This Sunday, October 31, while many people celebrate Halloween, we have another Marist moment to remember.
On Oct. 31, 1996, four Marist Brothers (pictured) were killed in the refugee camp of Bugobe in the Congo. They were Brothers Servando Mayor, 44 years old, Miguel Ángel Isla, 53, Fernando de la Fuente, 53 and Julio Rodríguez, 40.
There were thousands of people in the camp, most of them simple peasants. The Red Cross were the managers of the camp; the Brothers cared for the education of some 4,000 pupils, for catechesis and youth ministry. These Brothers lived in poor conditions; their presence was seen as having political connotations and therefore their life was at risk. On that date in 1996, all the refugees fled.
At the time, Br. Benito, the Superior General of the Marist Brothers said, “to my insistent invitation to withdraw from this area, their response was always the same: We cannot abandon those who are already abandoned by everyone. If you were here, you would do the same. We have decided to stay, if you will permit us.”
One of the four Brothers telephoned the general house and communicated this message: “Everyone has left the camp. We are alone. We are expecting an attack at some time or other. If we do not call back this evening, it will be a bad sign. They will probably take the radio and the telephone. People are very agitated. The refugees fled without knowing where they were going, a sign that violent elements have infiltrated.”
The last time the Brother called was at 1:30 p.m. when he said: “We are still alone, but perhaps the refugees will return because they don’t know where else to go. We are staying put because we don’t want to be associated with the military or with the other armed groups.”
The criminals were a group of military personnel from the former Rwandan government, who remained a few days in the Brother’s hut and prevented anyone from approaching, claiming that the Brothers were being detained because they were spies. The four bodies were recovered from the wastewater tank on Nov. 14 and have been buried at the Marist novitiate house in Nyangezi.
Taking care of those most in need, is what Champagnat wanted us all to do. Please pray for all Marists who are in harms way and who do this important work.