Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Congo at 50

I don't really notice posters or signs in the States, maybe its because one's mind is busier in his native country. In Bruxelles however, I found myself reading everything, and I encourage future students to do the same; a simple sign can make you aware of wonderful experiences.

One day I was visiting a church near my internship, and I noticed a poster advertising a panel discussion and Mass celebrating the 5oth anniversary of Congolese independence. As I listened to the presenters discuss and field questions concerning the present situation in Congo and the role of the Church, I experienced how complicated colonial relationships are. There were some who insisted that progress could only be made by looking to the future and improving the relationship between Belgium and its former colony, but there were also those who insisted that a brighter future could not be possible until horrible tragedies of colonisation were healed and acknowledged honestly. No problems were solved that day, but it was an amazing experience to this discussion that crossed racial lines in person.

After the discussion, everyone moved to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, where bishops and priests from the Congo gathered with the bishops and priests of Belgium. The Mass lasted nearly 3 hours, as a Congolese choir filled the gothic cathedral with a blend of African, French, and Dutch songs. It was remarkable to see, the elderly Belgian bishop smile as he was interrupted by the joyful screams and shrieks of Congolese women. During the celebration, a banner displaying a statement of solidarity between Belgian Christians and their brothers and sisters in the Congo was unfurled in the cathedral.

It was a beautiful and eye-opening experience.

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