22 December.. Read, reflect, share, pray. First Brother Francis sent messages to other Franciscan brothers all over the world. They found many boys and girls who had suffered when there had been war in their countries and they began to connect them with one another. They also found some generous people who were willing to donate money, and so the plan began to come together. Eventually 50 children from all over the world would make their pilgrimage for peace together.
Busi started writing letters and sending messages via one of Brother Francis’ friends. He wrote to Balekwa from Somalia. Christo from Colombia sent emails to his namesake Christo from Indonesia. Moses from Israel wrote to Mohamed from Palestine, Adam from Turkey to Aadam from Iraq and many more. Girls named Mary, Miriam, Mara or Maria from Rwanda, Ukraine, Vietnam and Ireland were put in touch with one another. All these children had stories of pain, sadness and loss caused by a lack of peace in the places where they lived. Some of the children had even been child soldiers. Some of the boys had carried guns and killed people. Some of the girls had been attacked and raped. Some children had suffered because of the serious poverty that comes with war and other children had been refugees, or been separated from their families or even abused in their homes. Some were AIDS orphans, some war orphans. Some too were orphans or abandoned children because of violence and crime. For more than a year this network of children was built up using whatsapp, emails, sometimes letters or telephones and radio. One of Brother Francis’ brothers set up a chatgroup where the children in the different countries could chat as he guided them to learn about St Francis, his love for nature, for the poor and how he had worked for peace 800 years ago, in Damietta, in the same part of the world as Israel today. Isn’t it strange but wonderful that even though there is poverty in the world and so many abandoned children, technology could bring them hope and comfort from other children like themselves, as they told their stories and listened to the tales of the other children.
As the time for the pilgrimage grew closer other people began to take an interest, especially as war in Israel had again been so much in the news and everyone had their opinions. Some politicians and business people and those from TV stations wanted to know what was going on. But this wasn’t meant to be a media circus for TV but a children’s pilgrimage and Brother Francis and his team did all they could to control the media and to protect the children and keep the simplicity and the personal human closeness alive.
Scripture: Come Lord, visit us in peace, that we may rejoice in your presence with hearts made new. Pope Francis: sharing stories and listening is the new way forward for the Church.