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    Mission and Care of Creation

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    Jean PeetersBy Khonde Ntoto Frederic, cicm
    Missionary in Japan


    The contemporary world faces many issues of particular concern to the Church. Two of these issues are the threat of nuclear war and climate change. Nuclear-armed countries such as the USA, France, the UK, India, Pakistan, China, and Russia have dedicated a significant budget for the modernization of their arsenal. Such a move and the seemingly growing banalization of the threat of using nuclear weapons in the rhetoric of some leaders have alarmed many around the world, including the UN Secretary-General, about the risk of nuclear destruction.

    There are concerns that Russia could use nuclear weapons in its invasion of Ukraine and that China's arsenal is growing. While North Korea has continued developing its missile and nuclear programs, research on the nuclear development of countries such as Iran with its possible repercussions in the Middle East region and the world has been a significant concern for the international community. However, despite the fear of nuclear proliferation notably to the wrong hands, the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (1968), commonly known as the Nonproliferation Treaty or NPT, has so far been signed by 93 countries and regions and ratified by 69 of them. None of the countries that possess nuclear arms has ratified the Treaty.

    The international community is facing a challenge on the climate change front. The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), also known as COP28, was held from November 30 to December 12 at Expo City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While the conference acknowledged the need to move away from fossil fuels, it received criticism for not making a clear commitment to either phase out or phase down their use. China and India, for instance, did not pledge to triple their renewable energy output and instead committed to coal power. All these uncertainties raise questions about the role of the Church's mission in a world threatened by nuclear war and climate change. While some people believe that the present challenge is related only to survival on an Earth threatened by disastrous climate change, this can be misleading as peace and justice are still part of the Church's mission today.

    Climate change and nuclear proliferation have significant implications for people's well-being, including their security and rights. The Church's justice, peace, and creation stewardship mission is integral to addressing these issues. The World Council of Churches has phrased it as "Peace, justice, and the integrity of creation." Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si (2015), emphasizes the need to defend people experiencing poverty and protect their natural environment. The Church's efforts to address the impact of climate change in Latin America is one case worth highlighting.

    The Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM) has been working to protect the Amazon region's indigenous peoples and natural resources from exploitation since March 2015. REPAM was set up in 2014 in answer to the grave concerns of Pope Francis and the Latin American Church regarding the "deep wounds that Amazonia and its peoples bear." The network promotes the defense of the Amazon region's life, earth, and cultures, and its work includes:

    • Enabling indigenous leaders to be heard on the world stage.
    • Training community leaders and pastoral workers in their human and environmental rights.
    • Supporting human rights defense cases.
    • Protecting the tribes of the Amazon.
    • Affirming their right to live undisturbed.

    For example, in September 2018, REPAM led a delegation to the European Union with two indigenous leaders from Brazil to report on rights abuses in their territories. The leaders also spoke at the UN in April 2018 on human rights violations and environmental destruction in Peru and Brazil. REPAM is a concrete example of engagement to promote JPIC by working with and empowering local communities. Although the context of the Amazon region may differ from ours, we can undertake various initiatives with local communities.

    During the JPIC session held in March 2023 in Rome, I was particularly impressed by how the confreres from Belgium, along with other congregations and organizations, successfully influenced the European Union on a case involving the rights of migrants. Although non-nuclear proliferation and climate change are significant issues that may seem beyond our capacity, there are possible ways to contribute to the world's efforts if the will exists. For example, we can work with local communities to raise awareness or empower them. We can also participate in religious networks that are actively involved in the same issues or support financially, materially, and morally local and international organizations who are doing the same work. In one of our meetings here in Japan as a JPIC district committee, I was impressed by how one committee member repeatedly mentioned the issue of nonproliferation and supported the work of organizations involved in these issues, such as Amnesty International, which works with human rights issues.

    Standing for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation is a significant aspect of our mission as missionaries in today's world. We must raise awareness and interest in this field while providing the necessary resources. There are various ways in which we can contribute as individuals and communities to minimize climate change and prevent nuclear proliferation. §


    110,000 Slaves in Belgium today?

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    Jean PeetersBy Jean Peeters, cicm
    Missionary in Belgium




    It's not "fake news," fortunately, according to "Walk Free," our country is only 154th out of 160 countries surveyed. Phew, there are only 110,000 victims of human trafficking in Belgium today.

