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Monday, June 27 2022  - 1 User Online  

05.07.2021 01:56:38 2117x read.


I'm Brother Bonaventura Zeca Menezes Xavier Salsinha. In short, Brother Zeca. On daily basis, I am a teacher at Santa Teresinha do Menino Jesus Elementary School in Sabraca-Laran, Dili, Timor Leste. In connection with the above theme, I tried to reflect on the experience of living with refugees who are accommodated in the school where I work. Currently, I have been living with refugees for almost 2 months.

Thinking about that, I have mixed feelings. Happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow grow together. I feel happy to be present among the refugees. They are my fellow brothers and sisters who are experiencing difficulties due to the flood disaster. I can feel what they feel. That I can get involve in helping them directly also brought joy to my heart. They feel consoled because someone accompanies them when they are in trouble. I also feel sad when I think back at what happened. The heavy flood that occurred on April 4, 2021, has left 397 people from 38 families stranded and suffering. They could not save their possessions because the flood came suddenly. Fifteen families even had to lose all their belongings. This makes some of them lose their enthusiasm and hope to continue life.

The situation moved me to be present in their midst and accompany them as best I could. My only intention is to accompany, motivate, and strengthen them and give them hope for life. Losing property due to a disaster is indeed sad, but I know that there is a worse impact that a disaster can bring, namely traumatic experiences. It can affect everyone, both adults and children. By being with them, I intend to bring back their spirits by inviting them to remain grateful because God's grace has saved their lives and those of their loved ones from the disaster. I invite them to realize that our safety from the disaster is a gift, and with that gift, we can start all over again with our lives and look for the things we need.

For me, attending to refugees with different backgrounds is not always easy. Moreover, I was appointed as the coordinator. The most important thing for me is to build good collaboration with the government and the Church in a spirit of mutual respect, patience, and humility. For me, respecting each other as human beings, that we are equal, is very important. For that, I try to understand the character of each person although it is not easy. For example, refugees tend to want things right away. There are even those who look for shortcuts, tend to ask to be served, and easily complain about their situation. They seem to want to get as much help as possible for themselves. If there were shortcomings, some of them put blame on me as the coordinator. When that happened, I thought about quitting as a coordinator. When I was considering this, however, what came to my mind was the FIC motto, namely "MY WHOLE LIFE IS FOR GOD AND HIS PEOPLE". With these simple words, I have decided to continue serving God who is present in others, who are currently in need of help.

In addition to trying to fulfill basic needs every day, I also organize communal prayers for the refugees. Every evening, we pray the Rosary. Service of the Word with Communion distribution is held every Sunday afternoon at 6.30 p.m. In collaboration with UNICEF, we also organize special gathering for children. Three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we invite the children to play, sing, and draw.

Personally, I am grateful because although it never crossed my mind that I would be the coordinator, I suddenly gained the trust of the Church and the Government. At first, I refused on the grounds that I had no experience in dealing with refugees. However, Mgr. Virgilio do Carmo da Silva, SDB, bishop of Dili, said to me in a  whisper: “If not FIC who else?” Those words, until I write this reflection, frankly still captivate my heart. I'm still trying to understand the meaning behind those words. But one thing I am sure of, the motto we always pray about: "MY WHOLE LIFE IS FOR GOD AND HIS PEOPLE", must be manifested in our mission as members of the FIC brothers in Timor Loro Sae.

Bro. Bonaventura Zeca Menezes

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