Thursday, 28 September 2017

THE MERCY OF GOD

Image result for mercy of godHave you ever sat down and think of the Mercy of God? It is the very question to ask oneself every now and then.

In the monthly recollections as the Lavigerie family, we were blessed to be with Sr. Mourine, facilitator, who prompted us to reflect on the involvement of God in our lives. He always intervenes in order to bring us back on track whenever we go astray. This is the mercy of God.


Being the Supreme perfect being, the Substance, He is caring and always wants His attributes, we the human beings, to be close to Him. However much we sin, He does not delight on being angry as the Prophet Micah 7:18 puts it, "but rather shows mercy." He neither counts the number of times we go against Him nor the number of times He manifest His mercy to us.
Image result for mercy of god 

This is a challenge to the whole humanity, to be merciful in all aspects as He is to us. The act of being merciful and that of forgiveness are inseparable. As the Lord's Prayer ascribe, "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us," we are invited to do to others as we ask God to do to us. One should forgive others as God forgives him/her and at the same time be merciful to others as God is always merciful to him/her. Matthew challenges us in Mt 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
Fr. Didasio, Sr. Mourine and the students.

Monday, 25 September 2017

LIFE IN PRISON

Prison refers to the building in which people are held while serving sentence for crimes they have committed or while waiting for trial. This way of punishing originated from Greece Athens and it was known as a place for detention. Later the Romans adopted it as a form of punishment. This is the way people who have offended society were punished in those countries. In Africa such a person would face the elders and the society itself and answer the charges verbally and physically in front of everyone. In the northern Uganda we had the ‘Matoput’ which was meant for the criminal but administered by the elders of the society and the victims. In this way justice would be done. This kind of prison has been brought by the colonialists. The question now is, is prison helpful or not? Because it involves separation of the criminal instead of handling them communally.

I do pastoral work in Kirinya prison where most of the inmates are waiting for trial. They have spent a lot of time there. There are four main purposes of prison which include; retribution, incapacitation, deference and rehabilitation. These are the purposes for having prisons around and in this sense, the question is, are they helping? And what is their effect?

Retribution means punishing the criminal for an offence done against society. It is meant to deprive the criminal and make them powerless and learn in fear of doing other crimes. I see this being done in kirinya remand prison. These people are taught discipline, for example to never talk to any official while standing. They are also taught to be respectful of one another. But all this is done in fear not by will because if they do not do it, they are beaten or put in a room with cold water and eating a half of the meal for seven days. So we find them disciplined but out of fear.

Another purpose is incapacitation which refers to removing the criminal not to harm other innocent people. This is true in terms of the murderers, defilers, robbers, etc. In this case we find several inmates who say that if they go back they start from where they stopped and so for them being there is helpful. This was lacking in the African way of handling crimes because the criminal would stay and have possibility of harming others.

Another purpose is deference which refers to prevention from future crime. This makes the inmate be free from the same conditions he was in before he committed the crime. To protect the similar crime and its consequences a person is put in prison.

Lastly and most important is the rehabilitation. Unfortunately this is not found in Kirinya, all the above purposes are put in practice except this one. This is where this prison lacks credibility and helpfulness. In this prison, there is no concentration on attitude which can be handled in rehabilitation, instead there is focus on the behavior. That is why they look disciplined but with fear, they look smart but full of fear. They are also denied what they deserve to have as inmates. They are supposed to be catered for medically but they are only provided with what is available instead of what they need. They are only given a small piece of soap and a razor blade to use for four months, yet they need to clean their uniform, take a shower and shave their hair every day and every week respectively.

When we talk to them, we feel they are missing a lot. Several of them have been on remand for more than four years and others are innocent and others are criminals. They are full human beings with every human need which severally they miss. They are traumatized, depressed, with low or negative affection. These cause them sicknesses like pressure, ulcers and many other diseases. They need psychological help than physical help. The only hope they have is the presence of the religious that is; sisters who visit them, priests who go for mass and us the seminarians. We only reach the Catholics who come to pray with us. What about those we cannot manage to join us? Many of them are dying in the wards, it is not an easy life to be in.

Let us not condemn them but instead love them. It is true that some of them are serious criminals but others are innocent. This does not remove their humanity or make them less human. They are human beings like us. What is surprising is that most of the crimes (like one who was working in a shop and lost money) they talk of, some of us could have been victims but it is only by luck that we are not there. Some of them are there because of hatred, because they are shielding others, defilement, suspected murder because the dead person was near them. We are also inmates of the love of God, let us also share that love with them by praying and supporting them.

As we continue reflecting about the life in prison we need to think of the inmates as our brothers, fathers or even our friends whom we treasure. Today it could be there turn to be indoors but tomorrow we may not know where we will be. My encounters with the inmates have taught me patience. Each time we encounter them, they normally ask us to pray for them as they prepare to go to court regardless of some been aware they have four years before going to court. This challenges me in my daily activities and leads me to question my capacity to wait. This depicts the reality that the inmates not only wait to receive from us but have something to offer us in return. Each Sunday I get an opportunity to give a smile to my brothers who somehow have been labeled as outcasts by the society. This gives me much joy and helps me to reflect about the love of God which is unconditional and His readiness to forgive us whenever we turn back to Him. The question we ought to ask ourselves today is whether we can allow ourselves to experience happiness in whatever hardships we encounter in our life time?  

AGABA JOHN