A new church in the apostolic vicariate of Jimma-Bonga.
The apostolic vicariate of Jimma-Bonga is situated in Western Ethiopia and has an area of around 20,000 square miles (50,000 km²) – larger than the Netherlands and almost twice that of Belgium. A large proportion of the population still follow traditional pagan religions, and many are forest dwellers and hunter gatherers. Nonetheless, the number of Catholics is growing here. In 2010 there were 22,000 Catholics within the vicariate, but with the steady growth in numbers there are already around 30,000 today. When the bishop comes to the parishes to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation, the queue of candidates seems to stretch out endlessly…
But the Catholic faith is not entirely new in all of this area. In the town of Araba European missionaries were already active in the first half of the 20th century, founding a mission station there and engaging for decades in a richly blessed apostolate. However, they were expelled from the country under the Marxist dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose brutal persecution of all religions included the destruction of churches, the confiscation of monasteries and convents belonging to religious communities and the arrest, imprisonment and even murder of bishops, priests and ordinary Catholic faithful. His reign of terror from 1974 until 1991 was responsible, according to Amnesty International, for the deaths of some 2.5 million people.
Since then, however, the Church has succeeded in recovering at least some of her former properties, and in gathering the faithful together and re-establishing religious life once again. But for now, in Araba, there is nothing but a small, grass-roofed wooden chapel that is far too small for the size of the present community. To put it more plainly, it is nothing more than a grass hut. Now Father Zecharias Dejece and his congregation want to build a proper church, and they are counting on our help to be able to do so. As Father Zecharias writes, “The construction of a worthy church building will have a positive influence on the spiritual life of these devoutly spiritual Christians. God will then be fittingly worshipped and praised. The most Blessed Sacrament of the altar will be devoutly adored and will find a worthy place in the Tabernacle. It will help to promote unity among Christians and encourage a sense of mutual love and belonging. The Catholic Church will be more visibly recognisable as the family of God. In this church the Catholic faithful will gather together with one heart and one spirit in order to pray, to hear the word of God together and receive the Sacraments.”
Father Zecharias also knows that there are a significant number of people who are interested in the Catholic faith but who are then put off by the sight of the chapel, which looks like a poor simple hut, and so they do not come back again. He is hoping that in future many more people will embrace the Catholic Faith and that at the same time still more of those who have already been baptised will want to play an active part in the life of the parish, especially the young people. He is delighted that so many of these young people already participate actively in the Church, and he hopes that still more will do so. We have promised him 25,000 Euros so that he can build the new church.