Thursday, January 24, 2019
A “Workshop on Intercultural Competence” is being held at the General House of the Comboni Missionaries in Rome, Italy on January 20-26. It has been organized by the General Secretariat for Formation: Fr. John Baptist Keraryo Opargiw, Fr. Siro Stocchetti, Fr. Elias Sindjalim, Fr. Fermo Bernasconi and Bro. Gullermo Casas. The proceedings started with welcoming words (Attachment 1) from Fr. John Baptist, Secretary General of Formation, who recalled the message of the Letter of the General Council to the entire Institute, which stated that the year 2019 was to be entirely dedicated to a reflection and to the reorganization of concrete activities in the field of interculturality.

Fr. Siro followed, presenting the goals, objectives and the methodology (Attachment 2) chosen for this workshops, strongly underlining that the principal objective of this week’s work is to have a personal experience of interculturality. Therefore, the focus is exactly on this experience of reflection, sharing and growth in intercultural competence, so that each participant may be able to animate the confreres in his own circumscription.

There are 40 participants from 14 countries, representing the Comboni circumscriptions, namely the roughly 30 countries of Africa, America, Asia and Europe where the Comboni Missionaries work. Two Comboni Sisters are also in the group: Sr. Angelina Nyakuru from Uganda and Sr. Iris Kelyna Gallardo from El Salvador. Europe has the most participants with 27 in attendance, followed by Africa with eight, America with four and Asia with one. Among the Europeans there are 14 Italians, six Spaniards, five Portuguese, one German and one Pole.

The reflections programmed for the week are divided into six sub-themes, all of them presented by Comboni Missionaries:

1. “The gift and challenge of Inculturality. All equal – All different,” by Fr. Fermo (Att. 3);

2. “Personal identity and the empathic relation. Competences,” by Fr. Elias (Att. 4);

3. “The Dialogue to build Community in Mission,” Fr. Joseph Maku (Att. 5) plus the seven attachments of Fr. Palmiro Mileto;

4. “Cultural shock – meeting the difference in the other. Sensitive zones,” by Fr. Stefano Giudici (Att. 8);

5. “Intercultural communication – Prejudices and stereotypes,” by Fr. Victor Manuel Aguilar Sánchez;

6. “Multicultural identities in multi-ethnic religious communities,” by Fr. Siro (Att. 11).

At the end of the workshop, rather than a document (Att. 12), the desire is to pinpoint some intercultural experiences and to define possible concrete activities that may help the Comboni circumscriptions to deepen the theme of interculturality.

Opening Remarks

by Fr. John Baptist Keraryo Opargiw

Fr. John Baptist Keraryo Opargiw, Secretary General of Formation.

My task at this precise moment is not to make a long speech, but only to launch our Workshop on Interculturality with a word of greeting, welcome, thanksgiving and best wishes. So in this respect I take the floor to express my fraternal and cordial greetings to each one of you participants from different countries of the Comboni world. This Workshop is an event that concerns the whole Comboni Family. Comboni himself once declared that his work was neither Spanish, nor German, nor French, nor Italian, but CATHOLIC! The diversity of the participants present here, including the two Comboni Sisters, is truly a Comboni charismatic richness, which we want to welcome as a gift, a grace and an opportunity. On behalf of the General Council I warmly welcome you to this Workshop on Intercultural Competences. I thank you for having accepted the invitation to participate with your presence, reflection, prayer and personal contribution. Thank you for your availability.

I would like to take a cue from the Letter of the General Council to the whole Institute to introduce the year of reflection on Interculturality: This message of ours is to encourage each of you and each of our communities to face with joy and strength the new theme of on-going  formation proposed for this year 2019. We trust that the fruits of this journey may be abundant, so as to become witnesses of the new humanity in a context where closures, suspicions, rejection of the other seem to prevail precisely because he is different.

Therefore for us Interculturality is a theme of ongoing formation because it means that it helps us to read our experience, the discovery and rediscovery of this gift that is part of our charism, and its potential; of the challenges we live: the joys and tensions, the difficulties and the richness we experience by making this gift fruitful. We do not limit ourselves to theoretical reflection, deepening the meaning of words: internationality, or multiculturalism, interculturality, etc.
We are also aware that the theme of Interculturality is of great relevance in our context today whether it is Comboni, ecclesial or of the world that is increasingly globalized and multifaceted. Furthermore, Interculturality is a gift that becomes a project of growth, humanization, transformation and conversion on a holistic and profound level in us.

So the fundamental attitude required here is to get involved personally. Reflection, prayer and sharing at various levels on this theme should lead us to concrete commitments, which may include a change in the style of relationships between us, different choices even in the most practical aspects of our community life and new ways in our missionary service. This is why we want to train ourselves to acquire skills, to get involved in the project, so that this gift may become  a vital force of growth.

The stakes are really very high and the whole Comboni Family is waiting for something that can help us improve the quality of our intercultural and Catholic experience. The whole Institute counts on us, and in this spirit we want to take our responsibility seriously.

Finally, my wish is that we can experience this Intercultural Workshop as a moment of grace, of living together and of fraternal sharing, of reflection and above all of commitment in the concrete and in everyday life. Community life and mission are lived in the encounter of the other that is different, that is through  interpersonal and intercultural relationships. Our missionary service thus lived becomes prophetic albeit being full of challenges and difficulties.

Therefore we gladly recall the words of Comboni to his missionaries: "Courage for the present, and above all for the future!" May St. Daniel Comboni intercede for us to become ever "holy and capable" in order to make the gift of interculturality bear abundant fruit.

In my capacity as Secretary General of Formation and on behalf of the General Council I hereby declare open the proceedings of this Workshop on Intercultural Competences – Rome 2019.
Best wishes to you all!
P. John Baptist Keraryo Opargiw
Rome, January 21, 2019

Fr. Fermo Bernasconi, Fr. John Baptist Opargiw, e Bro. Guillermo Casas.