I could see how spark of mercy spread in the group I came with – says Magda Plekan, Secular Combonian Missionary that serves in Ethiopia – and I hope it will spread further in Ethiopia, after we are back.
Magda lives in Ethiopia since almost two year. This young girl followed her heart when she met Combonian Missionaries who works mostly in Africa. After spiritual preparatory formation she was given possibility to serve as a rehabilitant in Ethiopia, where her skills are very much needed.
In Ethiopia, country in the north of Africa, the main religions are Orthodox rite and Islam. Catholics are only around 1% of population. It is also not so easy to enter Ethiopia as missionary, as there are a lot of formal and administrative procedures and it must be well proved with supporting documents that the skills of a missionary are really needed.
Magda started her stay in Ethiopia in Addis Ababa where, next to working, she was learning the language. Now she works in the south of the country in Hawassa, but the group she came with consisted of the people from different parts of the country.
Asked for the impressions they group takes with them back home she said: "I think what was very important for my group is the strengthening of the faith. They have never seen so many Catholic churches as in Poland and so many believers. The youth fall in love with Szamotuly – place where they stayed for Diocese days – and with the hospitality and openness of Polish people. They told me that they do not want to go to Rome because they felt so much at home in Szamotuly, I think it is because that though hospitality is a big virtue in Ethiopia they did not expect to be treated so nicely and kind." As in Ethiopia most of the catholic churches celebrate Holy Mass in Coptic rite the priests proposed to celebrate the same way in Szamotuly. Magda was surprised how many people wanted to participate in the mass hosted by Franciscan Sisters, who also lead an orphanage. Magda was touched to see how young Ethiopians connect with the orphans and how both groups could communicate without words and spread joy around.
The group from Ethiopia came with two handicapped young people. For one of them, Salomon, it was a lifetime experience, as it was not easy to come here. Salomon, young and sunny man on the wheelchair since he is born, has a tough story behind him. He was rejected by his family, as it usually happens in Ethiopia where people with disabilities suffer a lot from exclusion from the society. He was taken by missionaries who taught him how to paint. Since then he can earn his living and his family took him back. For Magda, who became friend with this young man, it was very important to bring him to the WYD. The whole group came to Poland thanks to sponsorship of the Catholic Church who paid their travel and stay. But when they came she was sad to observe that initially the group was not interested in helping Salomon in daily routine, as they were following the cultural patterns they knew from their country. "But then I could observe how they changed – said Magda smiling – how they tried to help, asked me if they could push the wheelchair, were talking to Salomon and started to see his human and not only handicapped side. I was very touched by that!"
Magda could witness how the spark of mercy changes the hearts of the young Ethiopians and how, in the group she came with, the words of Pope Francis become true: "How I wish that us, Christians, to be able to stay at the side of the sick as Jesus did, with silence, with a hug and a prayer. Sadly, our society is polluted with culture of" rejection ", which is the contrary of the culture of hospitality. And the victims of the culture of rejection are just the most vulnerable, the most fragile, and it is cruel." Magda hopes that Ethiopians will take these words with them to the home country and spread further.