Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Bro. Lwanga Kakule Silusawa is a Comboni missionary brother working in our magazine Afriquespoir in Kinshasa, DR Congo. Bro Lwanga has embraced journalism as a tool for spreading the gospel and transforming society. This is his testimony. [Comboni Missionaries]
In September of this year, I will be forty years old; twelve of my years have been religious consecration. I was born in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a Catholic family. In 2009, I joined the postulancy in Kisangani where I continued to discern my vocation, after which I was admitted into the novitiate. I did two years of novitiate in Benin and Togo. Thereafter, three years of theological studies in Colombia.
In 2014, I started studying journalism in Madrid, Spain. A year later, I joined the editorial team of the monthly Comboni magazine Mundo Negro. I worked there for four years. I corrected texts sent to me by missionaries from all over the world, specifically from Africa and Latin America, and presented them to the editor for publication.
These were experiences missionaries had in their missions that they wanted to share with our readers. They recounted their daily experiences on missions that interested our readers. Apart from the preparation of these missionary testimonies, I did interviews, shot photos; wrote a column, news and reports as the editor requested.
Combining theory received in college with the practice of writing for the magazine was a luxury that none of my college classmates had. In the newsroom with more than five well-trained journalists, I would stay for several hours to search for information on the Internet or talk to people who could provide information on various African news topics. I took a lot of time to read and check the information received and to weave the texts so as to meet our audience’s needs. This required a lot of effort because, in addition, I had to fulfill my academic duties and honour my commitments to my religious community.
Six years later, I came back to my land. I arrived in Kinshasa, on 15th January 2020, shortly before the Covid pandemic. The editorial team of Afriquespoir was waiting for me. I took a few weeks to know the reality and to immerse myself in the editorial line of this quarterly magazine.
Here, it is no longer a question of telling Africa to Europeans, as I did in Spain, but of elucidating the challenges of the African continent to an African audience. The difficulties we face are due to the socio-political reality of the countries where our journal is published. There are few readers because of illiteracy and poverty.
In fact, no one can buy a magazine or a book if they have nothing to eat. I confess that I would not either. In addition, on this continent where, due to a lack of infrastructure, most post offices do not work, sending magazines to subscribers is very expensive. Subscribers receive the magazines after several weeks and, sometimes, damaged.
Parishes are our main source of subscriptions. During the three years of my service at Afriquespoir, I have already visited more than fifty parishes out of more than 180 that currently make up the Archdiocese of Kinshasa. We go to people every Sunday for missionary animation, to convey a message of hope and promote our magazine and the books we publish (currently nearly forty titles). They are useful for human, intellectual, spiritual and missionary formation.
In our African countries, few people are lucky enough to buy a book. Part of our mission is to make books and journals accessible by offering them at a very affordable price in order to reach the poorest. Many pupils, students, teachers, catechists, priests, etc. testify that these materials are useful for their academic, professional, spiritual and pastoral formation.
We take advantage of our presence in the parishes to get in touch with people and share time with them. Some share their personal experiences with us and ask for guidance in different areas. It is also an opportunity to guide young people who have vocational concerns.
As journalists, our work requires a lot of time to read and get in touch with reality. So, it is hard to talk about things you have not seen, touched, or felt. We see this reality on a daily basis and touch it through our contact with people. That is why we go out, even outside our borders, to ask people about their experiences. We visit them in parishes, hospitals, schools, public offices, centres, etc. They have stories to tell and experiences to share. In turn, we have the mission to make this known to the readers.
The use of the means of communication is a constituent element of evangelization as enshrined in the Comboni missionary strategy. Through the magazine and books published by Afriquespoir, we transmit the Good News and we contribute to the intellectual, spiritual and missionary formation of the People of God.
This requires of us an attitude of listening. Listen with the heart in order to speak with the heart, as Pope Francis encourages. It is listening to the reality that surrounds us, the people I meet in the streets or in the parishes, those I interview or photograph, listening and treating with respect the people who share with me their stories so that I can tell them to the readers.
As a Comboni missionary brother journalist, I am happy with my mission. I proclaim the gospel through magazines, books, radio and television shows, social networks and web pages. I feel invited, as a journalist, to be faithful to the Gospel and improve the quality of my service; to be a good journalist and a good missionary.