    We already knew about the Asian or non-European women forced into prostitution in Antwerp, Brussels, and Liège, as pimps had confiscated their identity papers as soon as they arrived. These poor girls had been hired by recruiters looking for servers in stores and cafés! Journalist Chris De Stoop denounced this practice in 1992 in his famous book “Ze zijn zo lief, meneer“, which led to the creation of the non-profit organization, PAG-ASA, to fight against this scourge and try to save one or another of them. Later, another book denounced the odors emanating from the washing machines in the Anneessens district of Brussels: men and women locked in cellars to wash the enormous bed sheets from the city's chic hotels!

    At the beginning of 2022, PAG-ASA denounced the massive arrival of Chinese prostitutes who were deprived of their papers as soon as they arrived. Afghan boys were lured and forced into prostitution, supposedly to pay off the $10,000 it had cost them to cross the ocean and arrive in Belgium. In Antwerp, 50 slave workers were discovered on the construction site of the Borealis factory.

    What's even more disturbing is that most of these people work in jobs where there is a shortage of Belgian workers, sometimes even in skilled trades. Belgian parliamentarians have reportedly said they should be happy since they should usually be deported.

    Their rights: 

    Even if they are in an illegal situation and working illegally, these people have rights: a minimum wage (challenging to determine, but most certainly €120 for 8 hours), no dismissal without serious reasons written down on paper, compensation in the event of an accident at work, even if it's an illegal job, compensation after bankruptcy by the “Fond de fermeture des entreprises“, respect for working hours and paid vacations are very rarely granted, even though they are entitled to them exactly like any other worker, it's the law.

    The most frequent abuses: no minimum wage or irregular, incomplete or unpaid, dismissal without respecting the rules, non-compliance with legal working hours, no insurance for accidents at work, and, above all, if the worker dares to complain, threats to report him to the police and thus to expulsion!

    What can be done?

    If someone is mistreated by their employer, they should contact the labor inspectorate instead of the police. It is best to have someone accompany them. Labor inspectors know labor laws and can help without revealing the person's identity to the immigration authorities. The police are not experts in labor law and, therefore, cannot provide much assistance. They are more likely to contact immigration authorities, which could result in the person being deported.

    If an employee has a complaint and wishes to report it to the labor inspectorate, the complaint must be serious and supported by relevant evidence such as papers, videos, photos, etc. The inspectorate will then investigate the matter. The complainant's name will always be kept confidential and will not be disclosed to anyone unless authorized by the complainant themselves. However, if the employee wants to claim compensation and salary, they must provide their name. If the inspectorate finds that the employer has violated the law, they may propose that the employer rectify the breach and demand payment of any unpaid wages. Alternatively, the inspectorate may refer the case to court. If the court decides not to prosecute, an administrative fine may be imposed.

    Work-related accident

    If an undocumented worker is employed illegally and their employer, for example, a babysitter, housekeeper, or ironing service, fails to provide insurance, the “Fonds des Accidents du Travail” will cover the worker's medical expenses and subsequently pursue legal action against the employer. This is similar to what happens when an uninsured vehicle is involved in an accident. If the employer does not have workplace insurance, FEDRIS can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 02/272.22.40. This insurance covers all the expenses of the injured person who works illegally without papers, and then seeks reimbursement from the employer who did not have work insurance.        §

    Understanding Haiti and the Current Crisis

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    Jean PeetersBy Jan Hanssens, cicm
    Missionary in Haiti


    February 7 each year has become a symbolic date in the country: February 7, 1986, signified the departure of Jean Claude Duvalier in 1986, and since the 1987 Constitution, the date has become the date for the installation of new presidents. But this year, 2024, no new president was installed. On the contrary, a large majority of the population is calling for the resignation of the de facto Prime minister, who took all power into his own hands after the assassination of the last president in function, Jovenel Moise, almost two years ago.

    Since the assassination, things have gone from bad to worse at an accelerating pace. Power struggles have become a daily occurrence. Armed gangs and violence have increased dramatically, as has police repression of popular mobilization. Fear and indifference reign. Everyone seems to be waiting "his turn" to fall victim to the bandits. Armed groups are in control. These gangs are young people in the service of powerful political and economic invisible groups, so-called "white-collar gangs."

