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Ongoing Formation for missionary brothers in Libya

Malta, 29 April – 3 May 2024

07 May 2024

Br Magdy Helmy from Egypt, who works in the friary of Tripoli (Apostolic Vicariate of Tripoli, Libya) and Br Shahrukh Bhatti from Pakistan, who works in Benghazi (Apostolic Vicariate of Benghazi) were guests of the Franciscan fraternity of Valletta, Malta, for a short period of fraternal encounters and sharing, as well as for a moment of rest. They were invited by the Minister Provincial Br Anthony Chircop, who has recently conducted two visits to the Libya mission in Tripoli and Benghazi. The Maltese Province of St. Paul the Apostle has been entrusted by the Order with the juridical responsibility of the Libya mission.

During their stay in Malta the two brothers met Br Noel Muscat, Moderator for Ongoing Formation, for some moments of fraternal sharing. With him they reflected upon the Instrumentum Laboris in view of the composition of the Ratio Evangelisationis, trying to contextualise the contents in their concrete experience in Libya.

The brothers reflected upon a particular paragraph of the document, which states: “Similarly, we must consider the economization of life, with the dogmas of permanent growth and profit maximization, which creates new forms of slavery, poverty, and floods of refugees. This situation requires not only first aid intervention for the victims but also evangelization as a prophetic commitment to justice and peace.” [cf. Instrumentum Laboris pag. 5].

These words fit perfectly within the mission entrusted to our Order in Libya, where the small communities in Tripoli, Sabha, Benghazi, Derna and Tobruk are made up of Christian (and Muslim) refugees, mainly hailing from various African and Asian countries. The brothers minister to these persons in search for a better future in Europe. At the same time, they try to dissuade them from undertaking the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean. The plight of refugees is one of the main problems which we are facing. As Friars Minor we are called to offer our support to them, on the spiritual and also material level.

The current political divide in Libya has rendered very difficult the evangelizing work of the brothers. Yet the compound of our church and friary in Tripoli provide a safe haven for many Christians and also Muslims. In Benghazi the brothers are still in search for a permanent place where they can welcome the refugees, since the church and friary have been destroyed.

The brothers have voiced their concern over the need to provide a more organized preparation and formation for the missionaries, particularly in such difficult situations as the one in Libya. Missionaries should be helped to learn Arabic before arriving in Libya. The Order can invest in finding one or two other brothers who can be present as a support for fraternal life, since the two brothers live alone with their respective Vicars Apostolic. The Maltese Province is also called to continue to support the missionaries with initiatives like this, in order to help them in their ongoing formation.

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