This year on 21st March 2017 South Africans gathered to celebrate human rights day, it also marked a come together event for Comboni friends in St. Daniel Comboni Scholasticate, Pietermaritzburg. Human Rights Day is a national holiday in South Africa that is always celebrated on 21 March. The holiday commemorates the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). ‘The aim of the SAHRC is to promote respect for human rights, promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in SA.’ In a nutshell what happened before the launch of SAHRC was dehumanizing and segregating in terms of race. Black South Africans found themselves victims of the circumstances. The SAHRC was launched on 21 March 1996, marking exactly 35 years after the events of 21 March 1960 when anti-apartheid demonstrators in Sharpeville were gunned down by police. The Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952 controlled the movement of Africans to urban areas and required all Africans to carry a reference book on them at all times.
Failure to produce the reference book on demand by the police was a punishable offence. The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) proposed ananti-Pass campaign to start on 21 March 1960. All African men were to take part in the campaign without their passes and present themselves for arrest. Campaigners gathered at police stations in townships near Johannesburg where they were dispersed by police. At the Sharpeville police station a scuffle broke out. The police opened fire, apparently without having been given a prior order to do so. Sixty-nine people were killed and 180 wounded. In apartheid South Africa this day became known as Sharpeville Day.
For us Comboni missionaries this was a day that we saw it necessary to gather around with Comboni friends here in South Africa; first, to celebrate this day together and secondly, to strengthen our relationships. The day started with Eucharistic celebration at around 10:30 am. After the celebration the vocation animation team, Fr. Manuel, and Scholastics, Charlemagne and Achile shared about our missions in the world. Fr. Manuel centred his presentation in western countries whereas the scholastics centred theirs in the African context especially, in South Africa.The questions and gratitude from the Comboni Friends clearly manifested willingness and curiosity to know more about the Comboni missionaries. They also manifested a belonging to the Comboni family as lay missionaries. It was crystal clear that the joy of being a lay missionary is to share and to collaborate in the ministry of Christ; that is serving, this was vivid through their words of encouragement.
Fr. Manuel posed a reflective question to them, saying; don’t you think your sons can become missionaries just like these brothers from different parts of the continent? It was the hope of the community through this gathering that they would go spreading what they saw and what they heard. At the same time it was the pleasure of the community and happiness for their positive response to the invitation. After, the community reflectively pointed that a good structure of leadership should be created in this group as to really involve all and make them active in discerning the mutual support spiritually and materially purposely to express God’s love among the group by animating each other as they are called to serve in their own capacities as Christians.
By scholastic Justus Oseko