Thursday, 18 January 2018

A Nigerian at the service of the Innu people

Fr Ali Nnaemeka is a missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate. He is an Igbo, from the South-East of Nigeria.But since some years, now, Ali is a member of a four men team of missionaries working in eight Innu communities of the North-Coast of Quebec. The missionary team is composed of Oblates from Quebec, Madagascar, Cameroon and Nigeria.  I had the opportunity of interviewing Ali recently.

An Interview realized by José I. Sierra.

Fr Ali is in charge of two Christian communities situated in the North-Coast region: The Community of Ekuanitshit (Mingan) qui is situated at about 10 hours drive from Quebec City, and that of Matimekush-Lac John (Schefferville), situated at about 700KM far in the North.

“The particularity of the community in Schefferville is that it takes little more than an hour to arrive there and more than 12 hours of train to make the same journey, explains Fr Ali. But as the flight ticket is very costly, I am obliged to frequently go on train. And that is why I spend two weeks in each of the missions every time I visit.”

This information on transportation that Ali gives us bring to mind a vast, enclaved and relatively hard to access territory. One can ask what pushes a Nigerian to leave his country to do mission work in the Northern Canada. This is one of the questions I will be asking the missionary in this interview.

From Nigeria to Canada: Is it by chance that you are here?

Pere-Ali-Nnaemeka-Jose-I-Sierra-WebFr Ali – No, it was neither by chance nor by hazard … not even an act of Providence. It was wanted, asked for and planned. An oblate colleague arrived Canada two years before me and I was asked to come and join here.

Already before that, when I decided to become a missionary priest, I had the desire to go on a mission far from my country. But during my formation years, I decided to stay in Nigeria. And just one year before my priestly ordination, my congregation asked if I would want to go to Canada. After considering the propositions, I accepted it.

Why did you accept it? 

Fr Ali – Because Native Mission in Canada was among the first mission of the oblates. But there is another reason. I believe that Canadian Church gave a lot to the world in terms of money, but also in terms missionary supports. Think of all these Quebeckers or Canadian missionaries who went on a mission to different parts of the world. To forget this Church that gave a lot to the world will be unjust and ingrate.

So, how is your integration to the Native Community?

Fr Ali – At the beginning, it was not so easy. To better integrate to a new milieu, it is necessary to consider certain factors: it is important that the community be assured of your love for their reality, that you are there for them; it is also absolute to share their life, their vision of the world, etc. It must be a pastoral of presence in its full sense: presence in joy and in pain; presence in school, families, hospitals, etc.

I suppose you work mainly with Native Believers…

Fr Ali – In Native communities, it is very difficult to distinguish between Christians and non-Christians, for the simple reason that all members are believers. It is certain that not all the community members that come to church. But we, the missionaries, we are there for everybody. We are at the service of all our community members. Our mission is not strictly to celebrate mass or sacraments. We are called to be members of the community we are sent to. I often visit schools to meet the youths and participate in their school activities; I visit cultural centres to take part in community activities; I also participate in Indigenous Youth Inter-band Games, etc.

You are then much solicited? 

Pere-Ali-communauté-innue-644x483Fr Ali – It is really necessary that I am there. I feel it mainly when there is burial ceremony. There is going to be one very these days. But here is the dilemma: I have a program tomorrow, here in Montreal, and I cannot then be in Schefferville. More still, my oblate brother who normally replaces me is in a far distant area. But the community wants us to be there.

For example, each time we are absent in the community, they show it. And even when I have a program in another Church, there is always someone who comes to tell me that I am abandoning them. As a matter of truth, that shows that they love us. They are happy to have us among them.

Do you speak with them in Innu? Do you speak their language?

Fr Ali – No, I do not yet speak the language. I have started understanding few words and that permits me to celebrate mass in Innu. For homilies, there is always someone who does the translation. My personal goal will be to speak Innu. But I must confess that I find it a very hard language to learn, because it is totally different from every other languages I knew. It is already three years I am here, and I cannot yet speak Innu.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Je suis innu venant du pays de pinataku


Au toi qui rencontreras, aujourd’hui, tshiuetin - le vent du Nord, dis-lui que ton frère nomade a besoin de son souffle blanchissant - celui qui couvre le surface de la terre avec autant de beauté.
Et s’il te semble perplexe, rappelle-lui que c’est ton frère du Sud, celui qui a bravé « akua-nutin » - le vent du sud et qui est parti du pays des pinatakuat - des hommes noirs - pour venir a la rencontre de ses frères innus. Dit lui surtout que je l’admire énormément, surtout à chaque fois que je monte au Nord. Et que je ne cesse de le remercier pour sa caresse légère qui attendrie les cœurs perturbés afin d’éclairer leurs esprits éblouis par les torts que l’humanité fait à la terre mère.
Nous sommes tous innuat - humaines, nous avons le même soleil - pishimu et la même lune - tipishka-pishimu, c’est le même air que nous respirons. Il n’y a donc ni couleur ni race. C’est juste nos blessures, nos cicatrises et nos expériences qui nous différencient l’un de l’autre. 
Je suis donc innu parce que nous sommes tous humains qui marchons chacun dans un territoire emprunté de nos enfants. 
Ton frère Nnaemeka (le père a bienfait).


