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18 June

St. Elizabeth of Schoenau
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Marist Bulletin - Number 138


Br Christian Gisamonyo

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Br Christian Gisamonyo

Br Luis Serra

Br Christian Gisamonyo was born 42 years ago in Gatovu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He holds the Licenciate in Biblical Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome. He has taught in Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Kenya. His overriding dedication has been seen in the field of formation of young Marist Brothers. At the moment engaged as a teacher and formator in MIC – Marist International Centre - in Kenya, he is taking advantage of a five-month sabbatical which he is spending in our centre in Manziana, Italy.

How did you come to know the Marist Brothers, who have neither house nor school in your natal town of Gatovu?
Gatovu, where I was born, and Burungu, where I grew up, are unknown and out of sight on the map of the Congo. They are some 80 kms from Bobandana, where the Brothers have a community and a secondary school. Two of my brothers are former pupils of that school. The contacts I had with people who knew the Brothers helped me to get an idea of the kind of apostolate they follow.

What motivation impelled you to join the Marist Institute?
I did my secondary schooling in Buhimba, a junior seminary near Bobandana. At an Easter retreat, I read an illustrated leaflet on the life of a certain Blessed Champagnat. His life impressed me a lot, particularly his love for young people.

You are someone deeply rooted in your people. How did you live through the war which is officially over and which has brought about millions of deaths?
I lived through the Congo war as if in a drama. In the first place because of the huge number of people who lost their lives. Then it brought disastrous consequences for my family. Two months after the start of the war, my family was scattered, became refugees, with no means of support. My parents were quite old, and suffered greatly from the long march through the jungle, getting away from the combat zone.

What were the consequences of this forgotten war?
In the first place, this war wiped out fifty years of development in the Congo. The consequences were enormous – deaths every day, poverty, child soldiers, illiteracy, refugees, etc.

As a Marist Brother, what help can you bring to solving the problems caused by this terrible war?
As a Marist, my contribution is that of any committed religious in the Congo. My apostolic action must aim at promoting the Gospel values of reconciliation and forgiveness. I must do all I can to awaken in people the values of tolerance and respect for differences, to bring about dialogue and cultivate peace.

I would like to ask about your own feelings… Do you feel any hatred for those who were on the other side? Do you feel indignant in the face of the international interests? Do you feel helpless in the face of so much suffering?
I feel moved by a strong sense of frustration when I see that one part of mankind believes neither in peace nor in dialogue. It is logical to be indignant about the length of time it takes for the international community to foresee and resolve conflicts. We have to continue to draw the attention of the African leaders to their duty to promote development and peace for their peoples.

In your life and in your studies, the Word of God is a key point of reference. In the light of the Word of God, how do you interpret the social and political realities of the world?
It is true that reading, studying, and listening to the Word of God occupy an important and well-loved part of my life. Careful interpretation of this Word casts a strong light on the political and social realities of our lives. When we read phrases like “Cain, where is your brother?” “Put up your sword into its sheath,” or the parable of the Good Samaritan, we cannot remain indifferent. As apostles, we cannot be but enlightened by them.

You work at the formation of young Marist Brothers. What do you try to give them for them to become good apostles and educators?

I have to form them so that they bring about a revolution in their heart, as Br Sean says in his first Circular. I have to accompany them in their discovery of their identity as Brothers, and in the attentive reading of the signs of the times. I believe that from this they will be able to confront the concrete realities of their own countries.

How do you deal with the fact that at MIC there are people of different origins, different cultures, different ways of seeing things?
This international setup is one of the riches of MIC, and we live this diversity day after day. Life is lived in sharing our cultural riches. I think that it is in this way that we see realized the dream of Father Champagnat, when he says: “Every diocese in the world falls within the scope of our interests.” However, as in any human society, diversity presents a big challenge if it is not cultivated with discernment. To live together, to grow together, is something valuable, above all in a world where globalization is the order of the day.

What values do you find in the young Brothers?
We can see in them a joie de vivre, generosity, sharing, faith, love of Fr Champagnat, and so on.

There is no lack of challenges in a work as important as yours. Would you care to mention some of the most significant ones?
There are many challenges. As a formator and educator, I put the following questions to myself: How can I help the young Brothers to bring about the revolution of heart in their individual circumstances? How can I awake in them a passion for Christ and a clear vision of their identity as Marist apostles? What steps must I take to help them to realize that they must love the poor and the marginalized? These are the challenges that confront me.

How do Africans perceive the Marist charism, and what do they see in it that makes them consecrate their lives as Brothers?
The Marist charism is perfectly at home in Africa. What impelled Marcellin Champagnat to found his Institute in 1817 is just as present today in Africa as it was in France in his time. The missionaries in Africa invited us to take up the task in our turn, and it is up to us to continue the work. We must take steps to ensure that the Marist charism puts down deep roots in Africa. Of course this applies to the whole Institute, but it remains a primary duty for our African Brothers.

What signs of hope do you see in Africa?
Primarily the sense of solidarity on a continental scale. The Brothers who work there have understood that the Marist charism is a gift that they have to live out together. For this reason, the process of restructuring of the various Marist areas in Africa has gone ahead with great serenity and a great spirit of discernment. One thing that has helped is the fact that the majority of Brothers under the age of 40 have done their post noviciate training together in Nairobi. We are therefore aware that we cannot live our charism deeply without making it a deep part of ourselves. In this way, the sharing of experiences at the Conference of African Superiors is a step in the right direction. Finally, Marist Africa feels that it is not alone on its journey. The solidarity of the whole Institute is a living testimony of unity and a sign of hope.

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