The fourth three-year period (1992-1995)

ugandaTaking into account the problems highlighted, the new administration transferred the Novitiate from Bahati (Kenya) to Mbarara (Uganda), already considered to be the only Novitiate for all the African countries of the Vice-Province, while the Foundation in Madagascar continued to have its own Novitiate.

In May of the same year, 1992, the Secretariat for Formation and Studies of the Sub-Saharan Conference was established. This met for the first time in Lusaka from 19th – 24th April 1993, discovering an unexpected richness in the field of formation in Africa and, in this way, set in motion a work of coordination and reflection which led to the Congress of Nairobi in 1995 on “Franciscan values and the African culture”,and to another Congress, held in Lusaka in 1999, on “The formation of the Franciscan temporary professed in Africa and Madagascar”.

A renewed attention was paid to initial formation in the Vice-Province. Following the publication of the Order’s “Ratio Formationis Franciscanae” in 1991, a “Ratio Formationis” of the Vice-Province was also worked out (1992), in which African values as a context for Franciscan values and the commitment to construct fraternal communion between the Friars of different nationalities, cultures and ethic-groups were highlighted.

The following year was the X anniversary of the beginning of the Africa Project (1983-1993) and it was celebrated with a Chapter of Mats in Nairobi from 3rd to 8th August, with the participation of 57 Friars (missionaries, Africans and Madagascans) and of the Minister General, Br. Hermann Schalück. After ten years, the Vice-Province had 53 solemnly professed Friars from the 5 continents and of 15 different nationalities, 23 temporary professed, 11 novices and 15 postulants. 14 of the 16 fraternities of the Vice-Province were Houses of Formation, clearly indicating that the “implantatio Ordinis” was really the absolute priority.

During the Chapter, the most characteristic aspects of the preceding years were gone over again: the progress in formation, the forms of evangelisation, the experiences lived by the young local Friars from each of the countries which make up the Vice-Province. An important intention was to reinforce the unity between people coming from such different regions, cultures and languages. The Chapter also looked forward in order to construct the future and to know how to respond to the challenges of the mission and of the new evangelisation in Africa and Madagascar. The Minister General reminded all of some fundamental elements of the Franciscan mission, such as the primacy of the person over works, the importance of the quality of life of each one and he stressed that the whole Order should show a lot of attention and interest in the development of the Africa Project. The Chapter having ended, Br. H. Schalück took advantage of the occasion to visit the fraternities of the Friars and Poor Clares in Uganda.

At this happy time of great unity and hope for the future, right during the celebration in Rome of the two Synods on Africa and the Consecrated Life, there occurred the tragic period of the genocide in Rwanda (April – July 1994) which affected the whole Vice-Province. All felt impotent in the face of the unstoppable wave of hate and mass killings. Only the help of God had been able to protect the Rwanda Friars, formed by men from both ethic-groups in conflict. But Br. Georges Gashugi fell under the blows of blind and unjust violence as the first Franciscan martyr in Rwanda, which was followed four years later by the killing of Br. Vjeko Curic, martyr of solidarity and reconciliation, for which he had worked continuously without sparing himself.

A new and very specific task opened up for the whole Vice-Province, that of healing the internal wounds of many people persecuted or seeking refuge everywhere and also of many of our African Friars, together with working for reconciliation on all levels and through all means. From that moment on the Franciscan mission in Africa is called “reconciliation”.