    These are the results of two years of gang activity and a laissez-faire attitude on the part of the government: entire popular neighborhoods no longer exist; they have become places given over to gangs and violence; almost 200,000 people have been internally displaced; over 100,000 people most of them professionals, have left the country1; 5,000 murders across the country, according to UN figures for 2023 alone; inflation is running at 40%. Armed groups replace the State: they install local chiefs and community leaders; they ensure popular support with money because the State provides no public services. Under these conditions, if the population loses its vigilance, the next elections announced by the authorities and organized with the support of the international community could well bring a gang leader to the head of the country.

    How did the country end up in this situation?

    The departure of Duvalier did not mark the end of the Duvalier mindset of authoritarianism and the insatiable thirst for power by any means. The new authorities, even those who were democratically elected, failed to establish or refused to establish institutions that upheld the rule of law.

    Haiti has a long-standing problem with gangs that have their origins in various groups such as "macoutism " or the Duvalier militias, the paramilitaries during the coup d'état in 1990-1993, the "chimeras " employed by President Aristide during a time when the country had no army; they have grown dramatically under the Martelly presidency, and so on.

    Looking at deeper causes

    The current crisis is rooted in the underlying structures of the country, which were inherited from the colonial era and have been carefully maintained by those in power. The wealth of the country is distributed unevenly, with extremely poor people living alongside extremely wealthy people. The commercial and economic bourgeoisie, often foreign to the country, consider the country an easy way to enrich themselves.

    Analyses often fail to consider the deep mentalities that are rooted in a painful history of slavery and oppression. Admittedly, the Haitian people have enormous qualities of friendship, hospitality, endurance, courage, generosity, and resilience (which is by no means resignation). They are deeply religious and even syncretistic. But there are those who easily give in to the abuse of power (the things they have suffered at the hands of their masters and of which they have been the victims are unconsciously passed on to the mind of the next generation), lies, marronage, and deception (where one hides one's intentions as the ancestors did towards the colonists and which one teaches his children not to betray oneself); a lack of self-esteem and self-worth that can become a source of hypocrisy. Favoritism and interpersonal relations above competency also come into play. Psychiatrist Dr. Bijoux also speaks of an "independence complex" or "every man for himself," which explains the difficulty of dialogue and getting together.2

    In the recent past, evangelization has focused on the Gospel as a motivation for development and as a source of working for liberation. Deep-rooted mentalities have been somehow overlooked. We must also keep in mind that selfishness, the desire for power, and the pursuit of self-interest can dwell in the heart of every person, regardless of his culture. Hence, control systems and supervision are essential in organizing political society and the economy.

    It is also necessary to consider the rich history of the Haitian people, who have carried the torch of freedom and independence in Latin America and the world through suffering and struggle. The artistic creativity of its artisans is legendary.

    Nor should we forget the damaging role played by foreign powers in the country's history. Independence (1804) of "negroes" was badly digested or accepted by the colonial powers. At that time, the division of Africa (the Berlin Conference, 1864) had yet to occur. So, Haiti was treated as a bad pupil, not following the rules of the international "order." Today, Haiti is a small country under surveillance in the heart of the Caribbean, situated on the vital maritime passage for the United States between Florida and the Panama Canal - next door to rebellious Cuba; for France, it is the guardian of the French-speaking world in the region. The constant interference of the so-called Friends of Haiti (United States, France, Canada, European Union, a.o.) is disastrous for the country.

    The Church, pastors, and missionaries must help this martyred but generous and courageous person to better understand themselves. Training must certainly continue, with greater conviction and new emphases.



    How to get out of the doldrums?

    Yes, the country needs to get out of the current situation. Acting in the short term is needed, knowing that real solutions will take time. So, the Church should encourage grassroots citizens' gatherings to continue nurturing hope and trust as an antidote to the mistrust and fear that inhabit hearts. We can rely on young people and work to awaken them. The country of tomorrow must interest them first and foremost. It is urgent to join forces with other organizations to set up a massive, critical, real civic education that helps citizens strengthen their self-esteem and take their destiny into their own hands. Why has civic education (even traditional civics) been banned from school education?

    In a relatively short time, the issue of an accepted leadership needs to be regularized. Elections will soon be needed because the country can't stay where it is. Still, elections can't be held under just any conditions, considering the high level of insecurity and violence. A challenge is to amend the 1987 Constitution while maintaining its spirit and achievements: respect for human rights, decentralization, participation, power-sharing, and the separation and independence of the State powers that need to be guaranteed.

