February-March 2012

Travel Log

The Taizé brothers living in Nairobi have just spent a month in Kigali to begin preparing for the November meeting. They met with the heads of the various churches present in Rwanda, contacted the authorities and services implicated in the practical arrangements and made visits to see young people throughout the country. Here are a few excerpts from ones of the brothers’ diary:

15th February. We land in Kigali to stay for a month. This is the first phase of preparation on the ground for the November youth meeting. This year we will have one foot in Kenya and the other in Rwanda.

Donatien, the Diocesan youth chaplain came to meet us at the airport. We manage to cram our luggage into his car, although not without a bit of effort due to the back door being locked. Then we make for the Gentenga Youth Centre, a venerable Salesian institution in the city centre between the "industrial area", a marshy ruin, and a shanty town.

16th February. Exploring the nearby market is a priority. There are women perched one meter above the ground on cement stalls amid bunches of bananas, piles of potatoes, dry beans or pyramids of flour. Narrow corridors run between scaffolded grocers. In this temple of local life a foreigner does not go unnoticed. One of the brothers made his first visit to the Kigali bakery ten minutes from us. He will become one of its loyal customers.

20th February. Andre is the farmer who cultivates several fields in the Youth Centre. "Taizé, I have known for a long time! We talked about Brother Roger and the youth meetings twenty years ago. Right now we do not have a lot of vegetables. Leeks, beetroot. But our bananas are beautiful!" We place an order for him to deliver us bananas every two days.

22nd February. We are surrounded by several Pentecostal churches that take turns to animate the place: sermons, exhortations, exorcisms, singing ...

Saturday, 25th February. Meeting in Remera. Thirty people are available and keen to take their share in the preparation of the meeting. Where have we ever seen such enthusiasm?

"What do you think of our country, what do you love most in Rwanda?" This is the most frequently asked question, which reflects the desire for recognition in the eyes of others.

Saturday, 3rd March. Visit to Mulindi. After half an hour of trying we’re forced to give up: no way to play the DVD ... The rain thundering on the metal sheets of the church roof brings the song practice to a premature end. Six hours travel for poor result? The four hundred young people are grateful that we came. The people of this region only learn Kinyarwanda, their mother language, in primary school, a language close to a Ugandan language.

Tuesday, 6th March. "It was in Taizé that I understood that one could truly love. I’m an orphan and this is my priest that sent me with the World Youth Day delegation to Madrid. We were invited to spend a week in Taizé and there I met a Ukrainian boy and we shared a lot in our poor English. We discovered that there are great similarities between Ukraine and Rwanda: we can not love freely! His girlfriend asked him for bigger and bigger gifts. He didn’t have the means go give them to her. In Rwanda, if you did not pay the dowry, you cannot expect a girl to love you." Isaac is an apprentice electrician at the Youth Center in Gatenga.

Thursday, 15th March. We leave for Nairobi after a month in Rwanda. The welcome and accommodation of 6 000 participants expected from outside Kigali for the next stage of the pilgrimage of trust is indeed the greatest challenge. The expectation and involvement are growing while preparation teams are being set up in the various parishes and churches. For four weeks we have toured the city and surroundings bringing young people together. We’ve been welcomed with a great earnestness. Each host community now has to form three organising groups: welcome-accommodation, liturgy and visits to the "people of hope." The Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches are partners in the preparation. The various meetings were also an opportunity to reflect on the questions that young people have and which could be used during the afternoon workshops. The boundaries and distances seem to fade as we find the same deep concerns around the world: Faced with upheavals in life, how can we become deeply rooted in Christ? Faced with difficulties in finding a job, how can you start your own business with very limited resources? How can you regain trust after break ups and difficulties? What is the Christian sense of the couple, family, loyalty? Pursue personal success or discover the joy of living for others? Protect yourself or take the risk of giving your life for others? Get taken along with the logic of competition or that of serving others? In terms of logistics, the preparations are also well advanced with the Ministry of Youth; the City Hall; the direction of the Expo, the site where the common prayers will take place; the transport company; and the catering. We just have to make sure we buy the corn at the harvest, process it and store it!

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