Friday, 12 January 2018

The Priest and the Prostitutes


Every year thousands of new migrants move to the Namibian capital of Windhoek in search for work. The unemployment rate in Namibia is very high and single women find it particularly difficult to find a paid job, all the more if they are mothers of small children. Sex work often becomes the only available currency in exchange for food, shelter or for the money to send the children to school. 
"The Prostitutes and the Priest" tells the story women and girls in Namibia, who have to sell their bodies in order to survive, and the priest Father Hermann Klein-Hipass who has made it his personal mission to help them. 
In the short film Father Herman and the women talk about their lifes and experiences. Sex work is very dangerous in Namibia, the women face a high risk of infecting themselves with HIV and STDs, get beaten up, raped or even killed. Condemned to the lowest rungs of society they are insulted, scoffed and despised and rejected by their own people. Even charity organisations and NGOs consider them to be lost, because many of them are alcoholics and thieves. "Father Hermann ist he
only one who is helping us“ says Samantha, another protagonist in the short form.
The film is based on a long term photo project that started in 2008, as well as interviews which have been taken by Christian Bobst, the photographer, in 2013. In 2014 Christian started to edit the video with the help of Florian Mebes, a filmmaker and journalist. In 2015 they together went back to Namibia because Father Hermann had became too sick to continue his work and had to be hospitalized.
" The Prostitutes and the Priest" shows the humane and vulnarable side of women and girls who are labeled as prostitutes and suffer from social discrimination, oppression and violence. The film intends to raise attention and awareness for the desperate situation of thousands of unemployed single mums and orphans, who have to sell their bodies in order to provide food for their children or their siblings, not only in Namibia, but in many other countries throughout Africa. In addition it´s also a testimony to Father Herrman´s work, for which he was honoured for with the Merit Order from the Federal Republic of Germany in 2012.
The Priest and the Prostitutes was initially published in Vimeo
Ali C. Nnaemeka (mekaalison@gmail.com) ''The truth might be hard to say, painful to bear or even drastic for the truth sayer but still needed to be said''. ALISON.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Journée nationale de prière en solidarité avec les peuples autochtones du Canada – 2017


Depuis 1980, plus de 1 000 femmes et filles autochtones ont été assassinées au Canada. Bien que les femmes autochtones ne constituent que 4 % de la population féminine du Canada, 16 % des femmes assassinées au Canada entre 1980 et 2012 étaient autochtones. En juin 2015, la Commission de Vérité et Réconciliation a publié 94 appels à l'action conçus pour surmonter l'héritage laissé par les pensionnats indiens. Dans l'appel à l'action no 41, le gouvernement fédéral est invité à lancer une enquête publique sur les causes de la disproportion de la victimisation des femmes et des jeunes filles autochtones, et sur les moyens possibles pour y remédier : « Le mandat de la commission d'enquête devra inclure, notamment :

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Province Oblate Notre Dame-du-Cap : Message du provincial pour le Dimanche Missionnaire Mondial

Chers confrères,
En ce dimanche où nous célébrons la Mission de l’Église et remercions Dieu pour notre famille apostolique, il est bon de prendre conscience à nouveau que nous sommes tous des missionnaires. Quels que soient notre condition, notre âge ou nos engagements, nous participons non seulement à la vie de Dieu, mais à son Esprit et donc, à la mission qu’il réalise dans le monde actuel. 
Les rencontres régionales dans la province sont presque terminées.  Elles portaient sur notre condition actuelle et les impacts du vieillissement sur notre existence communautaire et missionnaire.  Ces échanges ont été nourris à partir de la lettre que le Père Lougen adressait le 21 mai dernier aux confrères âgés.  Dans chaque milieu, les échanges furent généreux, transparents et authentiques.  Ils ont manifesté la santé de notre confiance mutuelle et notre désir de vivre véritablement comme des frères au coeur même de nos différences et de nos parcours très diversifiés.