    The Church's contribution

    Many people in Haiti consider the Church to be the Haitian Episcopal Conference (CEH) and are looking for words of comfort from it. Currently, the Church seems prudent and is not speaking up enough. The Haitian Conference of Religious Men and Women (CHR) remains silent. More than half of religious men and women are involved in education, which is perceived as elitist and inaccessible to all. The Church is suffering the consequences of this situation, and a dozen parishes in the Port-au-Prince archdiocese are either not functioning or functioning with extreme difficulty. There have been circumstances where religious communities had to abandon their homes or workplaces because of the violence of gangs.

    On the other hand, some religious communities with a strong presence in popular neighborhoods continue their presence. Some parishes continue to provide a presence in the downtown area. They are courageous and real examples.

    In the current climate, the country's moral voices should be heard more loudly, perhaps less through declarations than concrete action. Churches, religious communities, and organizations from different denominations, traditions, and social movements should unite and network. The country can no longer rely only on politicians who engage in demagoguery to secure power. It is up to the moral forces to make themselves heard and their presence felt. But let's face it: the people who represent these forces are also sons and daughters of this society in crisis.

    CICM in this context

    CICM is cautious and present in four parishes in the northeast of the country and two parishes on the outskirts of the capital not (yet) occupied by gangs. The confreres share people's concerns. In the past, CICM was known for its commitment to popular culture and language, as evidenced by the "Bon Nouvèl" newspaper, its commitment to young people through the "Kiwo-Ayiti" movement, and its work for justice through its collaboration with Justice et Paix and others. Today, the temptation is great to retreat into the liturgical and sacramental. Defending human rights is becoming almost synonymous with helping to satisfy primary needs through charity.

    A foreign missionary has to question himself. To be a missionary is to be prophetic, and since one is a foreigner, the foreign missionary has his own (cultural) way of seeing things; he can question and accompany respectfully and without imposing. It requires going beyond one's origins, but he will always remain a foreigner. It is tempting to make comparisons: back home, things are not like that, and we do not have all these problems. True, but we are no longer at home, and back home, too, there are difficulties. Several certainties need to fall away.

    The integration of new missionaries is very delicate. I talk about the internship for our students, which requires a program adapted to the demands of the time. It is not a question of the general plan but of its concrete application and real insertion into Haitian culture and its mentality, which are complex and demanding. Living in a multicultural community does not make things any easier because sometimes, the community itself leads to a withdrawal into itself due to the demands of multiculturalism. The reference to the people is lost.3 The missionaries we prepare to send ad extra are sons of this same context. Discernment and motivation are key.

    Within the CICM Province of LAC, five countries have different issues, and the Provincial Council must demonstrate its ability to identify the particularities of the Haitian situation. I would call for a specific priority to be given to Haiti in the name of the option for the poor, which must take the form of an investment of personnel and resources in projects and activities adapted to a particular situation.

    painting in casa generalizia

    (A painting in the Casa Generalizia CICM)

    The Province's priorities are undoubtedly relevant:

    1. Internal migrants and displaced people and outward migration; Haitian-Dominican relations would require new and better attention because we are a single CICM Province;

    2. Commitment to young people: over 50% of the population are young people who are a target of instrumentalization by political and economic forces;

    3. Lay formation, which is no longer a priority outside the strict ecclesial context;

    4. Commitment to justice, social change, and integral ecology. As an international congregation, possibly within the framework of regional cooperation (if it wants to make sense), advocacy on behalf of countries that are pushed to the margins and exposed to the power of the consumerist economy and arms trafficking could make sense.

    In the Province, Haiti is sometimes perceived as the weaker partner who is always in need of assistance. In a unified and very diversified province, CICM, as a missionary congregation, must show itself capable of practicing real and active international solidarity between entities equal in rights and dignity despite being unequal in their history, traditions, cultures, and possibilities for action.            §

    1  More than 100,000 citizens, mostly professionals and many police officers, left under US President Biden's plan, which facilitated migration for a limited time for nationals of four countries, including Haiti. Was it because the country no longer needed these young professionals that the authorities let them go so easily?

