The Magis Ignite Africa Experience
Ngonidzashe Edward SJ (ZIM)
For a long time Africa has been considered as a "hopeless" continent, a continent whose story is that of wars, violence, injustice, dictators, poverty, disease and a lot of other misfortunes. However, there are clear signs across Africa that this 'story' is about to change as we witness a new generation of young Africans taking action. Young people in Africa constitute the majority of the population of the continent. This young population of Africa, armed with the determination to make a difference and "yes we can do" attitude represent a new dawn and hope for a better future.
From the 15th to the 24th of August 2014, over 300 young people from Africa and beyond took part in the Magis Africa 2014 programme dubbed "The Ignite Africa Experience". These young people came from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, South Korea, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, and of course Zimbabwe. The Magis Africa programme was organized to mark the 200th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. The overall aim was to bring together young people to renew their commitment to bring moral, social and cultural transformation in the world.
The theme of Magis Africa was, "Young people witnessing to faith, witnessing to Justice". This theme was adopted from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI called Africae Munus which means 'Africa's Commitment'. Africae Munus marked the climax of the 2009 Second Synod of Bishops for Africa. In it, the Pope pointed out that the Church in Africa has to be committed to the work of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. Inspired by Africae Munus, participants at Magis Africa 2014 were challenged to become God's agents of justice, compassion and healing in the world.
Young people called to serve
Central to the Magis Africa experience where the experiments or immersion experiences that took place at various places in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The immersion experiences were meant to bring participants in direct contact with the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. We had groups of young people immersed in some of the poorest urban and rural communities in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The participants were split into 14 groups and these will focus on six broad themes: HIV/AIDS in Africa, Social Justice (option for the poor and marginalized), Environment and ecology, Arts and Culture, Pilgrimage and Spirituality and Faith Deepening.
Through these experiences, participants were challenged to search for the "More", the Magis and find ways of linking faith to real life issues and situations. Thus, the immersion experiences gave the young people the chance to reflect and deepen their understanding of the social, spiritual, ecological and cultural realities in continent of Africa. Fr Stephen Buckland SJ (Former Provincial of Zimbabwe), in an interview with JesCom Zimbabwe had this to say about the Magis Immersion Experiences:
At its heart, MAGIS is based on a very simple threefold structure: helping young people to understand the call of the gospel, giving them an experience that allows them to think how to apply it to real life, and then reflecting back upon themselves through that experience. To me it's an excellent way to expose young people to the call of the gospel and to help them to choose how to react to real situations. These young people will have a unique opportunity to think about the gospel and to think of how it applies to their situation. (See JesCom: In Touch No. 53/ 31 JULY 2014).
In short, the immersion week gave the Magis participants the opportunity to witness to faith and to justice in concrete situations of poor communities.
Conclusion: A New Vision for Africa
Magis Africa showed us a vision of what is possible; a vision of an alternative Africa and the World. It was clear for all the participants that to achieve this vision we need the young generation to take bold and systemic actions to change the world. There is need to organize and network young people through such platform like Magis Africa 2014 in order to bring young people together and engage in collective action. It is only then that we will experience a new down of hope and a better world.
Finally, Magis Africa 2014 was held under the following motto: "Inspire, Engage, Ignite". This motto was an invitation and a challenge to the participants to work for faith, justice, peace and development. We hope, therefore, that the young people who took part in Magis Africa 2014 got 'inspired' by the Gospel, 'engaged' in Making a Difference and 'ignited' to go and set the World on fire through actions of Faith, Love and Justice.
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