But what are the Oblates doing in the Sahara?


Originally Published on OMIWORLD.ORG

Click here to see the article en Español


Fabio CIARDI, Director of the General Service for Oblate Studies is currently visiting the Oblate community in the Sahara, he preached a retreat for the local community, and he shares with us his rich experience of being in the Sahara.

God listens to the prayer of the Muslim and the Christian

It’s still dark. The armored police vehicle is permanently outside the station door for our “protection”. The policeman is alone. The others are located at the four sides of the house. It’s time for the first prayer of the day. I see him prostrate himself on the ground, in the direction of Mecca, and saying his prayer. Shortly afterwards the Oblates find themselves in their deserted church; they recite Lauds and continue in prolonged silent prayer. God listens to the prayer of the Muslim and the Christian… he is the Father of all.

What are the Oblates doing here? what do they really do?

They established Caritas; they take care of immigrant Christian workers from many African countries; they take care of prisoners; they help at the center for the disabled; they are active in dialogue with Muslims… They do many things. But, what do they really do?

Oblate community in Dakhla

The church in Dakhla is a small architectural jewel. When I arrived at the airport, at passport control, I should have given the address of my stay. I found myself in difficulty because I didn’t have it. Finally, after much talking, the officer shouted at me: Igregia [church]! As if to say: did it take that long to tell me you’re going to the church? There is no need for a more precise address. In the entire Moroccan Sahara, there are only two Christian parishes, one in Dakhla and one 500 kilometers further north, in Laayoune. The two parishes are in the hands of the same Oblate community. And it is a territory as large as Italy.

They simply keep the presence of Jesus alive in this Muslim land

So, the church of Dakhla. When I’m inside, all day in solitary silence, I understand what the Oblates are doing in the Sahara. They simply keep the presence of Jesus alive in this Muslim land. They are the Church! They are so legally, because Fr. Mario is the Apostolic Prefect, the one who represents the Pope here. But they are so, above all, because they keep the presence of Jesus alive. Jesus in the Eucharist, in the tabernacle; Jesus alive among them; Jesus alive in the small Christian community made up of poor foreign workers… But it is Jesus alive! They make Jesus present in this great country. “Silent presence. A drop of the Gospel in the sea of Islam,” as Fr. Carlo says.

What was Jesus doing for thirty years in Nazareth, in silence; was that insignificant? It was Jesus! 30 years of hiding versus 3 years of preaching. That’s 30 years! He lost a lot by doing nothing…? No, being Jesus.