    2  This mentality is described by Legrand BIJOUX, Etudes de Psychologie Haïtienne. Le complexe d'indépendance, September 2010, which follows on from : Des mœurs qui blessent un pays: Haïti.

    3  See CICM Constitutions, art. 13 and Directory.

    A Modest CICM  Missionary Presence and a Commitment to Oostende

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    Jean PeetersBy Wilfried Meulemeester, cicm
    Missionary in Belgium


    The people in the non-profit organization I work with in Oostende are committed in the context of a multicultural society. Working with individuals from diverse cultures and religions is a challenging but significant opportunity. Our work centers engaging with other cultures is a top priority for CICM missionary efforts.

    Oostende is a city that functions as the terminus and center of the region. With a diverse population, the city is home to people from different cultural backgrounds, mentalities, migrants, refugees, and those without legal residency. Many individuals who live on the outskirts of society are attracted to the city. One CICM missionary task is to work in the periphery, assisting those who are marginalized.

    Migration in Oostende

    In the past, Oostende used to be a popular gateway to England, but those days are long gone. Previously, an average of seventy migrants in transit would visit the Jakoeboe non-profit organization's food distribution center every week. Although there is no longer a fixed ferry link with England, the transit migrants have not completely disappeared. Oostende lies on the Calais-Dunkirk-Zeebrugge axis, and in the past two years, there has been a significant increase in attempts by migrants to cross from the Calais coast to England through "small boats". However, there has been a recent sharp decline in the number of migrants along our coasts.

    Several groups of volunteers from the Oostende area travel to Dunkirk or Calais every week to provide supplies for migrants who are staying there in terrible conditions. In Oostende, there are now fewer transit migrants and they are less visible. Last year, in May, the non-profit organization "Hart boven Hard" organized a moment of remembrance on the Belgian coast to honor the memory of 19-year-old Ali from Sudan. He had tragically lost his life on a breakwater in Oostende, seeing no other way out of his desperate journey to the UK.

    groups of volunteers

    Various social commitments

    In Oostende, along with others, we engage with the multicultural world and with the local fourth world, the underprivileged in our local communities. Loneliness is a common problem among older individuals and is often a significant concern. Poverty is not far away for some of them, and it is real.

    Our  CICM Congregation recommends finding missionary projects that clearly articulate justice, peace, and care for our earth and other commitments. We also foster inter-religious dialogue. We do this in conjunction with Jakoeboe - Welzijnsschakel Vluchtelingen - for food distribution, accompaniment, and monthly multicultural celebrations in the Hazegraskerk, in collaboration with the United Protestant Church, with fellow CICM confreres in the commitments for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC).

    As religious, CICM Missionaries (Scheutists) are called to assume a critical prophetic vocation.

    We must pay attention to and address the "peripheral situations" in our society. In Oostende and other places, such situations can be found. These situations include an elderly population that lives in extreme loneliness and poverty, homeless people, individuals who are 'stranded,' and those who are struggling with drug addiction. Multiculturalism is also a factor, with over 150 nationalities present, including individuals without legal residence and those in transit in the coastal strip. Many different religious groups, churches, temples, and mosques are present. People often experience a need for meaning in their lives, which can lead to psychological problems when unmet. The late singer Arno once said, "If I hadn't had music, it would have ended badly for me."

    Our goal within the Church is to promote and maintain a missionary spirit locally and in the CICM. We have noticed that Christianity is becoming less prevalent in our society, and Flemish missionaries who used to go to faraway lands are now dwindling in number. We want to increase awareness about missionary work in our town and region, as many people have never heard of it or do not associate it with the term "missionary work." However, we are fortunate to have a lot of concrete solidarity among our population. For instance, many volunteers assisted in vaccination centers during the Corona pandemic, and others are currently helping to welcome Ukrainian refugees. There is also a lot of voluntary involvement in initiatives related to the Fourth World, food distributions, activities in meeting centers, and within the Church itself.

    Our churches have always been actively involved in society by establishing hospitals, working for the disabled, and running schools. These initiatives have been emulated by civil society as a whole and have been successful. However, there are still some significant challenges within the Church itself that need to be addressed, such as giving more responsibility to the laity, empowering women, and finding meaning in life.

    Today's Christian communities have a keen and modest aim to serve missionary needs.  More and more, the leaders of our churches are paying attention to distressing peripheral situations. They are becoming true missionary churches.              §

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