From our sister Valérie Kabore, in Hydra, Algeria
Dear Sisters, I am happy to share with you my experience of the Taizé meeting in Tlemcen (western Algeria).
On Sunday, 20th August, we set off with a Sister of the Immaculate Conception from Ouagadougou, a Sister of Notre Dame du Lac from Bam, a Missionary of Africa trainee and a young Kenyan student… heading for Dar Essalam, the Focolare Welcome Centre in Tlemcen (a little over 500kms west of Algiers). There we met around sixty young students, most of them religious, and some natives of the country. The atmosphere was festive and serene. This event was initiated 18 years ago to support young students, almost all of whom come from sub-Saharan Africa and receive university scholarships in Algeria.
A typical day at the Taizé Community is a busy one.
It starts at dawn with the Eucharist (for Catholics), followed by Morning Prayer, breakfast, various services (cleaning, chopping vegetables, etc.) and Bible-sharing. This is followed by mid-day prayer, lunch, then a time of rest, song practice, a themed workshop. Finally, the evening is organized around evening prayer, dinner and relaxation.
The theme this year was: “the oncology of our interior life”.
It was developed in a detailed and interactive way by a Marist Brother. He pointed out the cancers that are eating away our lives today. These include fear, hatred, superficiality, alienation from God, domination or fascination, laziness, rigidity, the myth of the golden age, a tendency to ‘follow the herd’… the list goes on. Identifying these illnesses provided an opportunity for some very profound discussions. In summary, the major invitation was to be vigilant about “our physical, spiritual and emotional consumption patterns”. The best therapy is to let God take up more space in our lives, to nourish ourselves with positivity, to always work towards harmony between our inner being and our outer actions, called “congruence” by Carl Rogers.
Through praying together three times a day, I have become aware of the importance of the call for unity between Christians. At the very foot of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ we find light, we let go of our intransigence and become capable of being witnesses together. Taizé prayer is very much based on little refrains which, by dint of repetition, end up penetrating all the senses of the person.
The Word of God repeated in several languages helps to taste its diversity and richness. Friday is a very central day in the Taizé session. It is the day of silent prayer. I witnessed the courage of several young people who gave up their mobile phones as a sign of detachment so that they could devote themselves to meditation.
Sharing is the key word at Taizé.
It is experienced above all through domestic chores and Bible sharing. I particularly enjoyed the freshness and newness of the sharing among the members of my group. The diversity of belonging to different churches from the other younger participants was enriching. I became aware of the existence in our churches of what is known as “prosperity theology”, which holds that wealth is a sign of divine blessing. This has disastrous consequences for the youngest members, who enrich predatory pastors or become spiritual leaders in order to satisfy their material greed.
The sharing of tasks was a place of interaction and learning with these different young people. There was a great deal of serenity and mutual support. All in all, this week with the young people encouraged me to witness their daily lives. They nourished me with the authenticity of their sharing, the solidity of their faith and their sense of service. It’s a call to be with them, in places where people live, just remaining available and listening.