respect of the diversities and uniqueness. We tried to encourage the culture of encounter and dialogue by fostering times of sharing and discussion among the people with various experiences to broaden the participation and co-responsibility in the awareness that each culture has its heritage of uniqueness and richness. We have never experienced how everything is connected, everything is in relationship, everything is linked together like we have in this time of pandemic. Nor have we been aware of how truly fundamental synergy of the diversities is.
During my stay, the Tanzanian people experienced the death of their President, John Magufuli, a controversial populist leader who, in five and a half years of govening has deeply changed the country, thanks to his commitment to cultural, spiritual, political and economic growth and development. Aside from the controversy about Covid-19, during his first term of office he cut the salaries of the government employees (including his own) in order to increase funding for hospitals and HIV/AIDS drug allocations. In 2015, he cancelled the celebrations on Independence Day and used the money to launch an anti-cholera initiative. Health care was one of the highest priorites of the Magufuli administration, in part testified to by the fact that the life-expectancy rate in Tanzania increased every year of his tenure. I saw a growing country. Improvement of infrastructure, roads, airports are positioning Tanzania for continuing its growth trajectory.
I attended the ceremonies of farewell for the President along with the Sisters. I saw an immensity of people who were suffering because of the death of their leader, manifesting pain for the loss of a “father”, feeling the strong link with their authority and a strong sense of belonging to the nation. I was very touched by the people, guardians of important values in this time of great uncertainty. It was a very strong experience for me.
I thank the Lord for having allowed me to experience this opportunity of service and I thank the Sisters for the warm hospitality they showed me and for their life witness.
Brothers and Sisters of everyone, regardless of faith, culture and traditions, because the future is not monochromatic. (Fratelli tutti, 100) and the world is like a polyhedron that lets its beauty shine through, right through its different faces.
Sr. Nadia Coppa, ASC